Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is trapped between his country’s strategic interests and dealing with a US president who is the diplomatic equivalent of Dennis the Menace. Abe has had to swallow his pride on many occasions during Donald Trump’s Japan visit. Trump displayed the maturity of a petulant pre-teen when he went off-script during a joint press conference with Abe to insist that while the “Japanese economy is vibrant” he did not know “if it was good as ours”. Afraid that his put-down may be too subtle, Trump went on to say, “I think not, okay?” But on the cultural front, Abe managed to stay on Trump’s wavelength. Trump was fed a burger, something he preferred over the elegance of Japanese cuisine. And the cherry on the (un)culture cake? Pen-Apple-Pineapple-Pen.
Pikotaru, a Japanese pop singer, became a one-hit-wonder with very little in his repertoire. He has an awkward hairstyle, an affinity for the colour gold and a limited vocabulary. The Japanese government thought that Trump, who clearly has much in common with the cartoonish singer, would love to meet him. Pikotaru became a global sensation, “yuge” even by Trump’s standards, with a ditty that spoke eloquently of stationary and fruit. “I have a pen” croons the singer, clad in gold, doing a jig, “I have an apple!” Then he merges the imaginary apple and pen with a guttural “ooh” and the procedure is repeated with a fictitious pineapple.
In the clash of civilisations, or Japanese civilisation vs Donald Trump, it was a pop singer that finally scored for his country. Trump, usually prolific on Twitter, was silent on his meeting with the gold-clad artist. Pikotaru, on the other hand, tweeted about the meeting 11 times. He seems to have managed what Hillary Clinton and his PM could not — silence the US president. Beating Trump at his own game — using a caricature as persona to grab headlines — is a feat worth admiring. Pikotaru could even run for office.