Enda lunches on deadly catch of the day and spreads his message
Guests laughed nervously on being told their pufferfish had potential to kill
The prime minister of Japan laid on a stunning tasting menu in his official residence. It was all lovely, but he said the fish was absolutely deadly. Enda made light work of his duck paté with port wine sauce. The consommé was a model of clarity; and the fatty tuna remarkably light on its feet.
Granted, the beef wasn’t Irish, but the Taoiseach was more than happy to chew a bit of local filet now that the Mullingar heifer is returning to Japan in triumph after a 12-year ban. The ships are already on the way.
Ireland’s major beef producers, accompanied by a man from the Farmer’s Journal, marked this happy occasion with a mega-tour of one of Tokyo’s biggest abattoirs. They came back to the hotel with their equivalent of holiday snaps – photographs of offal, inside and outside the cow and all stages in between.
Meanwhile, back at the PM’s house, the Irish VIP guests were about to start on their thinly sliced globefish when Shinzo Abe broke the news: this fish contains a toxin so dangerous it must be prepared for table only by licensed chefs who know how to cut it out.
The tiniest amount can be lethal. Death within the hour.
There was some nervous laughter.
It took a trip to Japan for Enda to discover that Paddy doesn’t always like to know what the story is.
“Fugu!” said somebody to the prime minister, who resisted the temptation to shout “Fugu too!” But hardly the way to talk to the man who has just won the undying love of the fatstock farmers of Ireland for removing the export ban.
Abe assured his Irish guests that they were in no danger, as the dish had been prepared by an expert.
Dine for Ireland
So the lads tucked in, although when signing up for the trip they expected to dine, not die, for Ireland. The globefish or pufferfish or Fugu, was served steamed. “White flesh, lovely taste, a bit like octopus but not rubbery” was the verdict from our culinary spy.
So nothing to worry about there. But you’d still need a drink to steady the nerves while waiting for the paralysis to kick in.
There was a Chateau Mercian chardonnay and a Villa d’Este pinot Noir. Not forgetting the Sake Minowamon. From Fukushima, according to the label. That would be the Fukushima of the nuclear meltdown. Never mind.
The Taoiseach’s first engagement of the day was at a breakfast meeting of the Ireland Japan Chamber of Commerce. This gave him the chance to remind everyone that Ireland is the best small country in the world in which to exit the bailout while “doing business both ways”.
“Douzo yoroshiku onegaishimasu” he cried from the podium in flawless Japlebarese – a little known Japanese dialect spoken mainly in Mayo. The crowd burst into applause, like the night Queen Elizabeth wowed the crowd in Dublin Castle with her cúpla focail.
Enda thought he was asking his audience, in the formal Japanese style, to do him the honour of listening to his speech. What he actually said was: “Help. My donkey has been poisoned by a fugu fish.”
Great sense of humour, those Japanese.
This is a big trade mission – 29 companies are travelling with the Taoiseach. No sign of the Minister for Trade though. You’d nearly suspect they scheduled this trip to coincide with the Labour Party conference.
Simon Coveney, the Minister for Agriculture, managed to get over for the big beef announcement but Enda shamelessly hogged the limelight. He has form here – just ask Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton.
There were a lot of engagements yesterday and at every one of them the Taoiseach underlined he was in Japan at the invitation of prime minister Abe, who asked him over during the G20 summit.
When the two prime ministers held talks in the early evening, Enda turned to him during the media briefing and said: “I have come here because of your direct invitation to me.”
It’s as if he thinks people are under the impression he pitched up on spec with his very large entourage, wandering into palaces and parliament buildings in the hope of getting noticed.
Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness were also in to meet the prime minister. But while Enda got the full flags treatment for a backdrop, there wasn’t one to be seen when the First Minister and his deputy posed for their photograph.
During a meeting with members of the Japan Ireland Parliamentary League, Hakubun Shimomura, Japan’s minister for education, had a suggestion.
He wants to turn St Valentine’s
Day in Japan into Ireland Day. This is because the first syllable in “Ireland” sounds like the Japanese word for love and St Valentine is buried in Dublin.
A popular brand of Irish made chocolates sold out in the shops on St Valentine’s Day, which is when a woman traditionally gives choccies to her beau.
The Taoiseach is all for the idea. It could have major implications for the chocolate industry in Ireland, he mused.
Still with an eye to the main chance, Enda floated the idea that Ireland has great experience in the area of peace negotiations and might be of some service to countries such as Japan which are experiencing regional difficulties.
China wasn’t mentioned, although a large number of local journalists turned up to hear if Ireland has a position on the current dispute over airspace. They had no interest in beef.
The national television station was due to feature Enda’s visit on the news but he was bumped off by the story of a minor diplomat arrested for allegedly setting fire to Japan’s embassy in the Congo.
During a brief call on Crown Prince Naruhito, the Taoiseach invited him to visit Ireland in 2017, the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the countries.
Unlike this week’s visit, that trip abroad would be massive news in Japan. Will the crown prince bring his wife, Crown Princess Masako? The couple married in 1993 but she rarely leaves the imperial palace and seldom accompanies her husband abroad. The country would be agog if she came here.
Enda spent the day spreading his message of beef and love. Strains there of Yoko Ono. He just missed her and her cowboy hat by seconds in the hotel lobby.
“She stayed in a hotel in 1969 in Mulranny with John Lennon,” he said. “They still have the Lennon suite there.”