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Japanese police arrest two for taking part in food ‘terrorism’ pranks at beef bowl chain

<i>Eugene Hoshiko/AP</i><br/>Japanese beef bowl chain Yoshinoya is the latest victim in a series of food-related pranks that had earlier affected sushi conveyer belt restaurants.
Eugene Hoshiko/AP
Japanese beef bowl chain Yoshinoya is the latest victim in a series of food-related pranks that had earlier affected sushi conveyer belt restaurants.

By Tara Subramaniam and Junko Ogura, CNN

Police in Japan have arrested two men for contaminating a communal bowl of pickled ginger at a fast food restaurant, after a video of the prank was shared widely on social media.

The arrests come as similar acts involving food, dubbed online as “#sushitero” or “#sushiterrorism”, appear to be becoming more commonplace. Previously, the pranks had mostly affected the country’s famous sushi conveyor belt restaurants, prompting questions about their future.

Ryu Shimazu, 35, and Toshihide Oka, 34, were accused of obstruction of business and property damage, Osaka police told CNN, after the duo used their own chopsticks to eat red ginger directly from a communal bowl at Yoshinoya, a popular beef bowl chain in the city, back in September.

A video shared on social media shows a man, believed to be Shimazu, vigorously eating the ginger. According to the police, Shimazu said he did it because “he wanted to make everyone laugh,” while Oka said he shared the video “because it was funny.”

Asked about the incident, a Yoshinoya spokesperson told CNN: “The video made our regular customers feel uncomfortable and uneasy. We greatly regret that this has become a major news story that calls into question the safety and security of the entire food service industry. We sincerely hope that this is kind of thing will not happen again in the future.”

Last month, police in central Japan arrested three people for taking part in pranks at Kura Sushi, a conveyor belt restaurant chain. Besides Kura Sushi, two other such chains — Sushiro, owned by Food & Life Companies, and Hamazushi — previously told CNN they had suffered similar disruptions. Each had filed a police report.

Japan has dealt with this issue of unhygienic dining behaviour before. In 2013, frequent reports of pranks and disruptive behavior at sushi restaurants “dented” sales and traffic at chain operators, according to Daiki Kobayashi, a Japan retailing analyst for Nomura.

But the latest food pranks, magnified by social media, have sparked fresh debate in the wake of the coronavirus epidemic. In recent weeks, some Japanese social media users have questioned whether conveyor belt sushi restaurants and other communal serving practices can continue as consumers demand more attention to cleanliness.

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CNN’s Michelle Toh, Emiko Jozuka, Mayumi Maruyama and Juliana Liu contributed reporting.

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