An offensive cultural ‘faux pas’ ruined Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, dinner last week when their dessert was served in a shoe.
Serving food in a shoe may not mean anything in some cultures, but it has an especially offensive connotation in Japan.
“This was a stupid and insensitive decision,” a senior Israeli diplomat who served in Japan told the Hebrew-language newspaper Yedioth Aharonot, according to The Jerusalem Post.
“There is nothing more despised in Japanese culture than shoes,” the diplomat said. “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.”
What Israeli celebrity chef Segev Moshe, who prepared the dinner, is trying to accomplish by serving chocolate in a shoe remains unclear, but it has caused an uproar.
“No culture puts shoes on the table,” a Japanese diplomat told Yedioth Aharonot, according to The Post. “What precisely was this illustrious chef Segev thinking? If this is meant to be humor, we do not find it funny. I can tell you that we are offended for our prime minister.”