Deputy mayor of Rome Mauro Cutrufo was in Tokyo for a special Italian cultural day with deeper meaning for Italy-Japan relations. He came to say he was sorry.

If you wanted to make an apology on behalf of your city, would it include some of the world’s best opera singers, fine wine and Italian cuisine? As apologies go, this was certainly impressive.

The back story involves a Japanese tourist, Mr. Yamada, who made international headlines when he was slapped with an extortionate ¥90,000 restaurant bill while visiting the Italian capital last year. After paying the bill he contacted the Roman police to file a report before returning to Japan.

The incident made international news headlines and tarnished the once good reputation of the Italian capital among international travellers.

But what made the story even more interesting was Mr. Yamada’s refusal to return to Rome free of charge so that the authorities could formally apologize. He claimed that he made this decision not because he dislikes Italy, but because he thought it unfair that his trip be paid for by Italian tax payers. He commented that he would like to return to the country again, but at his own expense. Mr. Yamada’s continued honesty and integrity showed the Italian tourism industry in an ever poorer light.

So in order to resolve the incident once and for all, the deputy mayor of Rome met Mr. Yamada and international TV crews at Napule Italian restaurant in Roppongi last week.

As a way of a friendly apology, a special dinner was set up to bring the two countries together. Members of the public were treated to wonderful free performances by leading Italian opera singers at Midtown’s Canopy Square before the special press luncheon.

Italian opera singers at Midtown's Canopy Square

The atmosphere was friendly, and to show good will Mr. Yamada accepted a gift and shook hands with the deputy mayor before toasting the occasion.

As a final humorous gesture, Mr. Yamada was handed a phoney bill from the Roppongi restaurant—this time for one million yen. Luckily he had put the original incident behind him and was able to laugh at the joke.

Mr. Cutrufo, a prominent businessman and public official, was keen to promote his city. He stressed that most tourists know Rome only for it’s great history, but the modern city has big plans as well, including new rail links, a Formula 1 track, and the Mediterranean Aquarium, set to be the world’s largest.

The Italian officials certainly put on an impressive show and clearly care about Japanese-Italian relations. Mr. Yamada looked happy as he left the event, and at least his cash was safe this time.

Italian opera singers at Midtown's Canopy Square

All Photos  © Weekender Magazine