Sushi terrorism a growing problem in Japan

PHOTO: Sushi terrorism may put an end to conveyor belt sushi restaurants in Japan. (via Boston Magazine)

Sushi terrorism might not be a phrase in your daily vocabulary but it’s becoming an alarming issue in Japan. Defined as the act of handling sushi and utensils in a disgustingly unsanitary manner in conveyor belt sushi restaurants, sushi terrorism has been a trend in viral videos in Japan for the past month.

The threat of sushi terrorism has caused diners to question the cleanliness of restaurants that use the popular conveyer belt system known as kaiten that brings sushi to customers who can pick and choose what to eat. The unique dining style has brought a unique problem for modern Japanese food culture.

Choshimaru, an east Japan chain with branches in Tokyo and neighbouring prefectures, was one of the kaiten sushi restaurants struggling to battle sushi terrorism. Last month, a video went viral of a prankster placing a cigarette butt inside a container of self-serve pickled ginger left on the table between diners.

As a result, Choshimaru changed its operating policies and will now implement a full-order system in all of its 63 restaurants. Under the new system, customers will place their orders verbally or via a touch screen, and their sushi will be delivered directly to them.

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The direct-delivery plan replacing kaiten at sushi restaurants will leave no place for sushi terrorism pranksters to tamper with the sushi. One advantage of conveyer belts is that up-for-grab plates of sushi that are sent down the belt can result in a lot of food loss when unclaimed sushi is removed and thrown away.

While switching to a full-order system benefits cleanliness and profitability, it also has its drawbacks. Customers lose the ability to be tempted by a variety of sushi once they see it floating by. And chefs can roll out a stream of sushi options more quickly that preparing made-to-order sushi as patrons order it.

And overall, the novelty of the food items floating by make for a more fun dining experience. Sushi terrorism has taken away the instant gratification of taking a plate off the conveyor belt as it drifts by and catches a diner’s eye.

Despite these drawbacks, Choshimaru plans to implement the full-order system in all of its branches by April 26. The chain hopes that this move will prevent further instances of sushi terrorism and restore confidence in the cleanliness of its restaurants.

Sushiro, another national kaiten sushi chain, made a similar decision to abolish the revolving sushi system last month. Other chains may follow suit, although at least one chain said they would enlist the help of AI cameras to keep its sushi revolving.

A full-order system ensures that customers receive fresh and untouched sushi. But it’s still a disappointment for customers who enjoy the excitement of grabbing plates off the conveyor belt.

In the battle for sushi, the terrorists may have won.

World News

Neill Fronde

Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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