Kaiten Sushi: round and round it goes!

“Have you ever eaten moving sushi?” my students once asked me. Immediately an image came to mind of various sea creatures wiggling on top of squares of rice. “No,” I thought, “I haven’t.” What they meant was kaiten sushi, best described as “conveyor belt sushi.” It’s a fun, interactive way to eat lunch. Today we went to the local kaiten sushi place called sushi-roru (sushi roll).

Here are some basic guidelines for eating kaiten sushi:

  • Sit down at your booth. Hopefully you get seated near the start of the conveyor belt and not the end. Otherwise you have to wait a long time for your sushi to come around. When you sit down, reach up above your head and grab a green tea cup. On the table there is a little pot of green tea powder. Put two spoonfuls in your cup and fill it with hot water from your table’s own personal spicket.
  • Start grabbing whatever sushi looks promising from the conveyor belt. There are some posted rules, though. Don’t grab a plate and put it back, even if you haven’t touched it. Don’t let your children grab the plates. Don’t drop the sushi onto the conveyor belt.
  • Orange plates indicate there is a tiny bit of wasabi hidden in between the rice and the fish. White plates mean wasabi-free.
  • If you want to special order something like a bowl of udon noddles or you’re in a hurry (or impatient) and don’t want to wait for a certain kind of sushi to come around on the conveyor belt, hit the intercom button above your head and speak into the little black box. Your special order will come to you via conveyor belt on a special platform that has a unique color and kanji character on it. This color and character match the ones that are printed on your booth’s intercom box.
  • Need to take a breather? There are plenty of other things going around that you can pick up: chocolate cake, sweet potato sticks, slices of watermelon, frozen mango pieces, and boxed juices to name a few.
  • Stack your plates as you eat their contents. When you’re done, push the service button that has a picture of a bell on it (next to the intercom button) and someone will come and count your plates. They’re only 100 yen each! What a deal! For the two of us it was under 1,900 yen (about 20 bucks).
  • Worried about the freshness of the sushi that’s making it’s way around the restaurant? No need. Under each plate is a little computer chip. When the sushi’s been revolving for more than 30 minutes it’s removed from the belt and sent back to the kitchen.

Here are some especially good (and intriguing) ones to look out for!

Cooked shrimp, fresh tomato, lettuce, and mayo
Grilled unagi (eel) with sweet soysauce, popular in the summer months. Eel supposedly has “energizing” properties for hot, humid days.
Hamachi or yellowtail. A very mild fish that’s good for “beginners.”
Maguro or tuna. It doesn’t get much simpler than this.

Ebi-Avocado (cooked shrimp, avocado, onions, mayo)

Salmon & onions

Crab & mayo

Fried chicken with sweet soy sauce & mayo

Sweet potato sticks with black sesame seeds

Itadakimasu! (Let’s eat!)

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