Automated Sushi

I was in Tokyo this weekend. Since 1998 there wasn’t a single year I wasn’t in Japan at least once (not counting the 4.5 years I lived here), but my last trip was two and a half years ago, so this visit was like coming home after a long time away. Yes, it still feels a lot like home.

There’s a lot to write about, but time is short. So I will only write about my recent kaiten-zushi experience.

I had lunch with an old friend in a “conveyor belt sushi” outlet near Ningyocho station. My first time there so I was surprised to see how automated the entire process has become.

You sit down at the counter (unluckily for us, the comfortable table seats were all taken) and everything you need is right there in front of you: the towelette, the tea extract, hot water, chopsticks, wasabi, ginger… There is also a printed menu with pictures and English translation.

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But the highlight is the ordering system. Each customer has a small screen with menus in four languages. All one has to do is select the food and press “order”. A couple of minutes later the food arrives on the dedicated belt (not the revolving one). The belt stops right in front of your seat so you can pick up the dishes and then press a button to send the trays back to the kitchen. Only when you order a beer does an actual person deliver it to you.

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Two people, about 15 dishes of sushi plus drinks – all for less than 2,000 yen. Who said Japan was expensive?

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