Welcoming Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to the White House Tuesday, President Barack Obama thanked him for “karate and karaoke, manga and anime — and, of course, emojis.”
In a transcript of remarks provided by the White House, Obama called the visit “a celebration of the ties of friendship and family that bind our peoples,” recalling his own childhood “growing up in Hawaii… home to so many proud Japanese-Americans.”
The Japanese prime minister is in Washington on an official state visit, where he will participate in a White House dinner Tuesday evening and address a joint session of Congress Wednesday. His weeklong visit to the U.S. began with two days in Boston, and will continue to the technology hub of Silicon Valley.
Obama also looked forward to “an alliance focused on the future” as Japan and the United States seek closer cooperation on trade, defense and other issues. (RELATED: Dem Infighting Heats Up Over Trade Deals)
Emojis, the colorful typographic icons praised by the president, originated as a convention among Japanese cellphone companies. They have since been standardized by the Unicode Consortium, an American nonprofit that oversees industry-wide cooperation on digital typography. While encoding for the characters has become standardized, each software company designs its own set of emojis for use on compatible devices.
Meanwhile karaoke, the practice of singing along to prerecorded renditions of popular songs, is on the decline in the U.S. One recent report predicted a 2.6 percent decrease in market growth for American karaoke bars by 2019.
The visit comes as the details of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a major international trade deal, looms before Congress. Abe hopes to consolidate support for the deal with reluctant members of Congress, who object to its secrecy and its potential impact on employment in the U.S.
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