Israel offended Japan's prime minister by serving him dessert out of a shoe, which Japanese people 'despise'


  • Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife had their dinner with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife interrupted by an offensive cultural faux pas — dessert was served in a shoe.
  • Shoes are "despised" in Japanese culture, and it's a weird idea in any case to serve food out of a shoe.
  • A Japanese diplomat called it offensive and questioned what the meal, prepared by an Israeli celebrity chef, was trying to accomplish.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife had their dinner with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife interrupted by an offensive cultural faux pas — dessert was served in a shoe.

While serving food out of a shoe seems like an odd choice for any culture, it has a special and offensive connotation in Japan.

"This was a stupid and insensitive decision," a senior Israeli diplomat who served in Japan told Hebrew-language Yediot Aharonot, according to JPost.

"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," the diplomat said.

It's unclear what message Israeli celebrity chef Sergev Moshe was trying to send by serving the chocolates out of a shoe, but it caused an uproar.

Gifts world leaders have given US Presidents
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Gifts world leaders have given US Presidents
WASHINGTON DC - JULY 9: (NO U.S. TABLOID SALES) President Ford accepts a gift from Saudi Arabian Prince Abdallah Ibn Abd Al-Aziz Al-Saud in the Cabinet Room July 9, 1976, in Washington, DC. Also attending are Secretary of State Kissinger; National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft; Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld; Abdul Azia Al Tuwayjiri, Deputy Commander of the National Guard; Ali Abdallah Alireza, Ambassador; and State Department interpreter Najib Najjar. (Photo by David Hume Kennerly/ Getty Images)
Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau (right) presenting a Bicentennial gift to US President Gerald Ford, in the Rose Garden of the White House, Washington DC, June 21st 1976. (Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
President Dwight D. Eisenhower receives a replica of the Russian Lunik from Premier Nikita Khrushchev during his state visit to the American capital. Vice President Richard Nixon (l) watches. (Photo by mary delaney cooke/Corbis via Getty Images)
President John F. Kennedy shows off some of the gifts, a beaded tie and a doll, that were presented to him today during a visit to the White House by members of the National Congress of American Indians. The Chief Executive, an honorary member of several Indian tribes, called for greater national efforts to provide better living for American Indians.
Members of the United States Senate and House of Representatives present President Kennedy with a pair of cuff links after he signed his first bill as president. The congressmen present are: (from left to right) Rep. Fred Cchewengel, Rep. Peter Mack Jr., Sen. Everett Dirksen, Sen. Vance Hartke, Rep. Winfield K. Denton, Sen. John Sherman Cooper, William B. Brasy, and Sen. Paul H. Douglas.
(Original Caption) This is a close-up of the 8 month old Russian puppy on the left that arrived at the White House as a gift from Soviet premier Khrushchev to President Kennedy. The puppy, an offspring of Stelka, the Soviet space dog is for Mrs. Kennedy. Here, the puppy is introduced to Charley, the Kennedy's Welsh Terrier. The puppy's Russian passport, is in the foreground.
(Original Caption) Two rival political figures, apparently the best of friends, arrive by Transatlantic Airliner. Both the donkey and elephant are destined for Republican homes. The donkey, the animal adopted by the Democrats as their symbol, is a gift to David Eisenhower, the President's grandson, from the Spanish Foreign Minister. The elephant was imported from Siam for use in the Republican national campaign.
Fala, Scottish terrier of FDR, looking up at sphynx sculpture superimposed w. face of his master in room filled w. gifts received during FDR's presidency. (Photo by Time Life Pictures/Pix Inc./The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
(Original Caption) Pacific Palisades, California: Presidential-elect Ronald Reagan has his hands full as a white horse, a gift from the President of Mexico, Jose Lopez Portillo, rears as it is presented to him at a park near his home. The horse, Alamain, is from Portillo's private stable. January 12, 1981.
Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny gives a gift of an etched bowl filled with traditional shamrocks to U.S. President Barack Obama during a St. Patrick's Day reception at the White House in Washington, March 19, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)
US President George W. Bush (C) holds up a gift during a Gowning and Investiture Ceremony at the Executive Mansion in Monrovia, Liberia, on February 21, 2008. Bush is capping off a five-country Africa trip promising lasting friendship with the continent. Bush became the first US leader in 30 years to visit Liberia, a nation settled in the 1820s by slaves freed by the United States and still the closest US ally in Africa, but battered by a bloody series of civil wars. AFP PHOTO/Jim WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President George W. Bush receives a gift from United Arab Emirates' President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan at Al Mushref Palace in Abu Dhabi. The solid gold sash is studded by diamonds and gems. (Photo by Brooks Kraft LLC/Corbis via Getty Images)
U.S. President Bill Clinton is presented a gift of shamrocks by Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern on St. Patrick's Day at the White House, March 17. Clinton is continuing talks today with Irish leaders for peace in Northern Ireland. MT/JP
Moscow, Russia. President Boris Yeltsin (C) of Russia presents President Bill Clinton (R) of the United States with a copy of the Union flag of the Civil War times during a meeting at the Moscow Kremlin. Alexander Chumichev; Alexander Sentsov/ITAR-TASS (Photo by TASS via Getty Images)
U.S. President Barack Obama is presented with a gift in honour of his mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, by Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono during a state dinner at the State Palace-Istana Merdeka in Jakarta, November 9, 2010. Obama and his mother lived in Indonesia during Obama's early years. REUTERS/Jason Reed (INDONESIA - Tags: POLITICS)
A member of the U.S. government staff carries a bust of Mahatma Gandhi, presented as a gift to U.S. President Barack Obama, during his trip in New Delhi, November 8, 2010. REUTERS/Jason Reed (INDIA - Tags: POLITICS)
Pope Benedict XVI (R) exchanges gifts with U.S. President Barack Obama (2nd R) during their meeting in the pontiff's private library at the Vatican July 10, 2009. REUTERS/Osservatore Romano (VATICAN POLITICS RELIGION)
U.S. President Barack Obama (L) holds a gift he received from Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah during a meeting at the king's farm outside Riyadh June 3, 2009. REUTERS/Larry Downing (SAUDI ARABIA POLITICS IMAGES OF THE DAY)
King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia (2nd L) presents a gift to U.S. President George W. Bush in New York, November 13, 2008. REUTERS/Saudi Press Agency/Handout (UNITED STATES). FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS.
U.S. President George W. Bush receives a bowl of Shamrocks as a St. Patrick's Day gift from Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, March 17, 2005. At right is first lady, Laura Bush. REUTERS/Larry Downing LSD/HB
U.S. President George W. Bush (L) receives a drawing depicting "yabusame", Japanese traditional mounted archery, presented to him from Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi at the Foreign Ministry's Iikura guest house in Tokyo February 18, 2002. Bush's Japan visit is the first stop on a three-country tour through Asia. REUTERS/Katsumi Kasahara/Pool PB
Former U.S. president Bill Clinton (R) receives a gift from Taiwan's parliamentary speaker Wang Jing-pyng after giving a speech at an event hosted by the Taiwan Democracy Foundation in Taipei February 27, 2005. Clinton will meet Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian on Sunday during a whirlwind visit to the island that China regards as a renegade province, but China was restrained in its reaction. REUTERS/Richard Chung TW
President Ronald Reagan standing next to horse named El Amamein, which was given to him as a gift from Mexican President, on ranch. (Photo by Pete Souza/White House/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
German Federal Chancellor Helmut Schmidt together with his wife presenting a gift to the US President Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy Reagan is standing to the right, the present is a couple of American Eagles, July 01, 1978, Bonn, Germany. (Photo by Thomas Imo/Photothek via Getty Images)
President Carter Receiving Gift (Photo by � Wally McNamee/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
Ireland's Prime Minister Enda Kenny (R) presents a traditional gift of a bowl of shamrocks to U.S. President Donald Trump during a St. Patrick's Day reception at the White House in Washington, U.S. March 16, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Pope Francis exchange gifts with U.S. President Donald Trump and his wife Melania during a private audience at the Vatican, May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Alessandra Tarantino/pool
U.S. President Donald Trump (R) receives a gift of a book of Psalms from Western Wall Heritage Foundation Director General Mordechai Elias (L) and Rabbi of the Western Wall Shmuel Rabinovitch (C) after leaving a note at the Western Wall in Jerusalem May 22, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

"No culture puts shoes on the table," a Japanese diplomat told the Hebrew website. "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," said the diplomat.

The Times of Israel quotes a source close to the celebrity chef who is also an author and TV personality as saying the shoes were actually a metal sculpture.

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