Kaiten-zushi: Japanese Conveyor Belt Sushi
Sushi is one of the most famous foods in Japan, which is made of vinegared rice topped with sashimi (thinly sliced raw fish). It is served in both high-end restaurants and affordable restaurants. Kaiten-zushi (the first "s" in "sushi" changes to a "z" sometimes in Japanese) is a form of cheap sushi. Fresh sushi is placed on a conveyor belt that travels around the restaurant, which is popular among the Japanese.
What is Kaiten-zushi?
Kaiten-zushi, also known as conveyor belt sushi, is considered "fast sushi." However, that doesn't mean they're not good quality! All the sushi is fresh and well-made. Plates with one or two sushi are placed on a rotating conveyor belt that winds around the restaurant. The small portions are perfect for those who want to try various sushi. There are usually two tracks - a slow track with sushi plates that any customer can enjoy, and a fast track that brings a specific customer's order directly to his/her seat. The slow track conveys a variety of sushi, side dishes, and even desserts. In restaurants with only one track, the customer's order is placed on specially marked plates. Sometimes, there will be a screen in front of the customer to inform the customer that their order is arriving shortly to their seats. This helps the customer to know that they need to pick up their order.
Some rules should be observed when it comes to kaiten-zushi. One of the most important rules is that once you touch a plate on the conveyor belt, you must take it away. Similarly, you need to take your order from the conveyor belt and do not let it return to the kitchen, even if you change your mind. And, of course, please do not take someone else's order from the conveyor belt.
The History of Kaiten-zushi
Yoshiaki Shiraishi was inspired by the Asahi factory, where he noticed that beer bottles were delivered by conveyor belt. He realized that he could save the time and expense required to serve sushi if the sushi plates were placed on a moving conveyor belt and transported directly to the customer's seat. After ten years, he finally succeeded in creating the perfect sushi conveyor belt. The ideal speed was eventually determined to be 8 centimeters per second - customers would have trouble grabbing plates if it was too fast and customers' patience would wear thin if too slow. A fan-shaped conveyor belt would also make sure the sushi plates can turn around the corners safely.
The first Kaiten-zushi restaurant, Mawaru Genroku Sushi, opened in Japan in 1958. Mawaru Genroku Sushi went on to exhibit at the Japan World Exposition, Osaka, in 1970, which led to a rapid rise in the popularity of Kaiten-zushi restaurants. Eventually, Kaiten-zushi restaurants could be found all over the world.
Today, an increasing number of restaurants offer touch screens that allow customers to order in Japanese and foreign languages (including English, Chinese, and Korean). Some restaurants are equipped with Shinkansen (bullet train) themed conveyor belts. In some restaurants, games are provided when plates are returned. When you place a certain number of plates into the return plate slot, a game will appear. If your character wins the game, you will receive a prize. The dishes offered at these restaurants are varied. In addition to sushi, there are burgers, fries, curry and rice, ramen, and cakes, which makes Kaiten-zushi restaurant an interesting place to enjoy a meal even if you don't like raw fish.
How to Eat Kaiten-zushi
Kaiten-zushi is a casual way to dine and usually does not require reservations, but the more popular restaurants may require a line. If there is no line, you can just enter the restaurant and let the waiters know how many people are in your group. Once inside the restaurant, you can indicate whether you would like to sit at the counter or a table.
Each seat comes with a bottle of soy sauce, a jar of pickled ginger, a stack of small plates for soy sauce, a box of chopsticks, a small jar of matcha (green tea powder), tea cups, and a built-in water heater. Tea is self-serve and unlimited. You can also order drinks, such as beer, sake, and soft drinks.
Once seated, you can start taking plates off the conveyor belt or order specific dishes. Stack your sushi plates as you eat so that the waiter can easily count them. Before you start your meal, it's a good idea to check the price. The price is indicated by the colors or patterns of the plates. The prices of the plates usually range from 100 yen to 800 yen.