Hong Kong/Tokyo CNN
Two men were arrested in Japan for contaminating the communal bowl of pickled Ginger at a fast-food restaurant after a video was widely shared on social media.
Similar acts, such as #sushitero or '#sushiterrorism,' are becoming more frequent. The pranks were mostly aimed at the famous conveyor belt sushi restaurants in the country, which raised questions about the future of these establishments.
Osaka Police told CNN that Ryu Shimazu and Toshihide OKa were charged with obstruction of business and damage to property after they used their chopsticks in September to eat the red ginger from a communal bowl in Yoshinoya - a popular beef dish chain in Osaka.
A video posted on social media shows what appears to be Shimazu eating ginger with great force. Shimazu told the police he did it to'make everyone laugh', while Oka claimed he posted the video because it was 'funny'.
A Yoshinoya representative told CNN that the video had made their regular customers uncomfortable. We regret that the incident has been a major story, which calls into question food safety and security in general. We hope this kind of incident will never happen again.
Three people were arrested by police in central Japan last month for participating in pranks in Kura Sushi, an automatic conveyor-belt restaurant chain. Two other chains, Hamazushi and Sushiro (owned by Food & Life Companies), also reported similar disruptions to CNN. Each restaurant filed a police complaint.
Japan has faced this problem of unhygienic eating behaviours before. According to Daiki Kobayashi of Nomura, Japan retailing analyst, frequent reports about pranks at sushi restaurants and disruptive behavior 'dented traffic and sales'.
The latest food pranks have been amplified by social media and sparked a new debate following the coronavirus outbreak. Some Japanese social media users questioned in recent weeks whether conveyor belt sushi and other communal eating practices could continue, as consumers demanded more attention to hygiene.