It was an incredible site and one I never thought I would see - Prime Minister Shinzo Abe kneeling down to eye level and speaking with an American survivor of the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. But that is exactly what happened on December 27, 2016 in Honolulu where both President Obama and Prime Minister Abe met to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the act that ushered the United States in to the Second World War.
It was a masterful move. Prime Minister Abe shifted his style to accommodate American cultural and communicative norms. He also physically hugged several veterans which was, again, something I never thought I would see and would likely never happen in Japan. But I think it played very well in the U.S. It remains to be seen how well it was accepted in Japan. It was a very brave thing for Mr. Abe to do.
Although he was not the first to go to Hawaii and visit Honolulu's National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Abe's presence was the first in which an acting American President stood at his side together.
The visit follows President Obama's time in Hiroshima last summer. During this period, I was also duly impressed when President Obama, in a seemingly spontaneous act, hugged a nuclear bomb survivor. It was an amazing photo which, for many Japanese I know, acted as an apology (without formally apologizing).
Both leaders should be highly praised for showing, as President Obama said in his speech in Hawaii, that "The most bitter of adversaries can become the strongest of allies." A very proud moment for U.S.-Japanese relations, indeed.