The Gram Scandal: More than Meets the Eye

I never expected that the article I wrote on the Japanese pancake company would go viral. And while digging for sources for Janice who asked about them in the comments section of the earlier post, I accidentally dug out more dirt.

I first came to hear about the scheduled opening in Vivo City when a friend pointed me to this post by Ladyironchef below. I didn’t want to respond to it since the case has more or less blown over in Japan for quite some time now. Little did I know, somebody shared my article there and the next moment I know, I started receiving comments and messages on the credibility of my article and the sources I got them from.

I tried searching for similar articles in English but couldn’t find much. However, there are tons of articles in Japanese, meaning this unethical practice is pretty much contained within Japan.

When I received the first message regarding the article, I immediately went to look at my site stats and saw that the page views jumped by almost 2000%. Talk about the power of the Internet. Since this is pretty huge news in Singapore now, I see it fit to provide more information on how the case transcended.

The incident first surfaced when fans of the original The Tiramisu Hero flared up after the Singapore duo published on their Japan website that they couldn’t use their brand in Japan. This news got caught by the national broadcast media.

After the TV started talking about it, people began digging behind the issues and discovered that the company behind it was the same person running Gram. Things then got juicy when they learned that Gram was originally an Osaka cafe later made to change their name to Bran cafe after suffering the same fate as The Tiramisu Hero. Bran cafe eventually shut down but Gram came out to deny those claims on their website.

Some time later, things got even messier when it was revealed that The Tiramisu Hero actually stole the work of artist Gemma Correll for their logo. The cafe issued an apology and admitted that they made reference to Gemma’s work as they were fans of her drawings. It unfortunately came out looking pretty much like an exact copy of her work. The original The Tiramisu Hero has since promised to gradually phase out her cat drawings on their wall and merchandise and replace with more original ones. Despite that, the negative publicity caused the Japanese public to boycott both the copied Tiramisu Hero’s cafe and Gram.

You’d think the story ends here but there’s more exciting story to Bran cafe. Turns out, the company that runs Bran cafe also runs unethical businesses through “pressure buying.” As you understand, “pressure selling” is forcing people to buy your stuff. “Pressure buying” is forcing people to sell their stuff. What the company did was to go to homes of elderly people and force them to sell their precious metals. The company pulled some 1.1 billion yen (approx. SGD $13.5 million ) in profit but hid it from the tax office. When caught, they were hit with an additional 600 million yen (approx. SGD $7.3 million) of tax and because they weren’t able to pay it off, the company filed for bankruptcy.

Ah well, so it appears that all the parties involved in this story are also involved in some kind of mischief themselves. Who can you really trust nowadays, huh?

For the benefit of those who didn’t read the comments section of the original article, here are some of the sources you can refer to (most of which are in Japanese):

1) Japan Times article

2) Official notice from the Singapore Tiramisu Hero that they are unable to use their original brand name in Japan resulting in their decision to move to new site

3) Official apology from the Japanese company to give the original Singapore company the right to use the logo

4) Article on Gram’s patent and trademark applications

5) Article on Bran company’s downfall


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