There aren’t that many cultures where putting a shoe on the dining room table is acceptable behavior, but for the Japanese there is clear etiquette against allowing outdoor shoes inside.
That might explain the furor following a visit by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife, Akie Abe, to Israel last week.
After a day of high-level meetings on May 2, the Japanese leader was treated to a festive meal at the official residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara Netanyahu. It was their second time in Israel, and the visiting couple were served a top-notch meal by celebrity Israeli chef Segev Moshe.
But then came dessert. A selection of delectable chocolate pralines — artistically arranged inside a shiny leather shoe.
While Abe took the unusual presentation in stride, Japanese and Israeli diplomats and Japan watchers were shocked that the Japanese prime minister would be served from a shoe.
“This was a stupid and insensitive decision,” a senior Israeli diplomat, who had previously served in Japan, told Yediot Aharonot. “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.”