Japanese fans of President John F. Kennedy took photos with his portrait, folded paper cranes and watched his inaugural ceremony on a monitor Friday to express admiration on the 50th anniversary of his assassination.
“If he had lived longer, things might have been different,” said Teruo Nasu, 70, a retired printer, reaching up to point to an excerpt from his speech lining the walls at a commemorative event in Tokyo.
“I wish I could show that to a Japanese prime minister. His idea of taking up challenges is still needed.”
The event, drawing a small but steady trickle of people to a corner of a shopping mall, was organized by travel company Toptour, which is planning a tour of special Kennedy spots — Boston, Washington D.C. and Dallas, according to spokesman Hajime Kitta.
Japanese have long held special feelings for Kennedy, whom they see as a hero standing for the ideals of freedom and forging a trans-Pacific U.S.-Japan friendship.
His daughter Caroline Kennedy recently arrived to an enthusiastic welcome as ambassador to Japan. She is thronged by cheering crowds everywhere. A carriage carrying her to meet the emperor at the Imperial Palace drew throngs fitting of a rock star.
The people at Friday’s event said they wanted to come just to show they cared. One woman fell to her knees before his portrait, flanked by the flags of the U.S. and Japan.
Some said they were stunned to see the TV news of his assassination when they were children, and remembered the loss they felt. The younger ones said they learned about him in school.
“He was brave. He devoted his entire life for America,” said Naoki Saito, 25, whose rapper name is Naite, as he struggled to fold a paper crane.
“I love people like this, who are so pure and determined.”
Caroline Kennedy commemorated the anniversary of her father’s death privately, the U.S. Embassy press office said without releasing details.
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