Tokyo (CNN) — As a McDonald's in Tokyo's Akihabara neighborhood closed down after 22 years in business and posted a thank-you poster outside its store, its arch competitor Burger King responded with a seemingly compassionate adieu.
"Thank you for a happy 22 years ... Esteemed rival, and fellow friend who loved Akihabara, we performed at our best because you were close by," read the Burger King post from January.
Akihabara is a busy shopping district famous for its electronics stores and geek culture. The Burger King is just two doors down from the now-shuttered Mickey D's.
"Without you here, McDonald's, thinking of the future fills us with sadness. It is selfish for us to say this, but please everyone, go to McDonald's today," the Burger King post continued.
But on closer inspection, all was not as it seemed.
When the first character of each horizontal sentence in Burger King's thank you message is combined, it reads "we won."
Twitter users in Japan were quick to spot the anagram hidden within the farewell message that Burger King posted outside its storefront.
When the first character of each horizontal line is read vertically, the sentence spells out "watashi tachi no kachi," which means "we won" in Japanese.
Japanese sentences are usually read from top to bottom, but these messages had been posted following English word orders where sentences are read from left to right.
The findings sent Japanese Twitter users into a frenzy.
"I was looking at the comment thinking it was such a heartwarming message, but when I read the sentence vertically I got goosebumps," said Twitter user BA_RenKun.
Following the social media reaction, a second poster that Burger King did not create was circulated on social media. The first characters of each horizontal sentence when combined say 'we won't forget you.'
Following the heated discussion of Burger King's hidden message on Twitter, a revamped poster was circulated on social media Monday. It still shows a Burger King employee bowing respectfully to convey that the two stores were good friends and rivals.
However, the new hidden message when each of the first characters are put together vertically reads "wasurenai yo," or "We won't forget you."
"Ohhh, the Burger King in Akihabara replaced their poster," commented Twitter user @ESP_Believe_777. Maybe people didn't get the humor, the user speculates, before commenting on how clever the new anagram is.
As news of the closure and the hidden messages in the Burger King post went viral, Japanese media picked up on the exchange, with TBS Japan featuring the tongue-in-cheek messages during a panel discussion.
For some, the closure of the McDonald's, which had been a longtime neighborhood fixture, marked the end of an era.
Over a decade ago, Twitter user STAFF.B worked in a now-closed fast-food family restaurant sandwiched between McDonald's and Burger King as a student.
"I grew an emotional attachment to that area and that McDonald's in particular as it hired many elderly staff and foreigners who weren't necessary fluent in English," she told CNN Travel.
"I think the news of its closure came as a shock to people like me who had become used to its presence within the urban landscape."
Burger King Japan said they were thankful for all the attention given to their company and their good friend McDonald's, in a statement emailed to CNN Travel.
The company said it was up to the public to make up and share their opinions of the poster it had created in response to McDonald's. Burger King Japan added they did not produce the second rendition of the "thank you" poster that was spotted outside their store.
Update: The article has been updated to clarify that the second poster was not sanctioned by Burger King Japan.