Header photo credit: Ricardo Honda on Unsplash

Taiwan’s Name Act has generous provisions for eligibility to change your name – even up to three times.

In the past several days, over 100 people have changed their names to include the characters 鮭魚 (salmon), according to CNA. The catalyst for this was a major sushi restaurant chain offering a limited-time deal of free sushi for the diner and five friends, if the diner’s name includes these characters.

Sushiro 台湾スシロー 台灣壽司郎’s free sushi offer

In Kaohsiung, a university student, now named Explosive Good-Looking Salmon, boasted, “I just changed my name this morning to add the characters Bao Cheng Yui Yu, and we already ate more than TW$7,000 (HK$1,915),” according to a report by TVBS News.

We are bemused but generally disapproving of the need to eat to excess to get a good deal. Taiwan officials are also not impressed, having to deal with the extra paperwork involved in changing names (twice, if the change is not a permanent choice).

Whilst undoubtedly costly for the restaurant chain, the two-day promotion dubbed “Salmon Chaos” has made international news and provided incredible publicity.

It reminds us of the Russian Domino’s campaign “Domino’s Forever” back in 2018, when those with Domino’s tattoos were promised 100 free pizzas every year for a century.

Domino’s tattoos (photo credit: BBC)

Due to the unexpected number of people willing to be tattooed for free pizza, the chain was forced to limit the offer in various ways. Viral marketing campaigns, it seems, can be too successful.

There were obviously a number of intense marketing meetings after that, and Domino’s has tried again with their Dominic or Dominique campaign this past December in Australia, offering a cash prize equivalent to 60 years’ worth of pizza. Not only do you have to name your baby after Domino’s, but the child also needs to be born on the 9th of December (Domino’s birthday)…

What far would you go for your favourite free food?

RELATED: Hilarious Twitter thread on the Taiwan drama by Nick Kapur

On Wednesday and Thursday, Taiwanese conveyor-belt sushi chain Sushiro ran a promotion called “Returning (Salmon) Love Festival” (愛の迴鮭祭), an elaborate pun on the Chinese word for “returning” (回歸), which also sounds like “salmon returning” to their spawning ground (迴鮭).

The Chinese word for salmon (鮭魚) is pronounced “gui yu”. People with a Chinese character in their name pronounced “gui“ or “yu“ got 10% off, people with two characters pronounced “gui“ and “yu“ got 50% off and people with the same characters for salmon ate for free.

Sushiro required a national ID card as evidence, but it turns out it’s extremely easy and cheap to legally change your name in Taiwan. It only costs around US$3 (TW$80). This led dozens to rush out and change their names.

While many simply renamed themselves Salmon, others got more creative, such as Whirlpool Naruto Salmon Xie (謝渦鳴人鮭魚) and Die (like salmon) Together Pan (潘同鮭魚盡), punning on the Chinese idiom for “perish together” (同歸於盡).

One Mr Chen decided to put a whole bunch of other food in his new name as well (in case of future promotions?), becoming the nearly untranslatable 陳愛台灣鮑鮪鮭魚松葉蟹海膽干貝龍蝦和牛肉美福華君品晶華希爾頓凱薩老爺.

Many members of the newly constituted Taiwanese Salmon Gang (鮭魚們) reported eating sushi for all six meals on Wednesday and Thursday (one reported eating 15 meals!) in order to make the most of their new moniker and $3 investment, leading to long lines at Sushiro.

Some netizens and Sushiro staff also complained that since the sushi was free, the Salmon Gang only ate the fish and wasted lots of rice.

Tragedy also struck for some Salmon Gang members, such as this medical student below, who did not realise that Tawainese law only allows people to change their name three times.

Out of name changes, he seemed to be stuck with his new name, Salmon Dream Chang.

However, a Taiwanese lawyer who read about Mr Chang’s plight pointed out a loophole in the law, whereby if Mr Chang and his father have the same name, Mr Chang is still allowed to change it.

The lawyer suggested helpfully that Mr Chang have his father also change his name to Salmon Dream, allowing Mr Chang to change his name back, and then have his father change his name back later as well, as long as *he* still has name changes left.

Meanwhile, Taiwanese government officials urged restraint, bemoaning the wasted labour and unnecessary paperwork that frivolous name changes involve and urging Taiwanese citizens to “cherish administrative resources”.

But despite all the chaos (and all the free sushi they had to give away), Sushiro seems to consider the promotion a success and is reportedly already debating whether its next promotion should be based on tuna or eel. So get ready for Tuna Pandemonium and Eel Madness!

Also worth mentioning is the reason that the Taiwanese are able to go out to all-you-can-eat sushi restaurants and cause “salmon chaos” during a pandemic: the Taiwanese government has been super organised, everyone wears masks and the pandemic was defeated early on in the nation, with Taiwan basically virus free for the past year.

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