When you find yourself in Japan you may feel like treating yourself to sushi regularly. You can find good sushi restaurant that don’t ask too much of your wallet, although there are a few tips that you can follow not to stumble into expensive sushi restaurants and how things work in there may not always look obvious.
Finding A Restaurant
When people are looking for a sushi restaurant they usually are looking for the conveyor belt sushi restaurants. These restaurants mostly go hand in hand with ¥100 sushi’s (about $0.80 for 2 pieces of sushi).
The easiest way to find them is Google Maps; open and search for “回転寿司” (Kaiten Zushi) and it should display several in your area.
Bonus Tip: I recommend not to go in Sushi Restaurants between 6-8 as it is usually packed with people and the wait times may go up to 40 minutes.
I’m in! Now what?
When you go into the restaurant and are not greeted and guided by the staff then that means that this restaurant is using a queue system. The computer touch screen to get into the queue looks like this:
Click on the big button, when prompt with a keypad, input amount of people that will be attending the restaurant that followed with a selection of two buttons; カウンタ (Counter) and some Kanji (Table), select the desired place where you would like to eat. I personally prefer a table but if you’re alone or with only one friend than it would be more interesting to take the counter option.
I’m Sitting! Now what?
Congratulations, you successfully infiltrated the sushi restaurant! Now before you start dinning in and taking random dishes (it could be orders from other people, please read whole article!) from the conveyor belt, let’s look at some of the stuff that we have on the table;
Chopsticks – Obviously, that’s for taking and eating sushi. If you are having troubles with using them then feel free to use your fingers! It is not uncommon to do this even among locals.
Small Dishes – The small dishes are used to pour the soy sauce on to make it easy for you to dip your sushi (You can (recommended, but not required) to dip your sushi in soy sauce for extra flavor) in.
Green Tea Powder – Hot green tea gives a great combination with sushi and is highly recommended to try out. Find a cup (not glass) near your table and scoop 3-4 times green tea powder into your cup.
Water Faucet – After your cup is filled with some green powder it is ready to receive some water. Push your cup firmly against the black button that I marked above to start the water flow. Caution; It is very hot water.
Most sushi restaurants are equipped with a touchscreen at your table to conveniently order your sushi dishes. Ordering is easy; press on a picture, select the amount of dishes that you want and click on the order button usually in the bottom right corner. In some occasions you will also be able to change the language to English, try to find something familiar like a country flag or the word ‘Language’.
After ordering sushi it is very important that you look around and try to figure out what orders look like, in every restaurant it will be marked differently and it is not always easy to spot. Some restaurants have it delivered personally to your table, others have a train that stop at your table, etc..
In my example the orders go around on the conveyor belt and are marked with small text on the bottom of the plate. It is not very visible and from time to time I see people coming in and taking random stuff (including orders of other people) from the conveyor belt (which is completely understandable). When your order arrives you should hear some kind of sound and/or song from the touch screen. When this happens; look around and find your fish!
Now that your fish arrived.. itadakimasu!
When You’re Done.
Don’t just walk out and expect them to magically know how much you have to pay! Use the screen to let the staff know that you want the check, if you were unlucky and the screen didn’t have English then I recommend to raise your hand to get the staff’s attention. When they arrive at your table, say: “Okaike” (o-kai-ke) or “Check” (If it’s not working, try to make a square with your fingers) which will result in the staff counting your dishes and handing over a bar code that you can use to pay your bill.
I hope that this guide will help you with your sushi experience in Japan!