Flying Kamikazes, the rock 'n' roll sushi bar in the Marina, has been notably successful in its first year of operation -- so successful, in fact, that the restaurant is being forced to change its name.

"There's a place in San Rafael called Kamikaze Sushi," says owner Ken Lowe, "and about four months ago they started siccing their lawyers on us."

The problem is that the dining public has had an increasingly tough time distinguishing between the two eating establishments, and Lowe candidly admits that "there's definitely confusion in the marketplace. Kamikaze Sushi is fed up with getting calls for us every day."

So, to stave off legal meltdown, Lowe is sponsoring a contest to rename the restaurant. The winner will receive a raw deal of epic proportions:a year's worth of free sushi. Lowe already has 400 submissions in hand (including "Sushi and the Blowfish" and "Desperately Seeking Sushi"), and he says that someone will win the free sushi even if his or her suggestion does not become the restaurant's new name.

Lowe "brainstormed" the original name himself -- "I definitely wanted the word 'kamikazes' in there, because it meant a fun, crazy sushi bar" -- and he's very attached to the restaurant's lovable airplane logo, which he'll try to incorporate into the new name. (And on the T-shirts and caps -- big sellers that "have helped pay some of the bills," says Lowe.)

"I didn't know about Kamikaze Sushi until I'd put together my business plan," Lowe says, and when he consulted a lawyer about the potential conflict, he was told not to worry because there was enough distance between San Rafael and San Fran-cisco to minimize confusion. But that was before Flying Kamikazes took off.

In the short run, the controversy "is actually helping our business," Lowe says. "There's a one-and-a-half- to two-hour wait every night." As for the long run, he's less sure; the restaurant is known to hoteliers and guidebook publishers as Flying Kamikazes, and it will take a real effort to get out word of the new name -- whatever it turns out to be.

The change is coming soon. The contest ends Sept. 14. "I don't want to waste any more time," says Lowe.

So if you think you can top "Sushi-Rama" and have an idea that will preserve the adorable little bomber, let your voice be heard. Stop by the restaurant (at 3339 Steiner) for an entry form, or call 567-4903 for more info.

By Paul Reidinger

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