WASHINGTON – It's not every day that two world leaders croon to each other, "I Want You, I Need You, I Love You."
But clearly President Bush has special feelings for Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, and he put them on full display from morning until night Thursday at the White House.
The love fest began with an elaborate welcoming ceremony on the South Lawn and an exchange of gifts inside afterward. Koizumi gave the sports-loving president a bike and an enlarged version of the Japanese postage stamp that features Babe Ruth. The Bushes gave the Elvis-loving prime minister a refurbished 1954 jukebox that includes 25 songs by his favorite singer.
"Prime Minister Koizumi searched the keys and found `I Want You, I Need You, I Love You,"' first lady Laura Bush said. "He and the president sang a duet."
In the evening, the Bushes hosted a formal dinner, the eighth of their White House tenure, in honor of Koizumi, who leaves office in September after five years in office.
The divorced Koizumi did not have a date. He made his entrance between the president and Mrs. Bush, who wore a taupe dress by Bill Blass with cherry blossoms hand-painted on the Chantilly lace bodice.
The guest list included Olympic athletes Apolo Anton Ohno, Kristi Yamaguchi, Rena Inoue and John Baldwin, astronaut Soichi Noguchi and baseball great Hank Aaron.
On Friday, the U.S. and Japanese leaders had their sights set on Graceland, Presley's mansion in Memphis, Tenn. Their tour guides: Elvis' former wife, Priscilla, and his daughter, Lisa Marie Presley.
Bush paid Koizumi the ultimate compliment by comparing the prime minister to his musical hero.
"Like you, he had great hair," Bush joked during the black-tie dinner toasts. "Like you, he was known to sing in public. And like you, he won admirers in countries far from home. That man was Elvis."
In return, Koizumi flattered the president with another comparison to a pop culture icon.
"I would like to pay my sincerest respects to President Bush, who has been so steadfast and determined in protecting freedom and justice. I sometimes see the image of the United States as Gary Cooper in my favorite movie, `High Noon,"' Koizumi said in his toast, drawing a shoulder-shaking laugh from Bush.
The White House dinner celebrated Japan-U.S. ties, complete with a diplomatic choice of main course -- Kobe beef from descendants of Japanese cattle raised in Bush's home state of Texas.
The menu was chosen when the United States was still trying to persuade Japan to end a ban on U.S. beef imports imposed over concerns about mad cow disease. Japan lifted the ban last week, and Bush prompted Koizumi to say before the television cameras that he was feeling "very good" after eating a cut of the U.S. meat on Wednesday night.
At the White House, they dined on beef with cracked black pepper, shitake mushroom jus, silver corn pilaf and sesame-coated wild asparagus. The gold-colored china was from the Clinton administration.
Also on the menu: Maryland she crab soup; jicama and cucumber chiffonade; and an ornate dessert modeled after a bonsai garden, with a chocolate tree on a base of kumquat-stuffed cherries, surrounded by miniature chocolate pagodas.
The Japanese theme extended to the decorations.
The tables were covered in green silk and large spheres of green cymbidium orchids, which grow in the wild in Japan. The orchids rested on top of tall clear glass cylinders that allowed guests to see each other across the table.
Three bonsai trees on loan from the National Arboretum were set up in the Grand Foyer. The menus themselves were decorated with a drawing of a blossom from the cherry trees that were given to the U.S. as a symbol of friendship from the Japanese nearly 100 years ago.
The 18 performers in the Brian Setzer Orchestra kicked off the entertainment with their hit song "Jump, Jive An' Wail." And, of course, they played an Elvis song, "Blue Suede Shoes." Koizumi then prodded a performance from one of the guests, Japanese-born country music singer and fiddle player Shoji Tabuchi of Branson, Mo.
Bush tapped his foot, nodded his head to the beat and, at one point, started rocking so much to the music that his chair swayed back and forth. But at 10:10 p.m., the famously early sleeper ended the show by taking the microphone and asking the crowd, "Ready to go to bed?"
With a nod toward Koizumi, Bush said: "He's gentle-eyed, and so am I. Off to Graceland."