TOKYO, Feb 3, 2023 (BSS/AFP) - A handful of unhygienic pranks at sushi
conveyor belt restaurants in Japan have sparked stock slumps, venue overhauls
and legal action, along with furious social media commentary.
Several videos dubbed "sushi terrorism" have emerged on social media
including Twitter and TikTok in recent days, some of them apparently weeks or
even years old.
In one, viewed nearly 40 million times on Twitter, an apparently teenaged
customer licks the top of a communal soy sauce bottle and the rim of a teacup
he then places back on a shelf, before licking his finger and touching a
piece of sushi as it goes past on the belt.
The video, filmed at a branch of the Sushiro chain in the central Japanese
city of Gifu, prompted stocks in the restaurant's parent company to plunge
nearly five percent Tuesday.
Other videos emerged showing customers at different chains putting wasabi on
passing pieces of sushi or licking the spoon in a communal green tea powder
Though the incidents appear to be confined to just a few videos, they have
caused an uproar in Japan, a country with famously high standards of
"This is sickening," one Japanese Twitter user wrote in response, with
another adding: "I can't go to conveyor belt sushi restaurants anymore."
In a statement, Sushiro said the teen behind the viral video had apologised,
along with his parents, but that the firm had filed a formal police
"As a company, we will continue to respond firmly with both criminal and
civil cases," it said.
It said all the soy sauce bottles at the affected store had been replaced and
all the cups cleaned, and announced new restaurant policies.
At the Gifu branch and others nearby, customers will now take utensils and
condiments to their tables from a serving point, and nationwide, diners will
be able to request disinfected tableware.
Two other affected chains, Hama-sushi and Kura Sushi, have also said they
plan to take legal action, with the latter planning to install cameras above
conveyor belts to monitor customers, Jiji press agency reported.
In Tokyo, 20-year-old musician Luna Watanabe said she was appalled by the
"Omotenashi (hospitality) is an important selling point in Japan, so I think
it's unforgivable," she told AFP in Tokyo's upscale Ginza district.
"It's harmful to customers and employees."
But others largely shrugged off the incident, including Tetsuya Haneda, a
"As far as I'm concerned, it only happened once, so that doesn't mean it
happens all the time," he said.
"It's not a problem -- on the contrary, now there will be fewer people
waiting in line, so I won't need to make a reservation anymore to go and eat,
even on the weekend."
Online too, after the initial outcry, there was something of a wave of
support for the affected companies, with some tweeting their backing under
the hashtag #saveSushiro.
"I've always wanted to go to Sushiro but haven't been able to because it's
always crowded," Japanese singer Yuya Tegoshi tweeted.
"But the situation now is the absolute worst for them, so I'm definitely
going to visit."
Sushiro president Kohei Nii said on Twitter he had been overwhelmed by "an
outpouring of support".
"I'm so grateful I could cry."