A sickening social media craze involving diners in Japan messing with strangers’ food and spoiling it has led some sushi restaurants to shut down their famous assembly lines.
Other institutions were forced to invest in extra CCTV cameras, protective glass and even ‘smart’ conveyor belts that detect when a plate is removed and replaced.
The disgusting trend mainly sees young people performing a variety of unsanitary acts such as licking, spitting or spraying sanitizer at someone else’s behest as meals slide by. The so-called ‘sushi terrorism’ has even caused the share price of some restaurant chains to plummet.
Choshimaru, a chain that operates restaurants in and around Tokyo, recently told SoraNews24 that it would shut down all of its conveyor belts next month and hire more staff to hand-deliver orders after a diner put a cigarette in a jar of pickled ginger. had extinguished.
Meanwhile, an investigation by Japanese broadcaster NHK revealed how another restaurant operator, Kura Sushi, has taken a series of costly security measures to combat the heinous acts.
A disgusting video shared on social media showed a young man taking a piece of sushi from a passing plate and popping it into his mouth. He then took the piece of food away and slid it back onto the plate
Kura Sushi has taken a series of costly security measures to combat the heinous acts
Boards are fitted with protective screens, while the conveyor belts are fitted with alarms and CCTV cameras
Their high-tech setup consists of conveyor belts equipped with alarm systems and cameras to track the movement of the plates and detect tampering.
As a last line of defense, the plates themselves have protective shields on hinges to discourage people from trying to tamper with the food.
Kura Sushi has introduced the systems to restaurants in Japan’s Saitama Prefecture and Osaka, where restaurant managers are notified if the system detects suspicious behavior.
The new gear can identify the specific plate and seat number in question, it claimed.
“Conveyor belt sushi is something we are proud of as part of Japanese culture. We want to make sure our customers can safely and comfortably eat sushi delivered to the belt,” said a company official.
Meanwhile, market leader Sushiro told The Guardian it would no longer use conveyor belts for all its customers and stated that its sushi would be delivered exclusively through an “express lane” to customers ordering through touchscreen devices.
The change came after Sushiro suffered a slump in customers amid the rise in “sushi terrorism.”
A video of a boy licking soy sauce bottles and cutlery and wiping his spit on food at a Sushiro restaurant went viral. Sushiro said the teen was forced to apologize by his parents, but added that the company had lodged a formal complaint with the police.
“As a company, we will continue to respond vigorously with both criminal and civil matters,” it said.
It said all soy sauce bottles in the affected store had been replaced and all cups cleaned, and announced new restaurant policies.
But these measures have provided little comfort to horrified Japanese restaurant-goers.
“This is sickening,” one Japanese Twitter user wrote in response to the video, while another added, “I can’t go to conveyor belt sushi restaurants anymore.”
In another clip, a customer licked his finger and swiped it across the food that passed his table
In Tokyo, a young woman said she was shocked by the videos.
“Omotenashi (hospitality) is a major selling point in Japan, so I think it’s unforgivable,” she told AFP in Tokyo’s posh Ginza district.
“It’s harmful to customers and employees.”
The outcry sparked a wave of support for sushi companies struggling with declining footfall, with some people tweeting their support under the hashtag #saveSushiro.
“I’ve always wanted to go to Sushiro, but never got around to it because it’s always crowded,” Japanese singer Yuya Tegoshi tweeted.
“But the situation is definitely the worst for them right now, so I’ll definitely visit.”
Sushiro president Kohei Nii said on Twitter that he was overwhelmed by “an outpouring of support.”