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Grim acts of ‘sushi terrorism’ has forced four of Japan’s ‘big five’ sushi restaurants to scrap self-service after footage showed customers rubbing their saliva on the dishes.

Conveyor belt-served sushi has long been a favourite among diners, but is now feared to be on the way out due to some customers’ gruesome behaviour.

Leading restaurants in Japan that use the kaiten – or rotating – serving system are being forced to switch to more traditional methods of serving their raw delicacies as a result of the trends, that has been filmed and posted on social media.    

Now, only one of Japan’s big five conveyor-belt sushi chain operators, Kura Sushi, remains committed to keeping it available to customers.

The ‘sushi-terrorism’ trend in Japan sees customers do gross things in restaurants such as licking soy sauce bottles and eating ginger directly from a communal pot.

Is this the end of the sushi conveyor belt? ‘Sushi terrorism’ forces four of Japan’s ‘big five’ restaurants to scrap self-service after viral videos showed customers rubbing saliva on food

A teenager was filmed licking a soy sauce bottle in Akindo Sushiro, Japan, in an act known as ‘sushi terrorism’

The diner was grabbing food from the conveyor belt

He was spotted licking communal cups

Sushiro then got rid of their conveyor belts and opted for large touchscreens to display their dishes

Yoshinoya

In April, footage showed a man, named locally as Ryu Shimazu, dining in Yoshinoya, Osaka, and using a pair of chopsticks to shove copious amounts of red shredded ginger from a shared black container into his mouth.

According to local reports, he was arrested for conspiring to interfere with the popular eatery’s business.

Yoshinoya was then forced to stop offering the belt serving feature after Shimazu ‘provoked anxiety and ill-feelings among other customers, and raised doubts about safety and security in the food service industry’.

But the grisly acts of ‘food-terrorism’ didn’t end here. 

Akindo Sushiro 

Other footage also captured a teenage diner at Japan’s Akindo Sushiro touching pieces of sushi on conveyor a belt with freshly licked fingers and licking cups before leaving them in a stack to be used by other customers.

The chain’s owner said the footage led to a steep decrease of shares after it went viral and racked up nearly 40million views in June.

The Sushiro diner was seen covering his finger in saliva before touching plates of food in an act that left viewers - and the restaurant - in shock

The Sushiro diner was seen covering his finger in saliva before touching plates of food in an act that left viewers – and the restaurant – in shock

According to The Asahi Shimbun, Sushiro then got rid of the belts and introduced a large touchscreen to virtually show dishes instead of having plates of food parading past diners.

Dubbed Digital SushiroVision, or Digiro, a monitor at each table and counter seat shows animated images of sushi dishes riding around on the conveyor belt that can be ordered.

‘Digital technology has helped us create a new way to enjoy conveyor-belt sushi,’ said Kohei Nii, the president of Akindo Sushiro Co, the chain’s operator. 

‘Digiro offers a happier and more entertaining dining experience.’

The grisly clips have not only caused a great deal of embarrassment to the popular eateries, but also added expense to the targeted restaurants which have been forced to issue apologies to their disgusted customers.

Choshimaru 

Fearful that the wave of ‘sushi terrorism’ is growing in Japan with footage of the sickening acts regularly appearing on social media, Choshimaru, a chain which operates restaurants in and around Tokyo, revealed last year they would be taking drastic measures to combat the issue after a diner stubbed out a cigarette in a pot of pickled ginger.

Staff at the chain initially started taking condiments and utensils to tables every time a new group of diners took their seats. 

But the eatery then went a step further and revealed that the conveyor belts at all 63 of its restaurants would be switched off  – with more staff pulled in to hand-deliver orders.

While the move removed the popular and fun element of ordering sushi, the firm reasoned that the absence of plates travelling through the restaurant on a conveyor belt would make it near impossible for pranksters to tamper with other customers’ orders. 

And a number other restaurants followed suit. 

Kura Sushi is adamant they want to keep their conveyor belt system

Kura Sushi is adamant they want to keep their conveyor belt system  

At Kura Sushi, plates are fitted with protective screens, while the conveyor belts are fitted with alarms and CCTV cameras

At Kura Sushi, plates are fitted with protective screens, while the conveyor belts are fitted with alarms and CCTV cameras

Kura Sushi has installed a series of costly security measures in an effort to combat the revolting acts

Kura Sushi has installed a series of costly security measures in an effort to combat the revolting acts

Hama Sushi

Hama Sushi abolished the conveyor belt at the start of the pandemic when the trend was beginning to become popular in Japan, according to Japan Today.

Instead, they now rely solely on the express belts used by most major chains in which the customer orders from a touchscreen at their seat and their desired dish zooms right to their table.

Tablets are also installed into the tables, reducing the need for customers to have any physical contact with dishes before or after ordering.

Kura Sushi 

Yet, Kura Sushi is taking a stand against the ‘sushi terrorists’ and keeping the conveyors alive through the use of technology.  

The restaurant was forced to take special precautions after a customer was caught eating sushi from a moving belt and drinking directly from a communal soy sauce bottle.

The new measures included installing antibacterial covers to shield the fish against stray saliva droplets and AI camera systems to identify suspicious customer behaviour.

They also added microchips on the cases that hold the plates of sushi.

In addition to monitoring how long they’ve been sitting on the belt, they’ll be able to detect if the case has been tampered with so customers can avoid sushi that may have been compromised.

‘Conveyor-belt sushi is something we are proud of as part of Japanese culture. We want to make sure our customers can eat sushi delivered on the belt safely and comfortably,’ a company official said last year.

‘Our company has been hearing from a large number of customers who tell us they no longer trust or want to go to conveyor belt sushi restaurants,’ Kura Sushi’s head of public relations, Hiroyuki Okamoto, told reporters, according to the Mainichi Shimbun.

‘This is a crisis not only for our stores, but for the entire conveyor belt sushi industry,’ Okamoto said, adding that the use of AI would reassure diners even though it meant they were effectively being placed under surveillance.

But most of the restaurants appear to have had enough of the stomach-turning ‘sushi terrorism’, and are beginning to scrap the conveyor belts entirely.



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