Japanese PM’s close encounter with durian

/ 12:10 AM January 20, 2017

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is welcomed by students in Davao City. —MALACAÑANG PHOTO

DAVAO CITY—The encounter between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan and durian could be as much about the politeness that the Japanese are known for as it is about how the tasty but pungent fruit tested politeness’ limits.

While Duterte administration officials tried to avoid putting Abe on the spot by publicly feeding him durian, the Japanese leader had moments with the fruit that has made the city famous.


The first encounter between Abe and durian last week was at the Waterfront Hotel, where Abe, in the presence of Palace and foreign affairs officials, took a taste of different fruits grown in the city, which included durian.

A video of the fruit-tasting episode in Abe’s visit to the city showed the Japanese premier raising his eyebrows as he put a durian slice into his mouth.


Moments later, when Abe visited the Mindanao Kokusai Daigaku (MKD), a Japanese school here, the Japanese leader made his feelings about durian known, although in jest.

As a slide presentation about the city was shown at MKD, a picture of durian appeared, which Abe took as a cue to put a finger under his nose, a gesture which meant the fruit smelled bad.

The gesture elicited chuckles among the 25 senior and junior MKD college students gathered at the audiovisual room where the slide presentation was held.

When the slides showed a picture of fried squid, Abe nodded his head vigorously.

A Japanese teacher at MKD, talking to students in Nihonggo, later explained that while the Japanese people loved to eat good food, they shirk from eating pungent or smelly ones.

The brief amusement about durian would soon dissipate as the Japanese first couple, students and teachers laughed aloud when the slide showed Japanese artist Kosaka Daimaou singing a song about pens and two good-smelling fruits— pineapple and apple.

The video of the song, “Pen, Pineapple, Apple, Pen,” had been watched at least 100 million times on YouTube.


While durian may have made Abe’s visit to the city unforgettable, MKD students who had encounters with Abe called the visit inspiring.

“Become the bridge between our two countries,” Abe had told MKD students.

Breaking protocol, Abe shook hands with the students before leaving for the airport. “We were overjoyed,” said Pio Pimentel, a junior college student at MKD, a school that had been set up by the late Ayako Honda-Uchida in 2001, initially for Japanese descendants but which admitted Filipinos, too.

Shobee Tejada, also a junior college student, said Abe’s visit inspired her. “He was very fatherly,” Tejada said. —ALLAN NAWAL AND JEOFFREY MAITEM

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TAGS: Davao City, durian, duterte, Japan, Japanese Prime Minister, shinzo abe
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