From: Rob Gentry [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Tuesday, April 28, 2015 09:49 PM
To: Barnes, Desiree N.; email@example.com ; FN-WHO-Press
Subject: foreign press pool: dinner toasts
The pool was ushered into the East Room at 8:12. The bilateral pool barely squeezed into the available space, and your pooler's view was obstructed. At the center table of the room a bit dimly lit with a pink light, President Obama and Prime Minister Abe were seated next to each other, with the President on the Prime Minister's left. First Lady Michelle Obama was seated to the prime minister's right, and Mrs. Akie Abe was on the president's left.
Both leaders' remarks were translated consecutively.
President Obama spoke first, and after recalling his and Michelle's enjoyment of sake on visits to Japan, he said there would be a small break with tradition tonight by serving sake from the prime minister's home prefecture, Yamaguchi, but added the admonition to "please enjoy yourself, but not too much!"
The president recalled Japanese-American friends growing up in Hawaii, including a shopkeeper, Freddy, where they got toro tuna for sashimi and who also "slipped in a couple rice candies, with edible wrapping paper, which was fascinating to me as a child." The president said this showed the cultural ties woven into his upbringing.
1957 PM Abe's grandfather, PM Kishi visited and spoke to the Senate and House of Representatives, and now tomorrow his grandson will be the first PM to speak to a joint session Congress.
President Obama welcomed all the guests, then attempted a haiku: "Spring, green with friendship, United States and Japan, nagoyaka ni, which means harmonious feeling."
He concluded proposing a toast with sake, "to our guests, Prime Minister Abe ad Mrs. Abe, to the friendship between our two peoples, and to our magnificent alliance...may it endure for all season, and all time. Cheers, kanpai!"
PM Abe began by thanking the hosts.
The prime minister recalled that strengthening of the alliance, and that Japan was gaining resilience and would continue on that path with the US.
Tomorrow in his speech to the joint session, he will send a strong message that Japan and the US once fought, but now are reconciled and will address the challenges facing mankind.
He said he was practicing his speech so much his wife was tired of it and last night they had to stay in separate rooms.
PM Abe noted economic ties, such as Kawasaki Metro cars built in Nebraska now running in DC, and Boeing 777s with one third of their parts made in Japan.
After declaring his hard core fandom of House of Cards, he said he won't show it to the Deputy PM.
He said you won't find another bilateral relationship like ours, and said when the US, and Barack, face challenges, they always have Japan with them.
The prime minister then described the relationship as in the lyrics of the Diana Ross song: ain't no mountain high enough, ain't no valley low enough, to keep me from you.
PM Abe noted he had received criticism for serving sake from Hiroshima to President Obama while in Japan, which he attributed to the arrangement of the dinner by the Foreign Ministry, and FM Kishida being from Hiroshima.
He wrapped up with a toast to good health and prosperity, and the further development of the Japan-US relationship.
Pool departed at 8:32.
According to information from the First Lady's office, tonight's dinner marks the first use of the Obama State China Service. The service features a color, "Kailua Blue," inspired by Hawaiian waters, and incorporates a decoration from an 1806 French service of the Madisons. The service debuting tonight was made by Pickard China in Antioch, IL, and was donated by the White House Endowment Trust.
Also per the First Lady's office, the leaders are toasting with sake from the Asahi Shuzo brewery, near Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture. Tonight's sake is "Dassai 23," from the brewery's signature Dassai series of junmai daiginjo . Your pooler was able to sample local sake during his time living in Yamaguchi Prefecture years ago, however his severely underdeveloped palate for sake precludes any attempted description of the qualities of a junmai daiginjo sake.
tv asahi Washington bureau