Conveyor belt sushi, known there as ‘kaiten-zushi’ (回転寿司) is a popular way of eating sushi in Japan. These photos are from one of the Hamazushi restaurants which you can find all over Japan.
Above is one of the seating booths. There is a conveyor belt running by your table with many dishes rotating round. You can pick what you want off the conveyor belt.
Here is a closer view of what it looks like from your seat. Above the conveyor belt is a list of all the dishes, a touch screen for ordering items if you can’t get them off the belt, and cutlery.
Below the conveyor belt are some condiments, and a hot water tap. With the hot water tap you can make yourself some free powdered tea. You need a small spoon of the green powder (it is very strong so don’t take too much), then you push your cup against the black button to get the hot water.
When you enter you are given a card with your table number. You’ll need to give it back after your meal so they know which table you were sitting at.
If you go at a busy time the dishes will be plentiful and fresh from the kitchen. If you go at a quite time there might not much much of a selection, and the food which is on the belt might be a bit old. It is not just sushi on the conveyor belt; you’ll also find cartons of soft drink and desserts.
Don’t worry though if you can’t see what you want, as you can order anything on the menu from your own touch screen. All the dishes are numbered on the menu, so you can quickly flick through the touch screen system to select which dish you want, and how many of them you want. They will be freshly prepared for you and put onto the belt.
They are put onto special ‘customer order’ plates, which have some kind of sensor in them. When the plate gets near your table, your screen will start beeping. It will even flash a photo of the dish on the touch screen in case you forgot what you ordered.
It is therefore very important that when taking ‘non ordered’ food from the belt that you don’t take them off these ‘customer order’ plates. You’ll be stealing someone elses order if you do!
A quick note for vegetarians – there are some things you can eat but not very many. Most of the dishes are fish (obviously), but even some of the non-fish dishes have fish flakes, or fish dashi on them so you have to be very careful.
If you can speak some Japanese you can ask them what dishes might be safe (but don’t expect the staff to give you a quick answer). Asking whether a dish contains fish/fish sauce/dashi/sea food, etc, usually results in a confused look from the staff and them making a quick trip to the kitchen.
In a smaller sushi joint they’ll even be able to create custom orders for you if you can explain yourself. Vegetarian safe options at this restaurant included cucumber sushi, natto sushi, sweetcorn sushi, inari, and we were able to get them to custom make the aubergine sushi without the usual fish flakes.
All the plates are colour coded according to their price. Most main dishes were ¥100, with deserts being ¥150-¥200. They are only small though so you may get though a stack of plates. Even so these conveyor belt sushi restaurants are a pretty cheap way to get full.