Assault and pepper.

I remember reading somewhere that in France it’s considered rude to put ketchup on food that’s been prepared by someone else at a nice restaurant or home, the logic being that since the other person put a lot of effort in creating a certain taste, it’d be rude to drown it out with tomatoes and vinegar.

It kind of makes sense, and even though Japan doesn’t have such a custom, when served an intimately cooked meal it’s probably best practice to leave it as the server intended out of respect alone. It’s just a polite gesture, however, and nothing will probably happen here if you do choose to liven things up with some custom amounts of sauce or spices.


A guesthouse in the Ujiurata area of Ise City, Mie Prefecture, was the scene of an assault case between the owner, 46-year-old Genryu Aragaki, and a 52-year-old visitor. According to police, in October of last year the victim came to the guesthouse, nestled at the foot of the mountains near the famous Ise Grand Shrine, and had dinner. When the food was served, the victim put some black pepper on it.

However, the amount of pepper upset Aragaki greatly. He punched the guest in the head and then brandished a chef’s knife at him, shouting threats such as “I’ll kill you!” In the midst of the flurry of threats, punches, and kicks, Aragaki’s knife cut the victim in his finger, causing injuries that took two weeks to heal.

▼ By the way, the name of this place is – I kid you not – Foolery Guesthouse

After his arrest, Aragaki admitted to becoming enraged by the amount of pepper used, but denies some of the charges, claiming that he didn’t intend to cut the victim. The two men apparently had known each other for a long time, so it is possible that death threats and knife-play are a part of their regular relationship, but these criminal charges might suggest otherwise.

Readers of the news, many of whom enjoy a good dose of pepper themselves, were appalled at someone dictating how others should eat. They also disapproved of the slashing.

“I don’t really like seasonings so much, but I won’t go anywhere where they tell you how you can eat your food.”
“Wow, putting pepper on your food can be dangerous.”
“I’d like to know the amount that pushed him over the edge. That’s scary.”
“Some people have a dulled sense of taste and need a lot.”
“I’m sorry, I love putting pepper in my ramen. Please don’t kill me.”
“Why did he put the seasonings on the table in the first place?!”
“Get a load of the pepper police.”
“What kind of food was it? I kind of want to go there if they take so much pride in it…”

The website for Foolery Guesthouse (also known as Guesthouse Gukyoan) doesn’t mention much about food aside from a breakfast of raw egg on rice (tamago kake gohan) and miso soup for 500 yen (US$4.82). The reports, however, said that the incident took place during an evening meal.

Actually, looking further through the website, it does seem like a rather nice guesthouse with a good location and pretty high ratings on Google and While some didn’t like the rustic aspects of it, a lot of former guests praised the price, free Wi-Fi, meditation classes, and the “owner” for his friendly nature and fluency in English, but it’s not clear if that was actually Aragaki or a staff member they mistook for the owner.

I never thought I’d say this, but if you happen to be traveling to Mie Prefecture to see one of Japan’s most famous shrines, you might want to consider staying at this quaint crime scene. Just go easy on the pepper if you do.

Source: Tokai TV, Hachima Kiko,, Foolery Guesthouse
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