A dinner with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and their wives last week was interrupted by an offensive cultural faux pas: Dessert was served in a shoe.
While serving food in a shoe seems like an odd choice for any culture, 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 Jewish guest chocolate in a dish shaped like a pig."
It's unclear what message the Israeli celebrity chef Segev Moshe, who prepared the dinner, was trying to send by serving the chocolates in a shoe, but it 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."
The Times of Israel described an author and TV personality who's close to the celebrity chef as saying the shoes were metal sculptures.