By now, most of the people who frequent the Internet know of Jiro Ono’s sushi, not least because United States President Barack Obama singled out Ono’s sushi bar – Sukibayashi Jiro – for praise as having the “world’s best sushi.” It seems natural that everyone would want to try it, and in this case 23-year-old Chinese student Chuhan Lin and four of her friends did, but did not find the experience up to Obama standards, finally just ordering to go and wanting “cooked sushi” at that.
The incident started with the student and her friends turning up at the restaurant in Roppongi – in her story, the two-star branch managed by Master Jiro’s son, Takashi – 40 minutes late and didn’t even apologize to the establishment. As Japan has made apologizing an institution in their culture, this was naturally irritating. Adding to the tension was the fact that one of Lin’s friends retrieved something of hers from the restaurant’s common locker – another cultural obstacle, as this locker would also contain other patrons’ belongings and as such would be impolite to just open it up without seeking assistance or permission from the restaurant staff. Lastly – and more pertinently – it turned out that two of Lin’s friends could not stomach raw food. The group then cancelled all of their pre-ordered meals and asked to switch to “cooked sushi,” then have it wrapped to go.
This was an unusual request to say the least – as sushi is usually served with raw elements – and so the sushi master irritably asked, “Is sushi served cooked in your country? If you can’t handle raw food, you should have informed us when you made the reservation!” Lin then retorted, “Who knew!? I didn’t make the reservation!” All of these stories obviously went on a long rant in Weibo, China’s most famous social network, with Lin writing, “If we were Abe, if we were Obama, would he dare to show such an attitude?” But instead of finding solace in her countrymen, she became the target of ridicule. What started off as a normal rant on soon escalated, with comments becoming very aggressive – legions of Chinese netizens calling her a “national disgrace.” The poor girl was forced to take down the post due to the comments.
In her defense, Sukibayashi Jiro is indeed famous for their sushi, but it seems not for impeccable service. There have been reviews of the place saying that the old master Jiro and his staff are not very accommodating of foreign customers. Most reviews say that it’s recommended to have a local or someone who can speak Japanese with your group as the restaurant staff only speak minimal English. But then again, we doubt that the staff would also intentionally pick fights and arguments with their patrons.