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Japanese PM Shinzo Abe served dessert in a shoe in Israel, classic foot in mouth

This isn't the only time foreign heads of state embarrassed themselves in public.

By Kayla Wong | May 8, 2018

Cultural faux pas are embarrassing on a personal level as everyone eventually moves on and talks about it once in a while, but on an international level?

It becomes immortalised in the news.

And even more so if it was done in front of another head of state and have the entire world know about it later on through international media coverage.

Shoe on the dinner table

This happened when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife, Akie Abe, was served dessert in a shoe at dinner with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on May 2.

The meal, in Israel, was served by celebrity Israeli chef Segev Moshe.

It is unknown if Abe was offended by the unusual presentation, but he did invite Segev to go cook in Japan.

Even so, Japanese and Israeli diplomats were offended on his behalf.

A senior Israeli diplomat who served in Japan said that the choice of presentation has an extremely offensive connotation in Japan.

According to Yediot Aharonot, (translation via The Washington Post), the senior diplomat said:

“There is nothing more despised in Japanese culture than shoes.

Not only do they not enter their houses while wearing shoes, you will not find shoes in their offices either.”

Even the prime minister, ministers and members of parliament do not wear shoes to work…

It is equivalent to serving a Jewish guest chocolates in a dish shaped like a pig.”

A Japanese diplomat also told Yediot Aharonot:

“No culture puts shoes on the table. What precisely was this illustrious chef Segel thinking?

If this is meant to be humour, we do not find it funny. I can tell you that we are offended for our prime minister.”

Angry comments on celebrity chef’s Instagram

According to the chef’s Instagram post on his creation, the shoe is not an actual shoe, but a sculpture made out of cast metal.

Nevertheless, some were offended enough to flood the chef’s Instagram page with criticisms.

Screenshot via segevmoshe/IG
Screenshot via segevmoshe/IG
Screenshot via segevmoshe/IG

But amidst the angry comments offended on Abe’s behalf, there lies a comment by a Japanese person who wasn’t offended at all.

Screenshot via segevmoshe/IG

Translation: This is interesting and imaginative. I wanna try eating it!

Abe’s last visit to Israel was in 2015 — the first visit by a Japanese prime minister since 2006.

He is currently on a two-day Middle East trip, which includes stops in the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, and the Palestinian territories.

Not the first time foreign dignitaries embarrassed themselves in public

This is not the first time a foreign dignitary is seen doing something considered embarrassing when meeting the Japanese.

In 1992, at a state dinner with then Japanese Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa, former US President George H. W. Bush fainted after vomiting onto Miyazawa’s lap.

Former First Lady Barbara Bush then pressed a napkin to his mouth, and Miyazawa cradled his head while Bush’s staff lowered him onto the floor.

The incident sparked a number of parodies, and continue to be remembered by the Japanese even several years later.

A public gaffe, with Netanyahu as the subject of discussion, happened in 2011 at the G20 summit in Cannes.

Former US president Barack Obama and former French president Nicholas Sarkozy were in a private conversation without being aware that the microphones that had been attached for a press conference were already switched on.

Sarkozy told Obama:

“I cannot stand him. He’s a liar.”

Obama then responded:

“You’re fed up with him? I have to deal with him every day.”

Obama had apparently been criticising Sarkozy’s surprise decision to vote in favour of a Palestinian request for membership of the United Nations cultural heritage agency UNESCO, which later forced Washington to halt its funding for UNESCO under a 1990s law that prohibits it from funding any UN body that grants membership to groups that do not have legal statehood.

And of course, who can forget the time when the Singapore flag was used as a tablecloth at the Israeli embassy here during a party?

Top image via segevmoshe Instagram

About Kayla Wong

Kayla's dog runs her life.

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