Skip To Content
Fast Forward

Netanyahu Offends Japanese Prime Minister By Serving Him Dessert In A Shoe

(JTA) — After a day of high-level meetings in Israel on May 2 — some of which involved the stressful topic of Middle East peace negotiations — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sat down to dinner in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Jerusalem residence.

According to multiple reports, things went smoothly until dessert — chocolates served in a shoe.

That presentation choice would seem bizarre to an eater from just about any culture, but it was especially out of place in front of Netanyahu’s Japanese guests, Abe and his wife, Akie. Japanese etiquette stipulates that shoes should be kept outside of one’s home and office, among other taboos.

Israeli celebrity chef Moshe Segev, who was in charge of the meal, didn’t see anything wrong with the idea, posting about the night on Instagram. His publicist said the shoes were “sculptures” crafted by artist Tom Dixon.

But the faux pas was not lost on Japanese officials.

“What exactly did the illustrious chef Segev think to himself. We can’t understand what he was trying to say here,” one unidentified Japanese diplomat told the Hebrew-language paper Yediot Acharanot. “If it is humor, then we don’t think it is funny. I can tell you we were offended on behalf of our prime minister.”

A senior Israeli official told the paper the decision was “stupid and insensitive.”

In addition to potential future Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, Abe and Netanyahu also discussed cybersecurity cooperation between Israel and Japan. But the shoe story by far has been the most talked about story from Abe’s visit.

At least the main course wasn’t sole.


Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.