On March 16th, 2021, household registration offices all over Taiwan were suddenly flooded with people applying to change their name to include the two Chinese characters for “salmon”.
This time it had nothing to do with widespread superstition and the hope for good luck, fostered by fortune tellers who make additional money out of often dubious recommendations.
Akindo Sushiro, Japan’s biggest sushi restaurant chain, founded in 1984, had previously promised food for free on March 17th and March 18th for anyone with proof of the unusual moniker.
Those with homophonic names would be able to enjoy half price for their entire table, and those with at least one character pronounced the same would get 10% off. Before the company marketed the offer, there were already 10 persons named after the fish.
While new creative variations included like “salmon rice bowl”, one of the more extreme examples was “Chen loves Taiwan, abalone, tuna, salmon, snow crab, sea urchin, scallop, lobster and beef, Mayfull, Palais de Chine, Regent, Hilton, Caesar Park, Hotel Royal.” The latter all refer to hotels in Taipei.
A student, who after receiving three free meals worth 245 US dollars donated 350 US dollars to five social welfare groups, came up with “Chou Shih-en feels salmon soup really tastes good”. He explained that seeing his creation on the donation receipts made him feel good.
Almost 300 applicants paid just 2.80 US dollars for a new identification card to participate in the promotion. Unsurprisingly, more than half of them had changed their names back as of March 19th.
However, the Ministry of the Interior urged caution by any means, as it could be troublesome to correct official documents, such as graduation certificates, and the procedure could only be legally done three times.
A man learned this the hard way after his mother told him that she had already changed his name twice when he was a child. Some social media users criticized that the competent authorities didn’t informed him that it was his last chance.
All in all, more than 1,000 “qualified” Taiwanese swarmed into the eateries in those two days. Some managed to eat sushi worth 450 US dollars in one sitting. With the average treat costing around 200 US dollars, Akindo Sushiro during this promotion reportedly absorbed 20,000 US dollars in costs.
After the craze attracted media attention, a legislator proposed that before such applications take effect, there should be a buffer period of two weeks or one month.
Those contemplating such a step would have time to think carefully before going through with it. To avoid wasting administrative resources, they should also be prevented from doing so again for three years.
Premier Su Tseng-chang said that the proposal was worth considering, but not even he will be in a position to stop his fellow countrymen from making fools out of themselves again in the future. For food, Taiwanese will do all kinds of crazy things…