The threat of ‘sushi terrorism’ – carried out by people who spit on other diners’ food or deface the food and plates – is causing major changes at Japanese kaitenzushi restaurants, where customers choose their food by picking up plates that ‘travel’ on conveyor belts .
Choshimaru, a chain of dozens of restaurants in and around Tokyo, announced this week that it is switching to a system where customers order sushi from a waiter or on a touch screen, instead of the traditional food on plates on a turntable. in slow rotation. The change, which will take place at the end of next month, was prompted by a video in which a man put a cigarette butt on a plate of pickled ginger as it walked past.
The company hopes the ruling will make it harder for anyone to engage in what has become known across the country as “sushi terrorism,” often depicted in videos shared on social media. In them, people lick bottles of soy sauce to be used, spit on food, or touch other people’s sushi. The trend has alarmed those who love the tradition of kaitenzushi — and hit the industry hard.
“Loss of trust in hygiene in Japan’s sushi restaurants threatens a unique part of modern Japanese food culture,” writes Sora News 24 in an article.
The Choshimaru chain’s decision to stop its conveyor belts follows a similar move by another chain, Sushiro, which claims to be the largest of its kind, after a video was released showing a boy licking glasses and sauce bottles. soy sauce and touching the food of other meals after licking their fingers. The incident, which was seen millions of times on the networks, alienated customers, the company said, sending the parent company’s stock down 5 percent, according to Japan’s Asahi TV.
Such tasteless pranks “sparked a wave of disgust in Japan, which is renowned for its exacting standards of hygiene and education,” Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Julia Mio wrote in a report The Washington Post for the phenomenon.
The Sushiro chain will also begin allowing customers to submit their orders, which will be delivered via a “fast track” designed to deter potential troublemakers, the company said in a statement posted on its website.
Kura, another popular chain, is taking a different route. Last week, the brand updated its AI-powered cameras — which were already being used to track how many dishes customers ate — to detect suspicious activity. For example, in the case that a customer removes a slab from the conveyor belt and then puts it back into circulation. Such an incident will send an alert to the company’s regional office, where employees can view the video and contact the restaurant where the violation occurred, according to Sora News 24.
“It would be nice if we didn’t have to rely on this kind of system,” a Kura Sushi spokesperson tells Sora, “but it’s become necessary because of the thoughtless actions of a small number of people.”
On social media, fans are lamenting the changes to the iconic sushi ‘trains’, the first of which opened in 1958 and has since spread around the world. “One thing I’ve been thinking about lately is how fragile social order really is.” he tweeted a customer. “A staple of Japanese culture, canceled overnight by some TikTok troublemakers.”