It’s these sorts of traditions that Trump is acquainting herself with on this, the President’s first visit to Asia as commander in chief.
A meet-up of the Japan and United States dignitaries came next, complete with anthems and red carpet pomp and circumstance. Melania Trump was characteristically stoic for most of the action, walking through the motions until, finally, it was time to split off from her husband and join first lady Akie Abe for their solo afternoon adventures.
While the President relishes displays of military might and ceremonial showing off, his wife has demonstrated she far prefers more intimate interactions, specifically with children. That’s likely why she and Mrs. Abe visited Kyobashi Tsukiji Elementary School.
At the sight of the 200 or so uniformed students assembled to greet her in the school’s gymnasium, Trump’s face lit up — she high-fived them, was drowned in hugs and posed for a group photo, where, like the kids, she made a peace sign with her two fingers.
A Japanese calligraphy lesson was next; the fourth-grade classroom erupted in applause as the two first ladies entered, mindfully watching the children draw brush strokes.
“Beautiful characters,” Trump said as she paused to admire their work. At one point, she even sat down at a small table, answering, “fantastic, would love to,” to a question of whether she, too, would like to try.
As Abe and Trump left the elementary school, a band played “Over the Rainbow,” and the youngest students enthusiastically waved little US and Japanese flags.
Then it was time for lunch with the hostess. The two women said goodbye to the kids and returned to Akasaka Palace.
The media was told the menu consisted of a course with soup, appetizers of salad, bread and fruit, followed by a main entree with Japanese-style portions of beef, chicken, vegetables and a special “tamago” omelet.
However, the reprieve from official bureaucratic duties was brief. By mid-afternoon the first lady was back to a supporting role, seated front row to witness the President’s anticipated joint news conference with Abe — policy and politics pushing peace signs and calligraphy lessons quickly out of the limelight.
CNN’s Betsy Klein contributed to this report.