During his visit to Washington, Mr Koizumi will enjoy a lavish dinner with President George W. Bush, an honour that was not afforded to Chinese President Hu Jintao. And since as prime minister he cannot receive a 'state' visit, Mr Bush has found a novel way to thank Mr Koizumi for his support one of his closest foreign friends with a visit to Graceland, the home of rock legend Elvis Presley.
The White House announced on Wednesday that Mr Koizumi who in September will step down as head of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in Japan in September will visit the White House on June 29 for talks on the 'war on terror, defending freedom and democracy, promoting regional security and prosperity in Asia, and enhancing closer cooperation on global economic issues'.
What it neglected to mention was that Mr Koizumi is likely to be more excited by the events of the following day, when he is expected to pay a visit to Memphis, Tennessee, to the former home, and now museum dedicated to the memory of the King.
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Born seven years to the day after Elvis, Mr Koizumi is a huge fan. During a visit to Australia last year, Mr Koizumi, who was sitting beside the Australian foreign minister, crooned along when the musicians at the event started playing Elvis' 'Can't Help Falling in Love'. A record label in Japan in 2001 also launched a CD called 'Junichiro Koizumi Presents: My Favorite Elvis Songs'.
Following is an article found in today's edition of The Commercial Appeal newspaper in Memphis, TN:
Japan leader, Elvis fan, to tour Memphis
Koizumi to visit after June 29 summit with Bush
By Bartholomew Sullivan
May 25, 2006
WASHINGTON -- Self-described Elvis 'maniac' and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi will visit Memphis and is expected to tour Graceland following a June 29 summit meeting with President Bush, according to the Japanese news agency Kyodo.
The White House confirmed only the Washington leg of the trip on Wednesday. Spokesman Blair Jones said the he was unaware of whether the president planned to join Koizumi on a Graceland tour.
Japanese Embassy press attache Yuka Ejima said Koizumi's 'concrete itinerary', including the reported trip to Memphis, is still a work in progress.
The premier, whose brother, Masaya, once ran the Elvis fan club in Yokohoma and was instrumental in erecting a Presley statue in Tokyo in 1987, impressed then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice in 2004 with his knowledge of the rock icon.
The year before that, Koizumi reportedly sang Elvis songs in a duet with actor Tom Cruise while the latter was in Japan filming 'The Last Samurai'.
In 2005, after a speech to the Asia Society in Sydney, Australia, Koizumi also sang along with the Australian foreign minister when an orchestra struck up 'I Can't Help Falling In Love With You', according to the Web site Elvis Australia www.elvis.com.au.
'After the performance, Koizumi mounted the stage and thanked the musicians for playing his 'favorite song,' and added, 'Since I became prime minister, I gave up falling in love,' according to the Web story.
Koizumi, who shares a Jan. 8 birthday with the King of Rock and Roll, said in 2001 that the coincidence is "one of the things I'm so proud of."
Shortly after taking office in 2001, the popular but unlikely sex symbol with the "lion's mane" hairdo surprised his countrymen by releasing a CD of his 25 favorite Elvis hits, including 'I Want You, I Need You, I Love You', 'Are you Lonesome Tonight?' and 'It's Now or Never'. Proceeds went to a Japanese charity.
He had already written a letter to a local Elvis fan club in which he said, 'I never get tired of listening to his songs no matter how many times I hear them. ... Elvis is forever and so are his songs'.
The Commercial Appeal's Rosemary Nelms contributed to this report.
Copyright 2006, The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, TN. All rights reserved. Used with permission.