Yasuo Fukuda's term was beset with political gridlock and economic problems.
Ping pong and pandas buoyed the five-day visit, but tougher issues, such as disputes over energy exploration, went unresolved.
Hu Jintao will play ping-pong and talk pandas and energy. The visit comes as strains over interpretations of history appear to be easing.
Just the 30th favorite nation to visit, Japan hopes to boost tourism – and the economy.