By Kathleen Magramo and Junko Ogura, CNN
(CNN) — A sushi chain is suing a high school student for 67 million yen ($480,000) after social media footage showed him licking his finger then touching a plate of sushi as it passed him on the conveyor belt, Japan’s public broadcaster has reported.
Akindo Sushiro Co., which runs the Sushiro restaurant chain, claims to have suffered a sharp fall in customers after the footage of his actions at a Sushiro outlet in the city of Gifu went viral, according to Japanese broadcaster NHK.
The footage of the student also showed him licking a soy sauce bottle and a cup that he then placed back onto a communal pile.
The short clip was shared widely in Japan after it was uploaded in January and was one of a number of similar videos – including at some of Sushiro’s competitors – that helped to give rise to the term “sushi terrorism.”
The term is used broadly to refer to unhygienic actions at Japan’s sushi train restaurants, where customers pick dishes from conveyor belts.
Akindo Sushiro Co. filed the lawsuit at the Osaka District Court. It claims to have lost about 16 billion yen ($115 million) following the release of the video due to a sharp drop in customers and a slump in the stock of its parent company, NHK reported.
NHK said the student’s legal counsel wrote to the court in May asking it to dismiss the complaint. It said the student had admitted the act and regretted his actions, but added that there was no proof of a link between his actions and the drop in customers at the sushi chain. It suggested the decline in customers could be due to fierce competition in the industry, NHK reported.
Akindo Sushiro Co. told CNN it would refrain from giving details of the case because it was under appeal.
It added that the circumstances that led to the lawsuit showed it took seriously conduct that undermined its relationship of trust with customers and was prepared to take strict action on both criminal and civil grounds.
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