Conveyor Belt Sushi (回転寿司)
Easily my favorite place to eat is my local kaiten zushi, or conveyor belt sushi. Its quite a novel yet simple concept. You sit at counters and tables and the food rolls by on little plates at 8 centimeters per second; grab it if you want to eat. Not only can you manage with little human interaction, but it is cheap with the vast majority of the two-pieces-of-sushi-per-plate prices at ¥105 (around $1).
A coupe minutes from my apartment is Sushi Meijin, a famous chain of kaiten zushi restaurants. I usually get there once a week, but when I first came to Japan it was a lot more!
It works like this: Get there on off peak times otherwise it can really be packed. When you are seated, there is free hot green tea so fill a glass. Dishes for dipping soy sauce are up above, and bowls of wasabi packets roll by if you want a little extra kick.
The selection that rolls by is somewhat limited, so I usually order by pressing a button on the table and then telling a waitress. Its certain to be fresh that way if you come in at odd times too.
It is amazing the piles of plates that are stacked. I am consistently out eaten by pretty young kids and very old people alike. I usually have 6 – 8 plates, maybe 10 if I’m really hungry. Very small totals for the average customer.
On Sunday nights at about 8pm, Sushi Meijin has store wide contest for prizes using Japan’s version of rock, paper, scissors: junken. I’ll explain that some other time, but the contest with people standing on their stools and benches yelling is entertaining. Took me by surprise the first time.
My friend Steve and his sister came to visit last year and I decided to place my now broken compact camera on a plate and send it around. The music (Cowboy Bebop theme song, Tank! by The Seatbelts) is the most obvious of ones I picked out, I know, but it fit so perfect with little editing so I went with it.
At the end, the manager snatches it and brings it back. It only went about 1/5 of the way round. He wasn’t too happy.
The concept of kaiten zushi was invented by Yoshiaki Shiraishi (1914-2001) in 1958 and an estimated 3,000 such restaurants currently exist in Japan. Interestingly, Yoshiaki also created a style where sushi is served by robots, but that has yet to become popular. Yet.