Spring break: The real reason Michelle Obama is going to Japan

The White House announced on Tuesday that the first lady will be traveling to Japan and Cambodia to promote girls' education. Call it a placating-vacation.

Jose Luis Magana/AP/File
Michelle Obama speaks in Washington on Feb. 25. The First Lady is to promote educating girls around the world during a mid-March visit to Japan and Cambodia.

[Editor's note: The original version misstated the Obama daughters' vacation plans.]

Call it a diplomatic-patching-up, a spring break-smoothing of ties, a placating-vacation.

Michelle Obama is traveling to Japan and Cambodia March 18-22 for a state-sanctioned spring break. 

Of course, Mrs. Obama doesn’t just recline poolside – she pleasure-travels with a purpose. 

The White House has said she is traveling to the Asian nations to promote the USAID "Let Girls Learn Initiative" and a related Peace Corps program.

But here's the likely true mission: to propitiate the Japanese people, who haven't quite gotten over the Double Diss of 2014.

You see, President Obama visited Tokyo last year and that delighted the Japanese, ever apprehensive of their global popularity. But when he disembarked from Air Force One solo, without the first lady, the Japanese were dejected.

"Michelle’s absence has thrown Tokyo into a tizzy," the Monitor's Howard LaFranchi reported at the time, noting the hand-wringing and national soul-searching that took place as a result. "Mrs. Obama’s absence is a woeful sign of Japan’s retreat from the top tier of America’s allies."

To add diplomatic insult to injured national pride, Mrs. Obama had the audacity to vacation with her daughters – less than a month prior to the president's solo Japan visit – in China.

How that passed the White House's diplomatic protocol department, we'll never know.

"To the Japanese, the sight of Michelle jumping rope with Chinese kids, feeding pandas, trying out tai-chi, and meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife, Peng Liyuan, was more than insult added to injury," reported LaFranchi. "It was proof of China’s ascendency to the top rung of America’s strategic priorities and Japan’s fall to second class."

And while the White House waved that off as hogwash and the president did his best to charm the Japanese without his better half, it appears Michelle has some national-ego-boosting business to attend to in Japan.

Hence Spring Break Asia, Take 2.

Look for the expected photo ops – sampling sushi in Tokyo, strolling the Kyoto gardens, visiting uniformed Japanese students in a local school – as well as a diplomatic visit with Akie Abe, wife of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

If all goes as planned, the first lady will depart victorious, having mollified the Japanese, again secure in their world status.

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