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Crooked restaurants caught overcharging customers, serving mislabelled meat

16 Comments
Kuroge Wagyu Image: ksbank/iStock

Identity theft of businesses is not entirely unknown, but one particularly brazen activity became known recently when police announced a bust in Kabukicho district of Shinjuku in Tokyo.

As reported in Nikkan Gendai (Feb 1), Tokyo metropolitan police arrested Kenji Takahashi, age 58, a Chinese national named Zhang Peng, age 47, and another 15 male and female employees of the shop, with ages ranging between 18 and 58. 

Takahashi was suspected of feigning to be affiliated with Torikizoku, a well-known national izakaya chain. According to a police source, aggressive street touts tricked unwary customers by holding up a signboard for "Tori-Ichi," which falsely suggested that the shop was affiliated with Torikizoku.

The touts would explain that nearby competitor shops were "extremely crowded" and involved a "one-hour wait for a table." Customers who took the bait were then presented with excessively padded bills.

Tacked on to basic menu entries were such items as "unlimited drinks fee," "table charge," and "weekend fee," among others, boosting by as much as threefold what an honest establishment might charge. For a small plate of hors d'oeuvres and two beers. for instance, a customer might be presented with a tab for as much as ¥8,500.

"To dodge criminal charges, from 2022 onwards the operators changed the shop's name every two or three months," the source was quoted as saying, adding, "Another ruse was to change their menus to so as to seem to specialize in different types of cuisines, like stews."

"Takahashi and Zhang are believed to have close ties to Chinese Dragon," said the source, citing the name of a biker gang that evolved into a loosely organized criminal syndicate.

Then in its issue of Feb 2, Nikkan Gendai reported that a shabu-shabu restaurant in Toyoda City, Aichi Prefecture, was suspected to be mislabeling the cuts of meat it served to customers.

Rather than name-brand premium cuts claimed to be Kurobuta (black swine) raised in Kagoshima Prefecture and Kuroge Wagyu (a native steer that resembles Aberdeen Angus famed for its tasty, marbled meat), the operator was apparently procuring the meats from local supermarkets.

On Jan 29, Aichi prefectural police arrested Hirokatsu Suzuki, age 46, and two other men believed to be affiliated with the Kodokai, a powerful Nagoya-based gang that from some years ago took effective control of the Kobe-based Yamaguchi-gumi syndicate, which resulted in what was formerly the nation's largest gang being split into three opposing factions.

According to police, last September the three men opened a shabu-shabu restaurant named Bishokuya Shabu-shabu Tonkichi in Toyoda City, claiming to serve choice cuts of pork and beef, when such was clearly not the cause.

Acting on a tip last autumn, the police raided the premises, where they found stacks of styrofoam trays of the type used to package meats at supermarkets.

The shop allegedly charged ¥4,500 for a serving of pork, a considerable markup.

The restaurant's home page also noted that it offered private rooms for "dates" or "private dining."

"So you can enjoy tasty fare and drinks out of view from others," it hinted suggestively, adding "Your dining experience with us will be a memorable one."

According to a police source, the aforementioned Suzuki was already a familiar figure, having previously been cited for operating an illegal casino where he allegedly profited to the tune of ¥200 million from baccarat and other games of chance. In addition to accusations of engaging in loansharking and sales of counterfeit brand goods, he engaged in job placing services without a license, and two years ago allegedly defrauded the government of ¥1 million in small business sustainability benefits offered during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This latest meat scam may suggest that gang members have been feeling the economic crunch, leading them to diversify into food and beverage businesses as a source of additional revenues.

© Japan Today

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

16 Comments
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What ever happened to good honest meal and great service? Sounds like house of restaurant horror, just maybe their customers liked exciting criminal atmosphere?!

-7 ( +1 / -8 )

I think since most restaurants are honest, some people let their guard down, or would be reluctant to raise a stink if they are with friends or clients and want to avoid an embarrassing situation. Also, police are loathe to intervene in cases of simple overcharging; they would only take forceful action if a customer were physically threatened or otherwise intimidated.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Ah, I'm naive as usual, thanks for opening my eyes, Roy, guess me the kids won't be going there!

-6 ( +2 / -8 )

arrested Kenji Takahashi, age 58, a Chinese national named Zhang Peng, age 47, and another 15 male and female employees of the shop, with ages ranging between 18 and 58. 

Not all employees shared same guilt, those 15 people might just part timers who serve menu to customer or washing dishes, they have no idea what actual business. Try to ask Japanese their detail about their company, they only can tell really small details which they involved but no more than that, most of them have no idea about their company and their industry.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Big Boy, Bronco Billy, Steak Gusto.

Pay 1.500~3.000yen for the most delicious steak you can have in Japan.

If I was to pay 8.000yen for a little serving of steak and leave still hungry I'd rather cook at home.

10 ( +12 / -2 )

Cases of Japanese restaurants engaging in dishonest practices such as overcharging customers and mislabeling meat are concerning for several reasons. First and foremost, it violates the trust between the establishment and its patrons, undermining the integrity of the entire food service industry. Additionally, such actions can have serious consequences for consumers, both in terms of financial loss and potential health risks associated with consuming mislabeled or improperly handled food.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

This happens here far more than you think.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

This latest meat scam may suggest that gang members have been feeling the economic crunch

It may suggest too, like with so many of the labelling scams in the time I've been around, that great numbers of people have no great discernment about what they are eating or drinking, though they like to believe they are gourmets.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

It may suggest too, like with so many of the labelling scams in the time I've been around, that great numbers of people have no great discernment about what they are eating or drinking, though they like to believe they are gourmets.

Agree with you. I have actually seen evidence of this on a TV show some years ago, when a 4-person panel did a blind test on three types of rice. Two were brand-name varieties -- I forget the types -- like Akita Komachi or Koshihikari grown in Niigata, etc. The third was a "generic" rice purchased in bulk by restaurants. The rice varieties were all steamed under identical conditions. None of the panel members could discern any real difference and either 2 or 3 of them -- sorry, it was a long time ago -- actually stated they preferred the rice that turned out to be the generic variety. And as for shabu-shabu, the boiled meat gets dunked in vinegar or sesame dip on the way to your mouth, so it's hardly surprising most customers can't tell what type of meat they're eating.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

It was in Kabukicho, which is well known for shady operations. I am sure it happens in other places as well, but nearly as much.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

At least the meats were from supermarket!

I some Asian countries, you do not know what you are eating, could be snake, horse meat, squirrels, cats, dog meat etc.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Salt, pepper, garlic and olive make everything taste good. Just learn from the French.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Greed conquers all. Never patronize an establishment where touts are outside hustling victims. If the food is good, you will see a long line of waiting customers

3 ( +3 / -0 )

They should raid more those restaurants in Kabukicho, Shibuya or Roppongi. Some of them have kitchens and tools from WW1 , yet they charge premiums just because of the locations.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

When I think of Kabukicho, the first word that comes into my mind is "shady," so this situation is not surprising at all.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

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