What is sushi terrorism? Japanese chain Sushiro sues viral food vandal

A boy licks his fingers and then fingers sushi that willl be eaten by another customer at a Japanese restaurant (@takigare3/Twitter)
A boy licks his fingers and then fingers sushi that willl be eaten by another customer at a Japanese restaurant (@takigare3/Twitter)

Japan’s biggest conveyor belt sushi chain is looking to sue for damages after a video of a teenage boy licking a soy sauce bottle and wiping saliva on food went viral.

Sushiro has filed a suit worth £383,280 with a court in Osaka arguing the so-called “sushi terrorism” trend had led to it losing business.

Police in Japan arrested three people on suspicion of forcible obstruction of business back in March. Their reported films on TikTok and Instagram led to customers raising concerns over food hygiene.

Kura Sushi, another chain, has also experienced bad behaviour in its outlets - and was the location where a teenager was filmed licking a soy sauce bottle and then wiping saliva on food that was doing the rounds on a conveyor belt.

But it is Sushiro that is looking to sue, according to the Kyodo news agency, and could claim an additional £500,000 after splashing out on extra hygiene measures.

This is the story so far of a trend that is worrying one of Japan’s culinary touchstones.

How did the sushi prank originate?

At the beginning of 2023, three arrests were made in Japan after pranksters released videos of themselves on social media that showed them tampering with food at sushi restaurants.

This included them licking items, drinking directly from communal soy sauce bottles, and chewing sushi items before putting them back on a conveyor belt for public consumption.

The novelty of the conveyor belt system is part of the attraction but the mechanism does leave the sushi to be unguarded against potential crimes against hygiene.

Businesses have toyed with the prospect of introducing table service - however, restaurants would then have nothing to offer beyond standard sushi eateries.

What has been said?

Hiroyuki Okamoto, of the Kura Sushi chain, said earlier this 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.

“This is a crisis not only for our stores but for the entire conveyor belt sushi industry.”

It has been reported that the teenager has admitted to licking items but has expressed remorse and his lawyers have argued he is not solely to blame for Sushiro’s loss of business. The lawyer added that the boy did not expect the video to go viral.