TODAY | April 23, 2014
>>> meanwhile, president obama has just arrived in tokyo this morning, kicking off a very high-profile visit to asia. and he was welcomed at the airport by u.s. ambassador to japan caroline kennedy . nbc's white house correspondent peter alexander is also in tokyo . peter, good morning.
>> reporter: matt, good morning to you. president obama arriving here just a short time ago, as you saw. his first stop, a private sushi dinner with the japanese prime minister . over the last six months, the focus has actually been heavily on a different american here in japan . that's ambassador caroline kennedy . in a just published japanese newspaper interview, president obama praises kennedy , the first woman ambassador to japan , calling her a role model for women in both nations. a large crowd, including his ambassador, greeted the president today in tokyo . but that doesn't compare to the thousands who lined the streets here last fall to welcome caroline kennedy , riding in a horse-drawn carriage, she was more dignitary than diplomat. concluding the journey her father had not.
>> he had hoped to be first united states president to visit japan . so it is a special honor for me to be able to work to strengthen the close ties between our two great countries.
>> reporter: the once shy-eyed kennedy lacked diplomatic experience, but brought the japanese something many here value more, america's enduring connection to camelot.
>> growing up in a family dedicated to public service , i saw how people can come together.
>> reporter: in her first month, she laid a wreath in nagasaki and visited victims of the disastrous 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
>> until you come here, it's really difficult to appreciate the enormity of the loss and destruction.
>> reporter: even throwing out the opening pitch at a baseball game, a shared japanese and american pastime . ambassador kennedy 's been on the fast track, recently joining japan 's prime minister at 311 miles an hour to help secure billions of dollars in japanese loans to bring the advanced rail technology to the u.s. but as kennedy herself has made clear, she didn't come here to serve japanese interests. her january tweet, deeply concerned by inhumaneness of drive hunt dolphin killing, angered many japanese, who take pride in their traditional dolphin hunt.
>> she will be called upon to articulate and implement u.s. policy in ways that are not always going to be comfortable, i think, for the japanese government .
>> reporter: caroline kennedy has actually done very few interviews since arriving here in japan . and the japanese want to hear a lot more from her because of her celebrated family name and, of course, her direct line to the president.
>> all right, peter alexander in tokyo . thanks very much.