Growing up, I watch my father and uncles make sushi for us on special occasions. I can distinctly remember always getting really excited when I smelled the vinegary rice from the kitchen. To me, it always meant my family coming together and sitting down to have a meal together. But their talent didn’t stop there. They created a restaurant together in Princeton, and eventually sprouted a catering business, Ichiban Japanese Catering, in the tri-state area. So needless to say, sushi has always been in my blood. Literally. I’m sure I’ve eaten enough sushi in my life that my blood is saturated in it.
In March, I had the chance to go to Japan with my close group of friends. However this wasn’t my first time. A while back I had the opportunity to study fish during my summer break in college specifically for when I inherit the business from my father. I got to experience the fish markets and some famous sushi restaurants, but I never got to try the infamous Conveyor Belt Sushi Restaurants, or kaiten-zush. So this time around, I did my research and found some “must go” places. If you haven’t heard of this trend, it is as it’s name suggests; sushi served on a conveyor belt.
The technology and thought that goes into these restaurants is astounding. Some places have RFID technology on the dishes so, while they are rotating around, there are scanners that scan codes on the bottom to see if they have been on the belt too long. They also use these codes to monitor what dishes are popular and what the kitchen needs to pump out more of. Other places even have robots in the back making your sushi for you!
While there were many of these kaiten-zushi restaurants, I kept hearing about a specific one in Ikebukuro called “Kura Sushi”. What differentiated this restaurant from it’s competitors is it’s “Gachapon” game. For those of you who don’t know what Gachapon is, just think of those gum ball machines in the grocery store but replace the gumballs with small toys. I’ll get to why this is important once I explain the restaurant a little bit more.
Traditionally, prices are denoted by the colored rims on the borders of the plate. At the end of your meal, your bill is tallied by how many plates are on your table. At Kura Sushi, each dish is ¥100, which is less than a dollar unless you make a special order. For ¥100, you’d think that they would skimp on quality. However this is not the case, their fish is fresh and prepared muten-style which means with no additives.
When you see something you like, you pop the dish out of its container and you enjoy. If you don’t like what is on the belt, you have the option to order through a touch screen menu and it is delivered directly to your table through a second “high-speed” conveyor belt on top. Just check it out here: https://youtu.be/KeLdGZCLwTI
|After you’re done with your dish, there is a slot at the end of your table that you can slide your used dishes down. They will be then be sent to an automated dishwasher, counted, and returned to the chefs to make another plate. They also add the amount to your tab.|
Toshima-ku, Tokyo Minamiikebukuro 1-19-5 G building Minamiikebukuro 01 B1F
Hours: 11:00 to 23:00 (weekdays), 10:20 to 23:00 (weekends)