Japan’s crackdown on errant diners in the wake of “sushi terrorism” has intensified after two men were arrested for using their chopsticks to remove a condiment from a communal container at a restaurant in Osaka.
The arrests of Toshihide Oka and Ryu Shimazu came as the country’s budget food service sector attempts to contain a wave of bad behaviour among clientele that began early this year at popular chain restaurants.
Mr Oka (34), and Mr Shimazu (35), are accused of obstruction of business after they used their chopsticks to eat pickled ginger from a container intended for all customers at a restaurant run by the gyūdon (beef bowl) chain Yoshinoya back in September, police said.
The men, whose clip of the prank was widely shared on social media, are also accused of destroying property by contaminating the container and ginger with their utensils. Diners are supposed to use separate chopsticks to add toppings to their dish.
The video appears to show a man, believed to be Mr Shimazu, repeatedly shovelling pickled ginger – a gyūdon staple – into his mouth.
“I wanted to make people laugh,” Mr Oka told police, according to the Kyodo news agency. “I asked [Shimazu] to do something funny, and he suddenly ate it. I shared it on social media because it was so funny. I wanted everyone to see it.” The newspaper said both men had confessed to the allegations.
News that miscreant diners have targeted gyūdon will horrify many Japanese. The dish, comprising seasoned beef and onions on rice – often accompanied by bright red strips of pickled ginger – is an enduring comfort food whose price is an unofficial bellwether for the health of the world’s third-biggest economy.
Yoshinoya, which operates about 1,000 restaurants in Japan, reported the incident to police after it became aware of the video in February. It was forced to temporarily close the outlet in Osaka, replace the pickled ginger and disinfect all its containers.
“It is truly regrettable that this news has caused discomfort and anxiety among customers, and has called into question the safety and security of eating out in general,” a spokesperson for the firm said. “We sincerely hope this will not happen again.”
The arrests come a week after a man was indicted for licking the top of a communal soy sauce bottle at a revolving sushi restaurant in February. Two other people have been arrested in connection with the incident.
The indicted 21-year-old had reportedly been encouraged by social media posts showing people carrying out acts of sushi terrorism, including one incident in which a teenager licked the rim of a teacup before placing it back on a shelf and then wiped saliva on a passing plate of sushi.
After being accused of forcible obstruction of business, he has reportedly expressed remorse for his behaviour and indicated he wants apologise to the restaurant’s operator, Kura Sushi.
The sushi chain described the pranks as a “public nuisance,” adding that it hoped the arrests would deter other would-be pranksters. It has since installed security cameras equipped with artificial intelligence to monitor customers, while other high-tech kaitenzushi chains have halted their conveyor belts. — The Guardian