OSAKA – Two men have been arrested for allegedly harming the business of Japanese beef bowl chain Yoshinoya Co. with a video of one of them eating directly from a container of toppings meant for all customers, Osaka police said Tuesday.
Ryu Shimazu, 35, and Toshihide Oka, 34, are also suspected of damaging property after a Yoshinoya restaurant in Osaka was forced to discard red pickled ginger toppings and sanitize its containers.
According to the police, on Sept. 29, Shimazu used chopsticks that he had eaten with to take some toppings from a container that he then ate, while Oka filmed him on a smartphone. The footage was posted on social media and shared widely among users.
The police said the two admitted to the allegations, with Shimazu quoted as saying, “I wanted to make everyone laugh,” while Oka was described as saying, “I asked Shimazu to do something funny. I wanted to show it to everyone because I thought it was funny.”
Shimazu was arrested on March 9 and indicted on the 29th on charges of property damage and disruption to business, while Oka’s arrest came on Monday.
In Japanese beef bowl restaurants, tables are typically pre-set with a selection of free condiments and toppings for diners to add to their meals, and pickled ginger is a mainstay of the popular dish. Separate utensils are provided to serve the toppings and ensure proper hygiene between multiple dining parties.
Yoshinoya is among Japan’s most popular beef bowl chains, with 1,195 outlets as of February this year. The police said the affected branch approached them about the video in early February.
The arrests of the two men come at a time when the country’s major chains including revolving sushi restaurants are fighting to protect their businesses from videos of unhygienic behavior that are being shared widely online.
In a statement responding to news of the arrests, Yoshinoya Holdings Co. referenced the wider situation affecting it and businesses like it, saying that it is a “source of great regret that this has become news that calls into question the safety and security of eating out in general.”
The trend has gained momentum since the start of the year when a customer at sushi eatery was filmed licking soy sauce bottles and food traveling on conveyer belts. It has also given rise to phrases such as “sushi terrorism” to describe the behavior showcased in the videos.
On March 28, prosecutors indicted a man for obstruction of business over the filming and uploading of a video on Feb. 3 that showed him licking a tabletop soy sauce bottle at a Kura Sushi Inc. conveyor-belt sushi restaurant in Nagoya.
After the indictment, Kura Sushi released a statement saying, “We sincerely hope that society widely acknowledges antisocial acts are crimes, and that these kinds of actions are not committed in future.”