YOKOHAMA, Japan – President Obama reacquainted himself with a piece of his childhood on Sunday before heading back to Washington at the end of his nine-day, four-country trip across Asia.
Obama visited the Great Buddha in Japan’s small coastal city of Kamakura. He had stood in front of the imposing bronze statue, one of this country’s most famous sites, as a 6-year-old boy. His mother had brought him there and then taken him for green tea ice cream, a memory he has reflected on fondly.
“It is wonderful to return to this great treasure of Japanese culture,” Obama wrote in a guest book at the temple. “Its beauty has stayed with me for many years.”
The sacred statue of Amida Buddha is nestled in the hills around the Buddhist temple of K?tokuin. Dating to the 1200s, it’s roughly 40 feet tall and weighs about 100 tons.
Obama’s return to the site capped an overseas trip that was both business and personal.
From India to Indonesia to Japan, the president folded in stops that went beyond the state visits and global economic summits that brought him.
In Mumbai he visited a house where Mahatma Gandhi lived. Martin Luther King, Jr. had toured the home in 1959, signing the guest book just as Obama did last weekend. King and Gandhi are two of the president’s biggest heroes.
In New Delhi, Obama walked the grounds of Humayun’s Tomb. “Spectacular,” he remarked as he left.
While he didn’t stop at any of his childhood haunts in Jakarta, where he lived for four years, Obama said he found it “a little disorienting” to return to a modernized city he remembered for streets crowded with becaks and bemos when he moved there with his mother in 1967.
“I feel great affection for the people here,” he said at a news conference shortly after arriving. “The sights and the sounds and the memories all feel very familiar.”
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