One of Japan’s most popular sushi restaurant chains says fish did not reach customers, but there’s still plenty to lose your appetite about.

Kura Sushi is one of Japan’s most popular kaitenzushi (revolving sushi) restaurant chains. As with a lot of kaitenzushi chains, in Kura Sushi’s larger branches much of the food prep work is done in a back kitchen, where employees slice and press fish into sushi morsels which customers don’t see until they’re finished and sent out onto the conveyor belt.

This centralized staging area helps ensure a fast flow of food, but it also means the sushi is being prepared out of customers’ sight. Recently, though, a video appeared online giving a backstage peek into one Kura Sushi branch’s kitchen, showing something that’s sickening just about everyone who’s seen it.

Behind superimposed text saying, “They say he’s not mentally handicapped,’” we see a young man in a Kura Sushi uniform slicing a fish lengthwise. His voice is mumbled behind his mask, but he can clearly be heard saying “Kore wo mou sutemasu,” meaning “I’m going to throw this away,” and then he does exactly that, tossing the hefty slice of seafood into a wastebasket sitting on the floor directly behind him.

Whoever is filming the video laughs shrilly, and the employee immediately crouches down and reaches into the trash receptacle, which looks to be at least half full with empty styrofoam fish containers and plastic wrap, and reaches in to retrieve the fish he just chucked into the garbage. He then returns the fish to the section of the counter where he was originally cutting it, appearing to place it back on the cutting board as the video abruptly ends.

“Kura Sushi’s sushi sure tastes good,” sarcastically tweeted Japanese Twitter user @SDnVJsfkucKG9YC while sharing the video. The newly created account has no other tweets at this time, and its associated user name, Kokosei Enjoaka, roughly translates to “Flame War High Schooler Account,” which had some wondering if it might have been staged, However, Kura Sushi itself has since confirmed its legitimacy and the exact branch where the video was filmed, releasing a statement on its official website saying:

“Through a video posted to the Internet, we have learned that a part-time employee at Kura Sushi’s Moriguchi City [in Osaka Prefecture] branch engaged in inappropriate behavior. We would like to express our deep regret for the disgust and unease this has caused our customers.

Similar problems have occurred at various other chains, and our company is taking constant care to prevent them, but our efforts were insufficient and the incident took place, and we sincerely apologize.

After questioning the employee about the details of the incident, we have been able to confirm that the fish was disposed of and not served to customers, despite the disposal not being shown in the video.

We are taking this situation very seriously, and examining the significant legal repercussions in determining how to deal with the employee. In addition, we are making the utmost effort in thoroughly training and educating employees so that such inappropriate behavior is not repeated.”

The company’s insistence that none of the fish was served to customers would be the ideal scenario, but it’s hard to believe that the employee retrieved the fish from the trash just to toss it back in again, and it definitely looks like he put it right on the cutting board after pulling it from the garbage, which opens up all sorts of gross cross-contamination possibilities.

It’s worth noting that Kura Sushi has been a popular chain for many years, with no significant hygiene scandals or food poisoning scares in recent memory. However, should the video have you wanting something other than sushi for lunch in Osaka, here’s an alternative.

Source: Twitter/@SDnVJsfkucKG9YC via Hachima Kiko, Kura Sushi
Images: Twitter/@SDnVJsfkucKG9YC