NATIONAL NEWS

Steak, cherry blossoms and Paul Simon will be featured at the White House state dinner for Japan

Apr 9, 2024, 1:02 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — Dry-aged rib eye steak, cherry blossoms and the music of Paul Simon are on tap for more than 200 guests who are expected to attend a swanky White House state dinner on Wednesday to celebrate the relationship between the United States and Japan.

A lavish state dinner is a tool of U.S. diplomacy, a high honor that is doled out sparingly and only to America’s closest allies. In the case of Japan, President Joe Biden has chosen to celebrate an ally that he sees as a cornerstone of his policy toward the Indo-Pacific region.

Biden and his wife, Jill, are hosting Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and his wife, Yuko, during the couple’s official visit to the United States this week. The first lady on Tuesday described a “flourishing” relationship between the U.S. and its Pacific partner as she hosted a media preview of the dinner, including the menu, decor and entertainment.

“As technology dissolves the distances between us and we face challenges that cross borders and oceans, our nations are partners in building a world where we choose creation over destruction, peace over bloodshed and democracy over autocracy,” she said.

Kishida will be the fifth world leader Biden has honored with a state dinner after counterparts from France, South Korea, India and Australia.

More than 200 guests with ties to both nations will dine on a first course of house-cured salmon and an entree of dry-aged rib eye steak with pepper butter, fava beans, mushrooms and onions. Dessert is salted caramel pistachio cake with a matcha ganache and cherry ice cream.

Some of Jill Biden’s favorite flowers, including roses and peonies, are being used alongside imported cherry blossoms to decorate a mix of round and rectangular tables in shades of pink, with a few of the floral centerpieces topping out at 6 feet (1.8 meters) tall.

Tables will be set with a mix of place settings representing the administrations of Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and George W. Bush. Glass and silk butterflies will dance over the tables and the hallway on the State Floor will be outfitted to give guests the feel of walking atop a koi pond.

After dinner, Simon, who the White House said is one of the first lady’s favorite musicians, will perform a selection of his iconic songs. She chose the singer-songwriter as a special tribute for Kishida because the prime minister is also an admirer of Simon’s work, the White House said.

Simon’s career spans six decades, including performing as part of a duo with his childhood friend Art Garfunkel. The 82-year-old New Jersey native has earned numerous accolades, including multiple Grammys and a place in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Also lined up to entertain guests after dinner are “The President’s Own” Marine Band Chamber Orchestra, the Army Rolling Strings and the Air Force Strings.

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Steak, cherry blossoms and Paul Simon will be featured at the White House state dinner for Japan