Friday, 25 April 2014


Any tale about Japanese food would not be complete without a visit to a belt sushi restaurant. This is one of those truly Japanese inventions, that although it's been making inroads in foreign countries, it's still a quintessential Japan-only experience. So, what is a belt sushi restaurant, exactly?

As the name suggests, it's a restaurant (a sushi restaurant to be precise) but unlike in a traditional place, where the food is brought to you by a waiter, or served directly by a sushi master, at a belt sushi restaurant, your sushi travels to you on a conveyor belt.

From that conveyor belt you can pick what you like (unless, of course, it happens to be somebody else's order, then hands off!) and on that conveyor belt your special order travels to you from the kitchen.

Because, of course, you are not limited to the selections moving on the belt. You can also place specific orders.

A few years ago this was done by an intercom at your table. Not very easy and not very convenient. These days you have automated touch screens at your disposal. And at my hosts' favorite kaitenzushi place, the screens are even multi-lingual. You can place your order in Chinese, Korean, Portuguese, English, and of course, Japanese.

But not every kaitenzushi place is that advanced. In many, the only language is Japanese. Luckily, all menu items are shown as photos, so even then you can be certain that what you are ordering is what you really want.

Most of the time, all plates have the same price, usually about 110 yen (give or take a few yen). So you know exactly how much your final bill will be.

And speaking about plates, they are color coded!!! Don't like wasabi? No problem! You can order your sushi without the hot green paste! At Sushiro (the restaurant I visited), the wasabi-free sushi is served on white plates. And different color plates are also used for special orders that are more expensive than the standard fare.

And what if you are not a big sushi fan? Is there something you can still eat at a kaitenzushi restaurant? Of course!!! The menus can be quite extensive! You can enjoy almost anything from fried chicken and french fries to udon soup and salads. And sweets and cakes for dessert! There is also hot matcha to drink.

Few people know it, but conveyor belt sushi restaurants have been around for a very long time. The belt sushi pioneer was Mr Yoshiaki Shiraishi, who opened the first such restaurant in 1958 in Osaka.

So when you visit a belt sushi restaurant, you not only can eat yummy, cheap sushi (but be sure to pick a popular and busy restaurant! that way you can be certain the fish they serve is fresh), but also experience a part of Japanese culinary history.

Enjoy!!! (and go easy on the wasabi!)

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