The controversy is centred around a number of videos that have emerged on platforms such as Twitter and TikTok, in which individuals show themselves tampering with dishes at Kaitenzushi, conveyor belt sushi restaurants in Japan.
In one video, which has been viewed more than 40 million times on Twitter, an individual can be seen licking the top of a communal soy sauce bottle before closing the lid and returning it to his table.
The customer, who appears to be in his teens, is seen in the clip licking the entire rim of a teacup before placing it back on the stack of cups at the encouragement of someone off camera. The video concludes with the individual licking his finger multiple times before running it along a piece of sushi passing by on the conveyor belt.
The video was reportedly filmed at a branch of the Sushiro chain in the central city of Gifu, Japan, according to The Guardian. The publication also reports that the video of the customer’s behaviour led stocks in the restaurant’s parent company to “plunge nearly five per cent on Tuesday”.
The video is just one of several that have emerged on social media recently, with others showing customers at conveyor belt sushi restaurants in Japan also engaging in unsanitary behaviour. In one video, reportedly filmed at the chain Hamasushi, a customer smears wasabi on a piece of sushi passing by on the conveyor belt with his finger, while another video shows a man eating a mouthful of green tea powder from a communal spoon and bowl.
The trend has prompted disgust on social media, where many have condemned the unhygienic pranks.
“This will have a negative impact on the entire conveyor belt sushi industry,” one person tweeted in response to one of the videos, while another said: “Absolutely disgusting. #SushiTerrorism is a trend spurred by Japanese teens trying to go viral. Licking soy bottles, touching sushi with hands, and putting it back on the conveyor belt. Disgusting. Social media will be the ruin of this generation who crave only likes.”
Someone else said the trend is especially “heinous” for taking place in the pandemic era, as it could potentially contribute to the spread of Covid-19.
Others said the videos would deter them from eating at conveyor belt sushi restaurants unless changes are made that would ensure the cleanliness of the food. Many encouraged the restaurants to take legal action.
“Seeing [videos] like this makes it difficult to go to conveyor belt sushi restaurants. If such people appear, we will have to significantly increase the number of surveillance cameras. The cost... They may have committed the crime lightheartedly, but the damage to the store is immeasurable,” one person tweeted, before describing the trend as “pathetic”.
In a statement shared by Sushiro, the conveyor belt sushi restaurant company expressed its regret over the incident and said it had been in contact with police.
“We take this kind of behaviour very seriously as it damages the relationship of trust with our customers in order to provide safe and secure sushi,” the statement read, according to a translation from Japanese to English. “Regarding this matter, all Sushiro stores are investigating whether the event has occurred, when it occurred, and to identify the stores that suffered damage. We will deal strictly with both criminal and civil matters while consulting with the police.”
In another statement shared with CBS News, the sushi restaurant said the teen seen in the video and his parents had apologised. The company also said soy sauce bottles had been replaced and the cups had been cleaned.
Food & Life Companies Ltd, the parent company of Sushiro, said in a statement to Time that the restaurants would work with customers to ensure they feel safe.
“As a first-aid countermeasure, for all Sushiro stores in Japan, if a customer feels uneasy about the tableware and seasonings on the table, they can let us know and we will replace them with disinfected ones that are stored separately,” the company said.
Conveyor belt sushi chains Hama-sushi and Kura Sushi, which were also targeted in the videos, have also said they will take legal action, according to the Jiji press agency.
Although the videos of customers tampering with the conveyor belt sushi are relatively new, The Japan Times notes that “sushi terrorism” is the latest version of “baito tero” or “part-time job terrorism,” a “phenomenon that’s been stoking public anger for a decade now”.
The outlet says that the the term, which was coined on Twitter in 2013, refers to individuals who film themselves behaving “outrageously” at restaurants and convenience stores.
The Independent has contacted Food & Life Companies Ltd, Hamasushi, and Kura Sushi for comment.
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