Sun, Nov 14, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Schwarzenegger rides his image on Japan trade visit

THE GUARDIAN , TOKYO

Arnold Schwarzenegger, the governor of California, and a 57-strong entourage of business leaders flew into Tokyo earlier this week. He was, commentators noted, the first visiting politician to be greeted at the airport by crowds of screaming, camera-wielding fans.

He was at pains to point out that this was a tour to promote California, but the Terminator struggled to get the message through.

Japan is familiar territory for Schwarzenegger, where he is known by the affectionate nickname Shuwa-chan.

Even the prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi -- another star turned politician -- appeared a little awestruck when the two met yesterday.

"You're very popular," Schwarzenegger told Koizumi, who was until recently the most popular Japanese prime minister in living memory.

"You too," Koizumi replied. "More popular than Bush."

Schwarzenegger has made numerous visits to Japan to promote his films and has earned millions of dollars endorsing everything from beer to instant noodles and pep drinks on Japanese television.

This time he was courting business leaders: Japan is California's largest foreign investor, and the second-biggest destination for its exports after Mexico.

On this visit, Schwarzenegger's chief target was Toyota's president, Fujio Cho, whose company is considering manufacturing its popular Prius hybrid car in the US. Many analysts say the deal will fail because of the state's high operating costs and unionized labor.

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