One of the most iconic Japanese foods throughout the world is sushi—it comes in all shapes and sizes, different kinds of seafood and extremely satisfying to one’s taste buds. You are nearly guaranteed to find some kind of variant of sushi in your country; however, there is no better place to try the delicacy than straight from Japan.
If you’re in the Land of the Rising Sun, it is a must for you try out this local delicacy at least once. While there is an abundance of sushi restaurants, from local family-run shops to large chains all over the country, one of the most popular and recommended variants of sushi restaurants to try is the infamous kaiten-zushi or conveyor belt sushi restaurant. You’ve probably seen one of these wonderful sushi trains in pop culture, such as movies, and they are the essence of Japanese sushi culture. Everyone loves going to these kaiten-zushi shops, whether they are children or the elderly, for they combine the nation’s most popular foods with convenience and a wonderful atmosphere—oh, and they are pretty easy on the wallet too, as most plates are usually only around 100yen.
With the dishes floating past you, you are able to satisfy and serve yourself whatever sushi craving you have. It’s a pretty easy concept in the end: You sit next to a conveyor belt revolving around with countless different kinds of sushi, take whichever plate you like as it passes by and dig in—delicious sushi when you want it, without having to wait for a server to deliver your food. Kaiten-zushi gives customers complete control over what they want to eat, unlike when you order a sushi set in a normal restaurant and possibly have a few pieces of sushi you don’t like because you couldn’t choose each item. It is fun, easy, and inexpensive—sounds like heaven to me.
There are two types of kaiten-zushi:
Traditional Kaiten-zushi Shops
In these traditional shops, the chefs prepare sushi in the middle of the restaurant, and place the pieces on the conveyor belt right in front of you. Typically, these are smaller shops where you can interact with the people around you and the chefs more closely than in a modern shop.
Some of these shops might have an English menu on hand, others may not. You can always just grab the pieces in front of you on the belt, or you can order from the menu by calling out “sumimasen (excuse me)” to one of the chefs and have them make it fresh for you. Recently, more people have taken to ordering their sushi fresh rather than picking up the pieces that might have been sitting around for a while. Custom ordering is also the same price as those on already on the belt—so do not be afraid to order right off the menu!
Modern Kaiten-zushi Shops
This are my favorite type and go-to for a quick meal after work!
The overall set-up is mostly the same as traditional shops, except the chefs are in kitchens at the back. You can grab the sushi as it rolls past you or order from a touch-panel display at your seat, instead of with the chef directly.
Some shops, such as Hama Zushi (Japanese), will have an English language option, though it is easy enough to just scroll through the menu options and touch the pictures of what you want to order. Sometimes, the staff, like in Kura Zushi (Japanese), will offer you a physical English menu when you are being seated.
The way that these custom orders arrive depends on the shop; some are delivered one a separate belt, others are delivered on the same belt but with special plates to let you know it’s yours. Both cases will usually result in the screen beeping to let you know that your order is arriving. Be sure not to pick up some else’s special order by accident!
Next time you are in Japan, be sure to stop by your nearest conveyor belt sushi restaurant for a one of a kind and delicious meal!
Article originally published on Izanau, Feb 23, 2016 . Edited from original version.