Prime Minister Shinzo Abe welcomed Trump to Japan Sunday with an effusive display of friendship that, in the days ahead, will give way to high-stakes diplomacy.
The low- key start was a prelude to the formal talks planned in Tokyo Monday.
In South Korea, Trump will visit Camp Humphreys, a newly-expanded military base that will ultimately house numerous 28,500 USA troops on the peninsula.
Eager to forge a bond with Tokyo's crucial ally, Abe was one of the first world leaders to court President-elect Trump.
After easing into his Asian debut with golf, President Donald Trump sat down for a meal of American beef and tomato sauce with the Japanese president. The two leaders also played together in Florida earlier this year.
That bond was clear on Sunday.
"Our relationship is really extraordinary". "I think it's expected we'll meet with [Vladimir] Putin".
Abe presented Trump with a new hat with a message printed in a similar style of his famous campaign slogan. Trump dubbed Abe and Matsuyama "wonderful people", while Abe called it a "round of golf with a marvelous friend". He said that the two leaders were able to talk frankly in a relaxed atmosphere while out on the course. He said they were able to "carry out in depth discussion, at times touching on various hard issues".
White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster, briefing reporters on Friday, defended Trump's colorful language.
From the moment Marine One landed on the Kasumigaseki Country Club's driving range, Mr Abe rolled out little touches to make Mr Trump feel welcome.
He presented the U.S. with a hat embroidered with the words "Donald and Shinzo: Make Alliance Even Greater" - a play on Mr Trump's 2016 election campaign theme. Both men are avid golfers.
He said there was a "great probability" that the two leaders would discuss the situation on the Korean peninsula if they met.
Trump's meeting Monday promises to elevate these heart-wrenching tales of loss to the global stage as he hopes to pressure North Korea to end its provocative behaviour toward American allies in the region.
It was a message aimed, at least in part, at North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, whose aggressive nuclear and missile tests are expected to be a major focus of the president's trip.
USA and Japanese service members standing shoulder to shoulder have made Yokota Air Base one of the most capable operational bases in Japan and in the world, President Donald J. Trump said in a troop talk there, today.
"Free nations must be strong nations and we welcome it when our allies - from Europe to Asia - renew their commitment to peace through strength", Trump told service members, after swapping his suit coat for a leather bomber jacket.
Asked whether he was anxious that North Korea's Kim Jong Un would use the president's visit to the region to demonstrate another missile test, Trump said: "We'll soon find out".
Trump also confirmed that he expects to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin later this week on the sidelines of the APEC summit in Vietnam. But speaking to reporters en route to Japan, Trump bristled at the suggestion that he'll be at a disadvantage in his meetings with Xi. "So far, Abe hasn't told him no". He has dropped that antagonist language nearly entirely since the election, but tensions remain.
Colvin reported from Tokyo.