An unexpected gift becomes slightly less unexpected.

Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida made headlines recently by paying a surprise visit to Kyiv to meet with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky in the midst of the Russian invasion. The visit further deepened Japan’s moral support and technical support in the form of four billion yen (US$30M) in nonlethal defense equipment.

▼ A news report showing Kishida’s secretive entrance to Ukraine via a train from Poland

While many news reports, like the one above, focused on Kishida himself boarding the train with his bodyguard, some cameras lingered a little longer to watch the rest of the preparations and caught this shocking scene.

“Breaking: Kishida delivering Umaibo to Zelensky. Is it yakitori chicken flavor?”

That box might be a little hard to make out unless you happen to be a Japanese snack enthusiast. It appeared to be a case of Umaibo, a type of flavored puffed corn snack very similar to what is called “cheese puffs” or “cheesies” in some regions, except that it’s in the shape of a long cylinder.

▼ A corn potage flavor Umaibo, both in and out of its wrapper

It seemed like an odd thing to bring on such a clandestine mission and the Internet quickly went wild with speculation.

“It’s for national defense!”
“I was hoping he took the corn potage flavor.”
“Maybe it’s an Umai-gun.”
“It’s a good cost-effective travel snack. They’re 12 yen each and five will fill you up.”
“May the delicious taste of Umaibo turn the tide of this war.”
“Does…Zelensky like those things?”
“Is Carlos Ghosn inside the box?”
“Maybe the Ukrainian word for ‘mortar’ sounds a lot like ‘Umaibo.'”

At the time it really was anyone’s guess. Umaibo are certainly tasty, but it’s common knowledge that presenting it as a gift to anyone over the age of seven would probably not yield great results.

After the visit, reports finally emerged explaining the Umaibo box, informing the public that it was, in fact, not filled with sticks of puffed corn. Rather, it had a really big rice scoop known as a “shamoji” inside.

▼ Of course. It seems so obvious now…

Alright, maybe it doesn’t seem so obvious so let’s travel back to the year 1904 when Russia and Japan were embroiled in a war over each country’s influence in northeastern China and the Korean peninsula. At that time, the Japanese soldiers made ceremonial offerings of rice scoops to the famous Itsukushima Shrine in Hiroshima Prefecture where the first shamoji were said to have been made.

▼ And the island of Itsukushima’s got the giant rice scoop to prove it.

Image: Wikipedia

A Japanese word for “capture” is “meshitoru,” which sounds similar to the Japanese words “take” (“toru“) and “rice” (“meshi“), so rice scoops became used as symbols for victory in battle and used in prayer for such.

▼ You may even see fans of the Hiroshima Carp baseball team making some noise in the stands with rice scoop-shaped clappers.

And since Japan was declared the victor in that war with Russia, it would seem that Kishida is hoping it will bring the same luck to Ukraine. In addition, Kishida’s family originated in Hiroshima and when he was elected Prime Minister he was gifted a 50-centimeter-wide (20-inch) shamoji with the word “guaranteed success” written on it from the Hiroshima chapter of his party.

▼ The scoop given to Zelensky is said to be very similar but not quite as big. This news report shows Kishida with his own rice scoop.

Also, during their meeting arrangements were made to have Zelensky present online at the G7 meeting in Hiroshima this May. A visit of all the leaders to Itsukushima Shrine is also being considered and if they’re lucky, they might get some huge rice scoops and maybe even some Umaibo too.

Source: The Sankei News, Twitter/@nalltama, Hachima Kiko
Top image: Wikipedia/首相官邸ホームページ (Edited by SoraNews24)
Insert photos: ©SoraNews24 (unless otherwise noted)
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