The talk of the town is over an unofficial dinner enjoyed by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and American President Barack Obama during the latter’s state visit to Japan.
President Obama, as soon as he landed in Tokyo on April 23, made a beeline to Ginza’s legendary sushi restaurant “Sukiyabashi Jiro.”
The place was chosen as part of Abe’s “Sushi diplomacy,” a hidden ace up his sleeve in a bid to build stronger trust with Obama.
At the restaurant, only one item is offered by the 89 year old sushi master Jiro Ono. It is the omakase course, which can cost between US$300 and US$400 per person. It consists of 20 pieces of sushi, prepared and served one at a time.
The three-Michelin-star restaurant is a revered temple of Suhi in Ginza where the best ingredients are touched by the master so that taste buds get a royal treatment.
However, Bluefin tuna, one of the alleged dinner ingredients, sparked controversy.
Bluefin tuna is a delicacy renowned for its taste, but overfishing has left them almost extinct. Many international environmental groups are out to protect them.
There are three kinds of Bluefin tuna that inhabit the Atlantic, South Sea, and Pacific, among which those in the South Sea and Atlantic are officially designated as being endangered.
Pacific tuna has not been officially designated as being endangered, but its population has dwindled by 96 percent due to overfishing, according to the International Scientific Committee for Tuna and Tuna-like species in the North Pacific Ocean.
It is not clear that what kind of tuna was used for Obama’s sushi. However, according to a picture released by an online Japanese news source, the sushi was from tuna belly.
International environmental protection group Greenpeace published a statement that day and said President Obama should use discretion in choosing his food.
Greenpeace sent a statement to Business Insider scolding the president and encouraging him to make better meal choices in the future.
“As a role model, people will naturally follow you. The global appetite for Bluefin tuna has destroyed this species, pushing it to the brink of extinction. It needs to be protected,” Casson Trenor, Greenpeace’s oceans campaigner, said in a statement to Business Insider.
According to reporters who were at the dinner site, the American president said, “That’s some good sushi right there.” The White House has yet to reveal its position as to whether or not the President ate Bluefin tuna.