| TOKYO, April 23
TOKYO, April 23 U.S. President Barack Obama and
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are due to have dinner on
Wednesday, bumping elbows at the counter of a tiny basement
sushi restaurant run by an octogenarian chef.
Sources close to Abe told Japanese media the prime minister
thought a meal at "Sukiyabashi Jiro," a venerable establishment
in Tokyo's bustling Ginza shopping district, would be a good way
to build trust.
"The prime minister thought that personal hospitality would
be good," media quoted one of the sourcing as saying.
The restaurant, with just 10 seats but three Michelin stars,
is considered one of the world's best sushi restaurants.
Obama will take a stool at the narrow wooden counter with
Abe shortly after arriving in Japan on a state visit.
The restaurant had its name burnished in a 2011 documentary,
"Jiro Dreams of Sushi", which featured owner Jiro Ono, who still
presses the sushi despite turning 86 at his last birthday.
The restaurant is usually booked up months in advance. It
features a set menu of 20 pieces of gem-like sushi for 30,000
yen ($290), beer and sake not included.
One Japanese television station said the choice was Obama's.
Telephone calls to the restaurant went unanswered.
Leaders of Japan, where proper etiquette is held in high
regard, rarely sit down to such informal dinners with visiting
leaders. Obama will see a more formal side of Japan on Thursday
when he attends a state banquet hosted by Emperor Akihito.
If Abe and Obama chit-chat too much over their sushi they
might upset their host.
The bald, bespectacled Jiro is known to discourage
conversation among his guests, hoping instead that they pay full
attention to the flavours of his food.
($1 = 102.6000 yen)
(Reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Robert Birsel)