Foreigners complained that chefs at a restaurant in Osaka added up to two times more wasabi in their sushi when serving non-Japanese customers.
An outlet of the Ichibazushi sushi restaurant chain, located in Osaka’s Namba district, has been making news online recently for all the wrong reasons. Increasing numbers of foreigners, particularly from South Korea, made complaints after being served up to two times more wasabi in their meals compared to regular Japanese customers. Images posted to a travel bulletin board on Korean portal site “Naver” showed just how much of the spicy paste foreign customers found inside their sushi, and the images quickly went viral, with concerned people in South Korea and Japan sharing the photographs online, citing racism as the cause.
페리 (@AdmPerry) October 01, 2016
人の口に入るもので よくもまあ、店たたんで 日本から出ていけよ 市場ずし。って感じだな https://t.co/h0qK1FqXII—
っちー＠不定アイコン (@yaurachie) October 02, 2016
Reviews of the restaurant on Google and TripAdvisor also included a number of comments regarding racist behaviour and excessive wasabi use in sushi served to foreign customers.
Following a flood of criticism, the operator of the restaurant chain, Fujii Shokuhin Co., released an apology on their official website in order to quell claims of racism and anti-Korean sentiment.
The apology admits that excess wasabi was indeed served to customers as reported, however, the company claims that there was no discriminatory intent behind the action. Instead, they state that the extra amount was offered as a complimentary service without first checking with customers, which caused an unpleasant experience for diners with a dislike for wasabi. While they are unable to verify whether their chefs acted in a racist manner at the restaurant, the company will be putting the staff through employee training in response to customer complaints.
Japanese Twitter users were quick to voice their opinion over the incident, leaving comments like:
“If that’s not discriminatory intent, then what on earth is it?”
“To use the excuse that the wasabi was a complimentary service in their apology is terrible. I’m appalled that they won’t even admit to their mistake.”
“That much ‘complimentary wasabi’ would set people’s tongues on fire.”
“I can’t believe such stupid shops like this exist in Japan.”
“Revolving sushi train restaurants are doing the right thing by just letting customers add wasabi themselves.”
With Japanese media catching on to the incident, the restaurant’s website is currently down, suggesting the problem has become far bigger than the company could have anticipated. With so many negative comments and reviews online, even in light of their formal apology, it looks like the restaurant chain will have to do a lot more before they can redeem themselves in the eyes of the public following the incident.