NEW DELHI -- The streets of Ahmedabad today came alive with song and dance performances as Prime Minister Narendra Modi held an 8-km road show with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe and his wife, the first such event by the Indian premier with a visiting head of government.
Modi held Abe in his characteristic bear hug as he, accompanied by wife Akie, landed at the Ahmedabad airport, reflecting the close bonding the two leaders have forged over several meetings.
In a gesture symbolising the growing ties between the two large Asiatic economies, Abe wore kurta-pyjama and a royal blue Nehru jacket while his wife donned a red salwar-kameez ensemble as they accompanied Modi on the road show from the airport to the Sabarmati Ashram.
Sabarmati Ashram was set up by apostle of peace Mahatma Gandhi who spent considerable time of his life there.
Song and dance performances were held by the roadside as the cavalcade rolled on, guarded by gun toting security personnel.
Crowds lining up the streets cheered lustily as Modi and Abe waved at them. Akie, meanwhile, happily clicked photos with her mobile phone. People were seen waving Indian and Japanese national flags at several places.
The road show, designed to showcase India's cultural diversity, saw artistes from several states performing on 28 stages erected by the roadside.
They performed folk dances in traditional attires, while at several places along the way people in customary Japanese ensemble carrying parasols were also seen breaking into a jig to welcome the visiting dignitaries.
The road show, which began from Ahmedabad airport ended at the Sabarmati Ashram after traversing nearly eight kilometres.
The visiting dignitaries and Modi paid homage to Mahatma Gandhi at the ashram where the Father of the Nation lived for about 12 years.
"Love and Thanks", Abe wrote in a short message in Japanese on the visitors' register which was also signed by his wife.
The three later sat for some time by the serene Sabarmati Riverfront, developed by Modi when he was the chief minister of Gujarat, chatting and laughing.
The two leaders will get down to business tomorrow when they would jointly lay the foundation stone for the high-speed train project between Ahmedabad and Mumbai which is expected to be completed by 2022. The train would cover the distance of over 500 km in around two hours.
Japan has extended a soft loan for the ambitious project conceptualised by Modi.
The two leaders will hold the 12th Indo-Japan annual Summit meeting at Gandhinagar after which agreements will be exchanged. Later, an India-Japan business plenary meeting will be held.
Fifteen agreements will be signed for investments in Gujarat during the visit of the Japanese prime minister, Gujarat chief secretary J N Singh had said yesterday.
Abe's spouse will be visiting a number of places including an NGO -- Blind People's Association.
Modi had hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife in Ahmedabad in his home state Gujarat in September 2014.
Abe's visit comes amid rising tensions in the Far East where North Korea recently launched a ballistic missile that flew over Japan.
Growing Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea is also a cause of concern in the region and could come up for discussion between the two leaders.