A sushi chain operator in Osaka Prefecture has apologized for serving natto-laced wasabi to foreigners but denies any ill intent or discriminatory motivations.
“We are sorry for adding one of the most potent smelling varieties of natto to our wasabi for foreign guests,” Fujii Shokuin Co. said in a statement on its website.
“It was our firm belief that gaijin are avid lovers of the fermented bean.”
The company, which runs the Ichibazushi chain of sushi shops, has been serving excessive amounts of wasabi to gaijin over the past year or two and decided to further enhance the dining experience for foreigners by adding natto to the spicy green condiment.
Each Ichibazushi sushi chain shop was equipped with two separate wasabi storage containers – one for normal people and the other for gaijin.
“We kept the ‘gaijin wasabi’ outside in its natural habitat – it had a very strange odour,” said one sushi chef.
The company says more than twice the normal amount of wasabi was being added to sushi ordered by foreigners – usually Koreans – because around “one in fifty” had been asking for extra spice. After the first few requests of extra wasabi within two years chefs decided to create the gaijin wasabi mixture with added natto. This practice was referred to as ‘omotenashi’.