The Cheapest Sushi you will ever eat

Japan, Travel

Sushi at under Rs. 100 a plate? And that too with an amazing choice? Sounds too good to be true? Join me and venture into the crazy world of “conveyor belt” sushi in Tokyo.

Ever since I tasted sushi in Manila, I’ve been a big fan of it. From my initial trepidation to eating raw seafood, I’ve grown to love eating it. So one of the big items on my must-do list was to eat plenty of sushi while in Tokyo. While I had heard about the various types of sushi restaurants, I found the concept of “conveyor belt” sushi quite intriguing.

The first ever “conveyor belt” sushi restaurant or Kaiten-Zushi called Mawaru Genroku Sushi opened in Higashiosaka in 1958. Apparently the idea was born out of a lack of good wait staff that Yoshiaki Shiraishi, the creator of the concept, wanted for his restaurant. The concept really caught on after the 1970s, following the burst of the economic bubble. Since then, Kaiten-Zushi has become a hallmark for cheap, accessible sushi.

A "conveyor belt" sushi restaurant (Erik Jaeger/flickr)
A “conveyor belt” sushi restaurant (Erik Jaeger/flickr)

When you enter the restaurant and take a seat, you begin by first having some refreshing green tea. Right in front of you is a spigot for hot water and some green tea powder, so you can make yourself some quick green tea. Put a spoon or two of the green powder, pour in some hot water and you are good to go. Then grab some wooden chopsticks, soy sauce and some pickled ginger (to cleanse the palate between bites) and you are ready to eat some sushi !!!

The prices are often by the color of the plate (Hajime NAKANO/flickr)
The prices are often by the color of the plate (Hajime NAKANO/flickr)

The chefs are usually at the center of a conveyor belt ring, that loops towards all the diners. Fresh sushi is made frequently by the chefs and placed on the belt. As soon you as you see something that you like, you can quickly reach out and grab a plate. Remember to keep stacking your plates by your “table”, because in many Kaiten-Zushi restaurants the pricing is by color of the plate. Prices usually start at about 100 yen a plate (that’s like about Rs. 55 a plate), and can go up to a few hundred yen for more specialized dishes.

Some delicious Maguro Sushi (Alpha/flickr)
Some delicious Maguro Sushi (Alpha/flickr)

Since Kaiten-Zushi is a kind of a “live” sushi restaurant, it makes sense to go here when it’s crowded. Besides enjoying the atmosphere of people calling out their orders (yes, you can have the chef prepare something to order as well) and the hustle and bustle of meal time, you can be certain the sushi is absolutely fresh. After all, the meal time rush ensures a quick turnaround on the conveyor belt.

This diner found out how addictive sushi on conveyor can be (Bex Walton/flickr)
This diner found out how addictive sushi on conveyor can be (Bex Walton/flickr)

While I ate several times in various Kaiten-Zushi restaurants during my stay in Tokyo, probably the restaurant I ate at on my last day was the most memorable. It was raining, and I was hunting for a quick bite after my long train ride back to Tokyo from Kyoto. I spied this Kaiten-zushi restaurant by the road in Shinjuku-ku. I quickly ducked in to get out of the rain and took a seat. While I generally prefer eating maguro (tuna), this time round I tried some other types as well. I especially loved the taste of the delicate white ika (squid) along with otoro (fatty tuna). Sushi can be quite addictive and before I knew it, I had a moderate sized stack of plates right by my side.

My stack of plates after my "little" sushi snack
My stack of plates after my “little” sushi snack

Soon it was time to pay and quite surprisingly for that feast I ate, the damages were quite low. After that satisfying meal, I stepped back into the streets of Tokyo, ready to take on the rest of the day.

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