Japan's 'Sushi Terrorism' Saga Draws To A Close

A gross prank at Japan's rotary sushi restaurants has resulted in no punishment for the perpetrator.

Update, August 3, 2023: It looks like the era of sushi terrorism has come to a quiet end in Japan. Though restaurant chain Sushiro had initially brought a lawsuit against the teenage customer who licked a soy sauce bottle and teacup and wiped saliva on a plate of sushi as it went by on the conveyor belt, The Japan Times reports that the lawsuit has now been dropped. The total amount initially sought by Sushiro was 67 million yen (about $470,000).

"The customer has admitted his responsibility and we have reached a settlement with reasonable details that are acceptable to us," a spokesperson for Sushiro told The Japan Times

The spokesperson didn't reveal any further details about the settlement, but after all of the loud fuss and legal threats spurred by this rotary sushi turmoil, we're hoping we won't be seeing copycat crimes anytime soon. Conveyor belt sushi lovers, you can breathe easy... for now.

Update, June 9, 2023: These acts of terrorism will not stand. Sushiro, one of the rotary sushi chains hit with an act of sushi vandalism, is suing the teenager involved in a food-licking prank captured on video, The Guardian reports. The teenager allegedly licked a bottle of soy sauce, then the rim of a tea cup, and wiped saliva on a plate of sushi that was placed on a carousel for other customers to potentially grab and eat.

The Guardian reports that the teenager is being sued for 67 million yen, or nearly $481,000. To put that into perspective, that amount of money could put two people through medical school, or it could buy a four-bedroom, three-bathroom house in Omaha, or it could land the winning bid for a used 58-foot yacht.

Sushiro is suing the unnamed teen for this large amount of money because the restaurant argues that it suffered financial losses due to the incident. The chain could potentially seek further damages due to the fact that it spent nearly $650,000 in order to install additional hygienic measures at its locations. Looks like the sushi industry in Japan isn't holding back, and the story isn't quite over yet.

Update, March 10, 2023: Japanese state broadcaster NHK reports that three people have been arrested in connection with a video posted to social media showing one of them putting their mouth on a communal soy sauce dispenser spout at conveyor belt sushi restaurant Kura Sushi. The people involved were a 21-year-old and two teenagers.

"We sincerely hope that this arrest will serve as a catalyst for widespread public recognition of the 'crime' of nuisance behavior that shakes the very foundations of the system based on the relationship of trust with our customers," Kura Sushi said in a statement, "and we truly hope that there will be no more copycat crimes."

We can only assume customers hope the same.

Original post, February 7, 2023: This is why we can't have nice fish. CBS News warns of an unfortunate trend happening at conveyor belt sushi restaurants in Japan, one we can only hope does not make its way over to the United States. Let's nip this in the bud before we end up with another wave of rampant ice-cream-pint-licking, shall we?

For those who may have forgotten, back in 2019, there was a gross online trend in which people would record video of themselves removing the lid from a pint of ice cream at the grocery store, licking the surface of the ice cream, sealing it back up, and returning the pint to the freezer case to be sold to some poor unknowing customer. The most legitimately documented case of this unhygienic prank actually didn't result in legal action because the culprit was underage, but a number of copycats did end up in hot water having to prove their ice cream licking was merely staged. The internet pranksters who wanted all the views without the legal consequences would strategically film themselves in the store licking a pint of ice cream they had already purchased.

This was a dark time for grocery shoppers across the country. It felt as though one of our most beloved comfort treats was under attack by internet knuckleheads. Nothing was sacred, and many grocers had to toss out entire supplies of ice cream pints to ensure food safety. What a waste.

Now, one of my favorite international cuisines might be experiencing a similar attack. Morning Brew explains that shenanigans are ensuing at sushi conveyor belt restaurants in Japan. If you've never been to one, these restaurants are exactly what they sound like: A continuous parade of sushi dishes stream by each table, and customers simply pick up the ones they wish to eat. The bill is then calculated at the end by tallying the various types of plates at the diners' tables. See how it works in this video:


Who else likes sushi? 🍣🍱 #chicago #sushi #foodtiktok #fyp #fy #healthadepopit

♬ original sound – NaeMulaa🥰

Obviously this serving method involves something of an honors system, and that's where things have gone awry. A video of a customer licking soy sauce bottles and the insides of cups at a conveyor belt sushi restaurant in Japan has received over 40 million views on Twitter. Prior to that video going viral, other videos were also circulating online that included people slathering wasabi on some sushi rolls and allowing it to continue on the belt to other customers.

These videos have led to some restaurants threatening legal action against these "sushi terrorists," while others have shifted away from this foundational piece of their operation, the conveyor belt system, in favor of a direct table service model. One of my favorite spots in Chicago's Chinatown is Sushi+ Rotary Sushi Bar, a restaurant popular specifically for its conveyor belt ordering system. Plus, for a sushi spot in the city, it's fairly priced.

The mere thought of anyone tampering with one of those finely prepared rolls so they can watch someone else unknowingly ingest their germs is disheartening and just plain nasty. Let's not ruin sushi for some cheap internet clout. How about we learn from our internet mistakes for once instead of repeating them?