Japan sushi chain drops suit against teen over licking soy bottle

The operator of a major conveyer belt sushi chain has dropped its damages suit against a teenager who was filmed in a viral video licking a soy sauce bottle at one of its restaurants, according to the company.

In the lawsuit filed with the Osaka District Court in March, Akindo Sushiro Co. sought approximately 67 million yen ($470,000) in damages from the 17-year-old boy from Gifu Prefecture, saying it suffered a sharp fall in customers after the video was uploaded on social media in January and shared widely.

But the two sides reached a settlement in late July, with the company saying that the customer has admitted his "responsibility" and that they reached a "reasonable" agreement. It did not disclose details.

A lawyer representing the minor declined to comment on the case.

The boy, facing allegations of property damage, was referred to prosecutors in June and sent to a family court that handles criminal cases involving juveniles on Tuesday.

According to the complaint, the boy went to a Sushiro outlet in Gifu Prefecture with a friend on Jan. 3 and was filmed licking an open soy sauce bottle and an unused teacup, and then touching a passing plate of sushi with a finger covered in his saliva.

The video was uploaded on social media later in the month.

The company, based in Osaka Prefecture, said the incident prompted customer concerns over hygiene management of not only the Gifu outlet but hundreds of its restaurants nationwide.

Stock prices were also affected, with its parent company's market capitalization falling by more than 16 billion yen from Jan. 30 to 31, the company said.

The boy expressed regret for his actions but had asked the court to dismiss the suit, with his legal representative arguing the decline in customer numbers could also be attributed to competition with rival restaurants.

© Kyodo News