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Roppongi's 'kebab war' leads to arrest under little-used statute

24 Comments

Once the sun has set and the neon signs are switched on, it's hard to walk down Gaien Higashi Dori in Roppongi without being solicited by a street tout -- despite posted signs and patrols to discourage the practice. 

Over a 50-meter section of the street in Roppongi 3-chome can be found three shops selling Turkey's national snack, Doner kebab, and Shukan Bunshun (July 6) reports that on June 21, two Turkish nationals employed at a shop were arrested by Tokyo Metropolitan Police. The charge was pitching their products to passers by in an overly aggressive manner, thereby creating a public nuisance. 

A reporter who covers the police beat for a newspaper tells the magazine, "I heard that two Turkish brothers working at one of the shops, ages 24 and 20, were working the street late at night accosting customers in Japanese, saying things like 'Oh, dai sempai!'(Hey, big boss) and 'Kebabu tabeyo!'(Let's eat kebab). They would actually grab the arms of passersby and try to pull them toward the shop."

"The Turks told the police, 'We were just trying to be friendly, we had no malicious intent.' But what they were doing sounded pretty malicious to me." 

The three shops on the so-called "Kebab street" compete fiercely for business both during daylight hours and late into the night. The shop where the above-mentioned two brothers are employed is referred to as "Red Kebab," so named after the color of its signboard. Further down the street is a rival shop called "Blue Kebab." 

"It's not just a question of business rivalry," said the reporter. "The brothers at the red shop are ethnic Kurds -- a group totaling several tens of millions that form large minorities not only in Turkey but Iraq, Syria and Iran. They've been seeking independence for about a century, since the Ottoman Empire began collapsing. The police think the heated rivalry of the shops is due to bad feelings between ethnic Turks and Kurds." 

Interestingly, when the police arrested the two brothers, they invoked the act that regulates Businesses Affecting Public Morals, which is normally only applied to violations by operators of cabarets and sex businesses. In fact, the arrest of the two under the public morals act for aggressive customer soliciting appears to be the first time the law was ever invoked for such a purpose. Up to now, violations involving solicitation by food and beverage businesses were dealt with by less strict ordinances covering creating a public nuisance, with punishments typically limited to fines. 

The public morals law, on the other hand, can sentence violators to up to six months incarceration. 

An unnamed police source told Shukan Bunshun, "Over the past two years, we've received 27 phone calls from passersby complaining they were hassled by people at the kebab shops. So we had no choice but to take action. But there have been previous cases before this, and we might boost our enforcement against aggressive soliciting by other types of food and beverage establishments too." 

Will the Kebab Street vendors call for a truce? Or, might we soon see more determined efforts by authorities to sweep Roppongi's sidewalks clean of nocturnal nuisances?

© Japan Today

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

24 Comments
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Why were they not spoken to or asked to stop?

Arrested on the spot for aggressively going for customers....hmm

Well unless other people are also getting arrested and it's not singling out the kebab boys it would be (unfairly) fair.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

PersonIAmNow: Because they are Foreigners...simple enough.

-8 ( +2 / -10 )

Akihabara has some aggressive sales people. I don't plan on going there again but love the city lights.  Anytime there is fierce competition the behavior will be seen.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Is this Kader Kebab and Deniz? If so, this makes sense, they are literally next to each other. They haven't been too aggressive whenever I've walked past though

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Excessive kebabery going on here.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Because they are Foreigners who don't adapt to their new environment...simple enough. - ftfy

1 ( +5 / -4 )

I have seen this kind of thing and think the perpetrators' natural body language - touching, grabbing arms, etc. - is a factor. It has happened to me here - not a problem ('Yameyo-!' 'Hanaseyo-!' or whatever you say). But in some tourist parts of Istanbul, that was just scary, not being left alone at all and worst not knowing what to say.

Those guys really ought to know, learn or be told about personal space here. Touchy-feely would be the worst way to sell food, but in Roppongi selling other things that way may be something else.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Couldn't they be done for assault, without resorting to obscure laws? Or was this some kind of compromise measure?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

The guys I saw selling kebabs near Ueno Station were way out of line.

Touching women way too much.

Was thinking of complaining to the police myself.

Manhandling guys steering them over, and putting their hands all over women.

If they were western women, they'd have been yelled at or reported.

They think they can get away with it because Japanese are easy going and make allowances for gaijin.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Why were they not spoken to or asked to stop?

Arrested on the spot for aggressively going for customers....hmm

Well unless other people are also getting arrested and it's not singling out the kebab boys it would be (unfairly) fair.

You shouldn't need someone to warn you not to grab random people by the arm.

That's like a groper complaining he was never warned not to touch random women.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Please dont support these Kebabers. They run numerous scams with the Nigerians there. Had two different friends on two occassions charged $10,000 usd on their credit cards for a bottle of wine from these shops that they never purchased. Why Japan allows the Nigerians and Turks there to continue these crimes is beyond me. Scum!

2 ( +6 / -4 )

use to be not too bad along that street (20 years ago), now its just gone to hell. Can't walk down there these days without some foreigner accosting you. Police should go out every nigh and routinely check gaijin cards (if they don't already)

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Oh no, I've been harassed by kebab shops, please help..

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

"the arrest of the two under the public morals act for aggressive customer soliciting appears to be the first time the law was ever invoked for such a purpose." They should use this for all the other idiots in Roppongi that try to get you to go to their club promising fantasies. I literally saw sometime get stabbed with a broken beer bottle because of this grabbing.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I live in the area, and often walk by these shops. I have never, not even once, been able to walk by them without these guys trying to get me to stop and buy a damn kebab. And the Nigerian touts are out grabbing me by the arm and trying to talk me into visiting their bars, as they always have, despite the new law. But I have seen the police taking a Nigerian now and again for trying to pull customers off the sidewalk. It was only a matter of time before they took notice of the kebab shops.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Wherever kebabs go, crime and other problems seem to follow.

Venice has recently had to ban all new takeaway restaurants to stop more kebabers from moving in.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Annoying but not surprising. Good on the Police for taking action against such a public nuisance.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Love a decent kebab, me. If some of the vendors are a bit noisy, so what? Just walk into any branch of a well known faux British pub and the greeting from the staff can be deafening.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

What has happened to Japan? 25 years I arrived there, nothing like this. Then it was Iranians selling fake counterfeit stolen whatever phone cards. I guess smartphones stopped that. What a mess.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I used to walk past there twice a day for 3 years straight, sure they'd always try to coax people in verbally but I never had any of them physically try to get me into their shops or see them do it to anyone else... so to read this story kinda surprised me...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

They're annoying, but no less so than other touts that harass people to get them into their bar/restaurant. It would be nice if Roppongi was cleaned up of these types though.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Forced to buy a kebab, the indignity....

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Imagine for a moment, making the journey here and investing your all in a small stall hoping for bigger things and a better life. It's pretty unfair to label all kebab purveyors as wrong 'uns.

It would be like a few Americans commiting crimes here and every other law abiding (American) resident being lumped into the undesirable bracket.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I'll stick with Star Kebab in Akihabara, the best in town.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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