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President Barack Obama praised the spirit of the Japanese people at a state dinner held in his honor at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on Thursday.

Obama thanked his hosts, Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, for their "gracious hospitality" at the end of a day that had seen him visit a religious shrine and play soccer with a robot.

President Barack Obama offers Japan's Empress Michiko a toast while standing beside Emperor Akihito during a state dinner at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on April 24, 2014.LARRY DOWNING / Reuters

"It has been nearly 50 years since my mother first brought me to Japan," Obama said in a speech, "but I have never forgotten the kindness that the Japanese people showed me as a six-year-old boy far away from home."

— Vaughn Hillyard