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'Sushi terrorist' and 2 accomplices arrested in Japan after viral prank

The global flagship store for Kura Sushi, a Japanese conveyor-belt sushi restaurant chain, is pictured here in January 2020 in Tokyo. Conveyor-belt sushi restaurants have been the target of a spate of pranks.
Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP via Getty Images
The global flagship store for Kura Sushi, a Japanese conveyor-belt sushi restaurant chain, is pictured here in January 2020 in Tokyo. Conveyor-belt sushi restaurants have been the target of a spate of pranks.

Japanese police arrested three people on Wednesday in connection with an unsanitary prank at a conveyor-belt sushi restaurant, according to the Japanese state broadcaster NHK.

The viral videos from early February showed one of them — 21-year-old Yoshino Ryoga, dubbed a "sushi terrorist" by the Japanese public and media — putting his saliva on utensils and sushi and licking the spout of soy sauce bottles at a Kura Sushi restaurant in Nagoya City.

The restaurant chain filed a complaint for damages with police on Tuesday and received an apology from Ryoga.

Police also arrested two teenagers on suspicion of obstructing the restaurant's operation, NHK reported. The three met through social media, police say.

Japan has had conveyor-belt sushi restaurants, which serve as a cheaper alternative to ordering made-to-order food from a sushi chef, since the 1950s. Plates of sushi slide by on a conveyor belt, allowing diners to choose what they like. Utensils and condiments, like ginger or soy sauce, sit on the counter for the innocuous taking (or malicious licking).

While Japanese culture highly prizes both its sushi and its manners, these aren't the first conveyor-belt sushi pranksters. At other restaurants, people have taken or touched other diners' orders or doused them in spicy wasabi.

Akindo Sushiro, the company that runs the restaurant where Ryoga struck, says it has replaced its soy sauce bottles, sanitized its cups and moved its utensils and tableware to a single point.

Kura Sushi has also installed AI-equipped cameras to detect suspicious behavior, like putting a plate back. Abnormalities sound an alarm for back-of-house staff, and they can report malicious behavior to police.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Kaitlyn Radde