Sapporo restaurant fines customers who don’t finish every last bite

Sapporo restaurant fines customers who don’t finish every last bite

SAPPORO —

Most of us grew up being scolded about cleaning our plates at dinnertime. Some of our parents used enticements like dessert to get us to eat all our food. Others used guilt, talking about the starving children in Ethiopia. But chances are you never had to pay a fine for leaving a few morsels of food uneaten. But that is exactly what will happen if you don’t bring your big-boy appetite to Hachikyo, a seafood restaurant in Sapporo.

Blogger Midori Yokoyama at Gold Rush went to check it out and filed this report:

About three minutes’ walk from Susukino Station in Sapporo, there is a restaurant called Hachikyo. I heard that they served overflowing bowls of ikura, the salty salmon roe sometimes called the rubies of the sea.

I had originally intended to have lunch at the restaurant but then discovered that they are only open in the evenings, so I came back another day at around 11 p.m. when it had cleared out a little and I was able to get a seat at the counter right away. Apparently, it is usually impossible to get a seat without a reservation, so Lady Luck must have been smiling on me that day.

The owner is a man with a close-shaven head who, in order to make his staff appreciate the hard work fishermen do, actually sends them to do training on a fishing boat. Perhaps due to that exposure, the staff impressed me with their cheerful and up-beat style.

The menu was packed with various different seafood options, but I didn’t even think twice before ordering the “tsukko meshi,” a bowl of rice piled high with as much salmon roe as you want. The young waiter then explained to me that they could only serve the tsukko meshi to customers willing to agree to their rules.

According to the explanation in the menu, the working conditions for fishermen are harsh and so dangerous that it’s not unknown for lives to be lost. To show our gratitude and appreciation for the food they provide, it is forbidden to leave even one grain of rice in your bowl. Customers who do not finish their tsukko meshi must give a donation.

Truthfully, I had just come from eating a bunch of “motsu nabe,” a miso hotpot with vegetables and offal, and I was a little nervous about this point. A waitress smiled reassuringly at me and said, “Hardly anyone leaves their tsukko meshi unfinished.” Anyway, I resolved that any restaurant that cares so deeply about their ingredients must be delicious, so I agreed to the rules without reservation.

First, they bring you a bowl of rice. The amount is not all that great, compared to an average salmon roe bowl, so I began to feel like eating everything wouldn’t be a problem. While you are waiting for the salmon roe to be piled on, it is another rule that you cannot touch your rice. If you push down your rice or start eating it, your tsukko meshi will be revoked!

After a short wait, the energetic staff called out, “Let’s get started!” Then they began parceling out refills of salmon roe to the waiting customers, all the while calling out a kind of sea shanty that customers must repeat. This performance lent a real maritime authenticity to the experience, and it is something you will definitely want to see.

The bowl is completely red. Usually, you can see rice around the edges of a little mound of salmon roe in the middle, but this was a masterpiece. Just a field of red “ikura.”

The first overflowing spoonful had very little rice in it, and as the eggs burst into salty deliciousness in my mouth, I really felt the luxuriousness of the meal. The roe already has soy sauce mixed in it, so you can eat it without adding any additional sauce and the flavor is great. One taste and you’ll want to gobble it all up.

Your order also includes a bowl of miso soup, and that was so good I made short work of it as well.

Normally you could call this finished, but there are a few tidbits left, and I remembered that simply wouldn’t do, so I picked up my bowl and licked it clean like a cat.

And all that ikura can be yours for just 1,890 yen. That’s clearly a reasonable price, and if you are crazy for salmon roe, you will be able to eat your fill and be totally satisfied.

After finishing, I spoke a while with the shop owner, Hitoshi Sugita. He said, “This shop has been open for about eight years, and at the end of this April, I will be opening a second shop in Tokyo, so definitely come check it out!”

Shop info:
Hachikyo
Miyako building 1F
South 3, West 3-chome
Chuo-ku Sapporo-shi

Source: Gold Rush

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  • 1

    Elvensilvan

    So ... how much exactly is the "donation" or "fine" you have to pay if you are not able to finish up the meal?

  • 0

    Ms. Alexander

    Guess I won't be visiting this shop! I love salmon roe but I'm sure not about to pay a fine for a dish I'm already paying Y1890 for! I suppose it's enticing for those who like the challenge!

  • 2

    Eduardo Gonzalez

    Repeat offenders can expect legal action initiated by the restaurant's owner

  • 3

    nostromo

    people go to restaurants to enjoy the food - not to be bullied....

  • 6

    lucabrasi

    Clever marketing ploy.It's obviously worked.

  • 3

    papigiulio

    1900 yen? Wow and if you cant finish it an extra fine. Pretty expensive, but good way to stop mass-consumption heh.

  • 11

    semperfi

    Wow !!!!!!!!!!........ What concept - - - getting the urban consumer to actually UNDERSTAND that other human beings work hard for the food they eat. . . .I love it !....:-)

  • -6

    JeffLee

    Japan's masochistic and bullying culture shines through. This place might be a hit with former convicts who miss the harsh discipline of life on the inside.

  • 1

    humanrights

    Pass. I go out for dinner 'for me & my girl' not for some idiotic lesson in human behavior. Must they make everything a burden in JP?

  • -4

    tkoind2

    Yes, marketing works. I now know that if I am ever there, not to eat in this place. Look people I am paying you to eat, not to manage my eating habits. How much I eat is my concern. I may have dietary limitations, may be I naturally eat less, maybe I am not feeling as hungry as I thought. Isn't there enough effort at control over behavior in Japan without some daft restaurant trying to force an opinion on people? I mean where does the whole "rules and behavior obligations" line end in Japan. This place is uptight enough without restaurants joining the noise.

    Please list this on your web site so we don't forget to pass you buy next time we are in town.

  • -1

    AKBfan

    Sounds pretty lame

  • -12

    Probie

    This is stupid.

    I wouldn't pay money because I couldn't eat the whole thing, and they couldn't make me. I'd like to see them try. I'd sue them for attempted extortion.

    And this person...

    Normally you could call this finished, but there are a few tidbits left, and I remembered that simply wouldn’t do, so I picked up my bowl and licked it clean like a cat.

    ...has no manners. I would never go to a restaurant that allows customers to pick up the bowls and lick them like an animal.

    Then they began parceling out refills of salmon roe to the waiting customers, all the while calling out a kind of sea shanty that customers must repeat.

    Jesus wept. I would tell them to go XXXX themselves if they asked me to sing.

    While you are waiting for the salmon roe to be piled on, it is another rule that you cannot touch your rice. If you push down your rice or start eating it, your tsukko meshi will be revoked!

    Childish rules. They forget that "the customer is God"?

    According to the explanation in the menu, the working conditions for fishermen are harsh and so dangerous that it’s not unknown for lives to be lost. To show our gratitude and appreciation for the food they provide, it is forbidden to leave even one grain of rice in your bowl. Customers who do not finish their tsukko meshi must give a donation.

    I don't get this either. Why not just ask for a donation?

    Also, how do you know the money is going to the fishermen?

    And surely, if you want to "show our gratitude and appreciation for the food they provide", shouldn't it be the people who eat the WHOLE thing who pay a donation?

    Lastly, if they're so concerned about the fishermen, why don't they either not pile the ikura on in heaps; or charge more for it?

  • -8

    bass4funk

    Here we go again, do it our way or you have to suffer the consequences. No, thanks. They would have to to call the police on me, because I would get up and walk out, how idiotic! You can't force people to eat what they don't want or can't! What's next in Japan? If you can't finish your Frappachino at Starbucks, they will start fining you as well? I know the economy is bad and people need money, whatever, just don't pass it off as something that it is really not just to penalize and squeeze the customer, the very person that is supporting your business. I just don't get it. Some of these people think that they are doing YOU a favor by providing a meal for you and you have no say so about how you feel, just eat and pay. Tired of these people insulting us consumers. Some people just have too much time on their hands.

  • 1

    Saulo Akazawa

    Sounds lovely, I would love to go. But someone yelling at me for not finishing my meal sounds too much like my in-laws for comfort.

  • -4

    HollisBrown

    I agree Probie. This article made me cringe.

    By piling on the ikura in heaps the restaurant is making the fishermen risk the dangers at sea more frequently - so they can buy more ikura. How about just charging a fair price for a regular portion, and having a donation box on all the tables, and another box for loose change next to the exit?

    Everyday I see countless restaurants that serve 'quirky' oversized portions. It seems to me that they do this because the quality of the food alone isn't good enough. A large portion of ikura - served with a guilt trip, and a threat of having to pay a donation if you don't eat it all - is no more delicious than a regular portion of ikura.

  • 10

    apeman

    Weird and not my idea of pleasant dining experience, but the article clearly states the rules are explained to the customers before they order the dish, so I don't quite get all the comments about bullying and suing for extortion. Presumably if you felt that way, you wouldn't order it?

  • 4

    Sioux Chef

    According to the explanation in the menu, the working conditions for fishermen are harsh and so dangerous . . . to show our gratitude and appreciation for the food they provide, it is forbidden to leave even one grain of rice in your bowl.

    The food they provide? What brand is this fishermen-grown rice sold under?

  • 2

    Serrano

    "if you are crazy for salmon roe"

    I'm not. I wouldn't to this restaurant even if they didn't have these dumb rules. That being said, I don't like to see people leave a bunch of food on their plates in restaurants. If you don't like the taste of something, complain or order something else.

  • -2

    gogogo

    That's BS, the chef is assuming that the food is the best tasting food in the world,.

  • 5

    afanofjapan

    Wow a lot of negative nancys on this thread (and cheapskates - 1900 is not expensive for a somewhat luxury dish)

    I am guessing most of those who screamed blue murder for being told to finish their dish are also of the opinion that they should be able to go into Sukibayasi Jiro and pour ketchup on their sushi before eating it with a fork. Or get annoyed that a 3-michelin starred restaurant refused to cook their steak well done.

    You enter a verbal agreement when ordering this dish. That allows them to charge you extra for not finishing it. You are also entering a private establishment, which means you can choose to abide by their rules, or you can leave.

  • 0

    tapi0ca

    I'd eat up.

    'wouldn't want to get into a roe with the owner! (wink wink - nudge nudge)

  • 11

    cleo

    Mmm. I would not go to this restaurant because it seems all they serve is seafood. But to be fair to them, the deal doesn't seem to be as draconian as the headline suggests. According to the article, the dish involves 'as much salmon roe as you want' and the serving staff coming round with 'refills'. So by saying they charge you extra if you leave any, aren't they simply saying 'don't waste food by taking more than you can eat'?

  • 2

    Seawolf

    cleo - finally someody got it right! And for all you cry-babies: I have seen quite a few unfinished dishes coming back from the customers not because of quantity or quality but just because someone on TV once started the "70%" diet, whereas you should leave the last few bites on your plate to save some calories! So crazy, just order smaller portion or sauce/dressing on the side. But speaking up is of course too much to ask from the average OL!

  • -1

    fds

    nothing new. a lot of all you can eat places have penalties if you don't eat what you take.

  • -1

    Seawolf

    Ooh and come to think about it, it's nothing so new anyway, places with all-you-can-eat sushi are asking to finish your rice and don't only eat the toppings.

  • 1

    pointofview

    What a horrible dish anyway.

  • -1

    smithinjapan

    Sorry, but this is a bit much. How is it dishonorable to the fishermen (and women) if there are a couple of grains of rice left in the bowl? Sure, if you left a LOT of the food, I can see it.

    I went to one restaurant once in Osaka that was all you can eat and drink, but if you didn't finish the alcohol you ordered you had to pay additional for THAT drink (ie. the regular cost of one), which was done in order to try and prevent waste. It was an Indian restaurant, though.

  • 0

    Tom DeMicke

    It would never stand up in a court of law, but I don't think they are being as serious as it may sound. Maybe they just want to "encourage" you to eat everything but there's no way they could force you unless you signed a document/inkan a document. Remember, nothing stands up in a courtroom unless you signed a legal document. But if they are serious about this, I see some rich lawyers becoming even richer.

  • 0

    Sioux Chef

    It would never stand up in a court of law, but I don't think they are being as serious as it may sound. Maybe they just want to "encourage" you to eat everything but there's no way they could force you

    They can't "force" you to not 'dine and dash' either. But they are certainly within their rights to charge you for uneaten food. As other posters point out, this is not uncommon in all-you-can-eat establishments.

    (and Y1900 for all-you-can-eat ikura is a steal)

  • 4

    Thunderbird2

    I couldn't eat a spoonful of roe let alone a whole bowl of it. Tried it once, the gag reflex kicked in and I had to go and be sick. Now if they did Yakisoba or okonomiyaki I'd scoff the lot down and not leave a trace... but fish eggs? No ta.

  • 4

    Nessie

    You have to finish your rice out of respect for the poor fishermen who work so hard to catch their daily haul of...rice?!?

    It's a good rule, but let's not pretend it's all about the brave fishermen. It's about filling customers up on rice to they don't bankrupt you.

  • 1

    tsukki

    I wouldn't eat here unless I have a choice on how much rice and salmon roe they give me in the first place.

  • 0

    megosaa

    ProbieFEB. 15, 2013 - 09:26AM JST This is stupid.

    no need to bad mouth. just don't GO.

    while it might sound silly, i have encountered even more ridiculous than this and believe you me, it's quite adventurous !! i am not saying you go there with your valentine's date, but with your nomikai friends for some fun night outs, or to eat something that you love for a mere 20 bucks. if you feel it's not for you, don't go in, don't complain, go to your local McdONALDS.

  • -2

    Steve Christian

    Just what Japan needed! More rules!

    The last time I gave a donation to fishermen it was called "the bill"!

  • 2

    FightingViking

    I find this article very strange because I have noticed so many times that Japanese people ALWAYS leave something on their plates and even in their glasses. When I mentioned this to some close Japanese friends, I was told that it's IMPOLITE to eat everything and that if you do, your host/hostess will automatically think you want more. It's in western countries that parents tell their children to eat up because of all the starving children in other countries - to which we kids always replied : "Well send it to them then !"

    However, having said that, I am also very much against wasting food by leaving it on one's plate to be thrown out... If you're too full, ask for a "doggy bag" !

  • 0

    cleo

    When I mentioned this to some close Japanese friends, I was told that it's IMPOLITE to eat everything and that if you do, your host/hostess will automatically think you want more.

    I was told that in the UK; if you're eating at home, then eat it all up because of the starving children, but if you're on the receiving end of hospitality, leave a bit to show that you've had enough and are satisfied.

  • 2

    Thunderbird2

    I was told that in the UK; if you're eating at home, then eat it all up because of the starving children, but if you're on the receiving end of hospitality, leave a bit to show that you've had enough and are satisfied.

    True: when I was a kid we were told that there were starving kids in Africa who would love it, so just eat it all up.

  • -1

    megosaa

    Why go overseas to complain when you can just stay at home and eat McDonalds?

    amen to that.

  • -2

    malfupete

    this can only work in Japan... shamed into paying. Try this in north america, people will just get up and leave

  • 1

    kurumazaka

    Folks, I did dinner at Hachikyo last March and the place is frigging awesome! Don't bad mouth what you don't know. Tsukkameshi rocks, and you are damn right I finished it!

  • 2

    basroil

    So many posters (and an author) that clearly haven't been around in Sapporo. Fines for not finishing everything aren't rare, especially in all you can eat places. They are rarely actually employed though, and just there to prevent people ordering far more than they actually eat.

  • 0

    Fendy

    If they were smart, what they should do is offer customers a % discount in the form of a card for returnee customers who eat all their food. then they can achieve what they want to achieve and customers are rewarded rather than punished. How they can be so arrogant to try and fine customers - some kind of sadomachoist policy that I can't see customers appreciating, except if the customers enjoy the potential for punishment - living on the edge? Oh, what an exciting proposition for a Saturday night!

  • 0

    rydangel

    in japan they are fining people for not eating and here in america they are fining people for eating too much. the state of louisiana actually passed a bill that would prohibit fat"obese" people from eating at all you can eat restaurants because they eat too much. they've obviously never seen a bunch of skinny girls at the all you can eat for $10 china buffet on crablegs night. it's not just the big-boned who chow down. seriously, with everything that's going on in the world we now need to worry about the food police? wthit!

  • -1

    Eugene Ryan

    grab a hold of yourselves you negative people the guy is just being a bit inovative ,, good on you mate

  • 0

    Kyle Alpert

    I think this beautiful. Enjoy the bounty of the sea, whilst honoring the struggles of those who make it possible. This kind of respect or dare i say 'love' is the exact reason why Japanese cuisine is so diverse and so well prepared. Greed and hunger can never be as powerful a motivator as the desire to excel.

  • -1

    Anna Louise

    Would just bring a doggie bag!

  • 1

    Letsbengoshi

    "The Elbow Room" in Vancouver was doing this 20 (or more) years ago: "Service is our name. Abuse is our game." Famous for its ginormous breakfasts. After any given table was done and asked for the check, one of the owners would come up to the table and find some bit that hadn't been eaten, chew out the diner(s), hold out a plastic tub and say something like, "Cough up some money!" The proceeds went to a local AIDS Outreach (or similar such organization). Of course the customers were all in on it and happy to donate and part of the fun was seeing how much abuse one could get out of the owners. A great place. Good people. I haven't thought about that in years.

  • 1

    eatthis

    i can sum this up in one word........................ moronic.

  • -3

    realist

    I certainly wont visit this ridiculous restaurant when I next visit Sapporo. Utterly stupid.

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