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Wednesday, 5th March 2014
In General Japan News,

Japanese bar sues website over publicity

It's not often you'll hear about a restaurant, bar or eatery suing a website for publishing a positive review, but then again, Japanese society has always had a reputation in the West for going against the grain.

An unnamed Osaka-based bar is demanding that the popular Tabelog website, which publishes customer-written reviews, remove a review and photos of the establishment as it is causing too much publicity.

The drinkery in question opened in 2010 and prides itself on being in a hard-to-find location, with guests required to ring a doorbell and ask staff to unlock an iron door.

However, Tabelog has refused to remove the client review, which it says is covered by the right to freedom of expression, the Asahi Shimbun and Nikkei business daily publications in Japan report.

"It was a way to differentiate the establishment. Our stagecraft as a secret hideaway was designed to appeal to visitors’ imaginations," bar operators told Osaka District Court in a hearing last week.

They argued further that the online review "took away the elements of surprise and fun and undermined our operational strategy".

Tabelog claims to be the premier restaurant review website in Japan and has around 53 million users a month. Off the back of this success, a New York version was launched in March last year.

Sporting a similar model to the ever-popular TripAdviser, foodie users post reviews and listings of places where they have eaten so that other visitors can enjoy a similar experience.

The bar has so far gone unnamed throughout press reports of the action, but fortunately, Japan's cities have plenty to offer in the way of excellent places to eat and drink.

Osaka is particularly well-known for its okonomiyaki - a cross between pancake and pizza - and its takoyaki octopus dumplings, which can both be found in shops and pavement stalls on the main streets.

Written by Graham McPherson