Watch: 'Sushi terrorists' lick restaurant diners' food for internet fame
Young Japanese diners are licking sushi as it passes on restaurant conveyor belts in an act of "terrorism" that has sent food chain shares tumbling.
Videos of teenage customers licking their fingers and touching passing plates of sushi have gone viral, triggering fears of copycat sabotage in a country renowned for its order and sanitary standards.
In one video viewed 93 million times a young man laughs as he licks the top of a soy sauce bottle and the rim of a mug for green tea and then replaces it on a tray of clean mugs in a Sushiro chain restaurant.
The company has announced that it has replaced all soy sauce bottles in the store and washed all the mugs. Customers are also now required to pick up their utensils and condiments from a serving point.
Other "kaitenzushi" restaurant chains, where plates of Japan’s national dish pass diners’ tables on a conveyor belt, have reported diners swabbing dishes with unwanted spicy condiments and licking green tea spoons.
🤮🤮🤮🤮#AkindoSushiro #sushi pic.twitter.com/nGKSDhaQk5
— ShanghaiPanda (@thinking_panda) February 3, 2023
Zensho Holdings Co, which operates the Hamasushi chain of restaurants, has filed a complaint with police after a video surfaced showing a diner adding large amounts of strong "wasabi" to another customer’s dish and returning it to the conveyor belt.
Kura Sushi Inc is trying to identify three men who took a plate from the conveyor belt and then placed the sushi back onto a different plate. Yet more footage has shown a customer licking a spoon that is used for green tea powder.
The unnamed diner at the Sushiro restaurant reportedly returned with his parents and apologised, and the Sushiro chain restaurant said in a statement that it intends to pursue both civil and criminal proceedings.
The other two chains have announced they are also taking legal action against customers who filmed themselves interfering with the food.
In its statement, the Sushiro chain said shares in the restaurant’s holding company have fallen 4.8 per cent since January 25, when the clip first began to circulate.
The coverage the incidents have led to in national media have led to further reports of misbehaviour in other restaurants, including footage of a man at a "yakiniku" grilled meat restaurant using a toothpick and then returning it to the holder.
Despite restaurants announcing new countermeasures to halt actions that online commentators are referring to as "sushi terrorism", including the introduction of security cameras over diners’ tables, the videos have shaken sushi-lovers’ confidence.
"After watching this video, I can no longer go to the ‘karazushi’ restaurant that I used to go to every week", said one message on a news website.
The outrage has arguably been heightened as Japanese generally consider themselves to be respectful and considerate of others, while high levels of sanitation and cleanliness are expected, particularly in the food sector.
Many online commentators are bemoaning the fact that standards appear to be slipping among Japan’s younger generations, who they suggest are more interested in online "likes" for outrageous behaviour than being considerate towards others.