The Land of the Rising Sun is not so far away from Hong Kong these days. Japanese expats living in the territory can try anything from sushi to sashimi and karaoke to karate. But it's the sushi which has conquered the palates of not only exiles from Tokyo, but hungry Hong Kongers too. But the delicacy's popularity took a knock when the Health Department's recent sample testing led to the closure of some sushi and sashimi vendors. The Urban and Regional Councils have now proposed amending the Food Business By-laws and endorse special licensing for the sale of these highly vulnerable delicacies. The new law is expected to be passed next month. The findings revealed that 40 per cent of sushi samples and 20 per cent of sashimi samples had bacteria levels exceeding the acceptable limit. Undeterred, sushi lovers have been eager to find out whether their favourite morsels are cut and prepared properly, and becoming more choosy as to where they eat. Following the Health Department figures, some restaurants, particularly the hotel-class eateries, reported an increase in business since as sushimi and sushi was enjoyed in a costly - yet safe - diner. Grand Hyatt Hotel's Chef De Cuisine Ma Ki-leung, who oversees the hotel's Japanese cuisine, said business at their Japanese eatery, Kaetsu, has increased recently. 'Customers feel more secure eating at hotel restaurants where standard and quality are guaranteed. Our ingredients come in fresh chilled from Japan and Korea every day. Customers don't mind paying a bit more,' Mr Ma said. For many smaller Japanese restaurants and sushi vending counters, however, business has become tougher. Sogo's Marusuku (fish department) supervisor Tong Boon-wah said the sashimi business at the supermarket plunged about 30 per cent at weekends. 'Perhaps the proposed licensing could help restore the business so that we will not be affected by others' malpractice. A lot of sushi vendors outside are not trained to handle raw fish and it affects the whole business.' Young Post found that most sushi and sashimi sellers welcome the proposals. Sting Leung, chef at Yamato Sashimi Company in Central, said licensing would enhance the respectability of authentic Japanese cuisine and ease the customers' concerns. 'Customers care a lot now. They would feel better and Japanese restaurateurs who follow strict rules are also protected,' said Mr Leung, who has more 10 years' culinary experience in Japan. The councils have distributed a 'Code of Practice for the Preparation of Sushi and Sashimi' to restaurants which outlines guidance on the transportation, handling and display of the two food items, raw materials and hygiene. The Genki Sushi HK chain follows strict rules of practice laid down by the franchise in Japan, said Nicholas Yap, the Regional Operation Manager. As in many other sashimi shops, the handlers are required to wear hats and gloves. Knives and chopping boards are kept strictly for sashimi-trimming, with frequent supervised sanitising. Apprentices are offered a one-month course which covers not only kitchen practice but hygiene, and in their first six months of training they are not allowed to handle the cutting of fish. In response to the proposed licensing requirement, Mr Yap said it would help maintain standards, but doubted its impact on customers' confidence. 'It wouldn't make much difference. [Sushi and sashimi] are more vulnerable when they are not controlled properly, but it can happen to any food.' 'But the licensing would be quite awkward as Hong Kong will be the only place in the world that requires a licence for that.' Even in Japan where sushi and sashimi originated, there is no specific licence issued for the sale of sushi and sashimi. In Hong Kong sashimi eatery can be opened with a general restaurant licence. However, Peter Chung of Wo Tai Japanese Restaurant in Wan Chai said the authorities have targeted sushi and sashimi, but overlooked other cuisines because the 'raw' nature of Japanese cuisine. 'Chinese restaurants also serve raw fish like mud carp. Why are they governing Japanese food but not others?' Mr Chung said stricter control on hygiene inspection and licensing should and be fair to all raw food vendors.