Enda’s trip to Japan takes him to White House heaven

The Taoiseach clearly relished his meeting with US vice president Joe Biden and ambassador Caroline Kennedy in Tokyo

Enda Kenny meets US vice-president Joe Biden and US Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy

Enda Kenny meets US vice-president Joe Biden and US Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy

Wed, Dec 4, 2013, 01:00

A beautiful Japanese garden on a sunny December day in Tokyo. The maples glow, still in their autumn finery, throwing shapes in dramatic shades of red and brown. There are fat fish in the carp pond and stone lanterns and gnarled bonsai pines in pots. Peaceful, with the soothing sounds of birdsong and gently moving water.

A little bit of heaven, tucked away from the noise of the city and Enda Kenny’s one-size-fits- all speech that has been revolving around the Okura Hotel since Sunday like stale sushi on a conveyor.

This is not a criticism. The Taoiseach gives his Ireland is Great spiel to a different audience each time and they really seem to like it, although the Japanese are very polite.

We may be little, but we pack a big punch, he tells them.

“While we are small at home, we are extensive people all over the world,” he told a roomful of Japanese meat merchants yesterday, sounding like Fr Ted explaining the concept of distance to Fr Dougal.

“Northern Ireland is in the north of the country,” he told another gathering.

Open for business
Yes, we are open for business. Our young people are fantastic. We love Japan. We strive for perfection. We’ve called upon the Crown Prince and hope to get him over for a visit. His mammy and daddy were here before. They’re lovely people. Herself is a great fan of WB Yeats and Seamus Heaney.

Wasn’t it only the prime minister himself who invited us over. We won’t let you down. And sure, we can talk about the tax. Our beef is brilliant. So are our racehorses. (Not together in a burger, obviously.)

Taste that cheese. Feel our hand of friendship while we fight our economic crisis and apparently win. We are about to bin the bailout. The Taoiseach announces all this with unconcealed pride.

At one point he is introduced as the politician who has led Ireland through one of its worst calamities since the Famine.

And then Enda knocks ‘em dead with a line in Japanese.

He’s good, in fairness. Doing a great sales job.

It can be very wearing though. The marketing drive, with the Taoiseach as the main attraction, is relentless. Meeting after meeting. From early morning and into the night. How he manages to remain chipper is a miracle. But he does.

We were promised the Orient only to be locked up in the basement conference centre of an international hotel. So yesterday’s little mosey around the beautiful garden of the Japanese Institute for International Affairs was a godsend. The Taoiseach made a rare foray from the Okura to deliver a speech about “Ireland and Japan: a partnership for prosperity and growth in a globalised world.”

But that was inside.

Deciduous disorder
Outside, the air was fresh among the evergreen shrubs and the stone and the water, the clipped order and deciduous disorder.

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