This is a small anecdote that could even mark the diplomatic history between Japan and Ukraine.

During a surprise visit by Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to Kiev on Tuesday, March 21, footage broadcast by public broadcaster NHK showed Japanese officials loading a box of Japanese snacks onto a train bound for Kiev. This caused a certain curiosity on social networks, many Internet users are interested in the contents of this box. Moreover, his presence seemed inappropriate, given the very serious circumstances of the visit.

In a survey of civil servants, the newspaper Sankei Shimbun managed to unravel this little mystery. This is indeed a diplomatic gift from Prime Minister Kishida, who wanted to present President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky with a symbol of victory in Japan: a flat rice spoon – a giant format, since it is 50 centimeters high.

Pun and the G7 summit

In Japanese, the expression “serve” (in this case, rice, with a spoon) is pronounced the same as the expression meaning “defeat the enemy.” It is symbolic that this gift should bring good luck to the people of Kiev. “By Ukraine’s victory over Russia, the prime minister wanted to show his support for President Zelensky” in its own way, the newspaper explains. According to the latter, Kishida dedicated the spoon using word Hisso (“certain victory”).

Another important detail: the gift also commemorates the G7 summit this year. It will take place in May in Hiroshima, the region of origin of Kishida, famous for the production of flat rice spoons. The war in Ukraine is likely to be the hot topic at the summit, which President Zelensky will attend remotely.

When the mystery is solved, some questions remain: how did the Japanese government translators translate the pun? How did the Ukrainian authorities react to this?

Unfortunately for Japanese Internet users, their questions have not been answered, said a journalist from Sankei Shimbun without going so far as to contact the Ukrainian side on these issues.