Home > Focus on Japan 2007 > Creepy McSushi

Creepy McSushi

April 14th, 2007


0407-Sushiro2A little while ago, I noticed that a new conveyor-belt sushi joint (kaiten-sushi in Japanese) had opened up along my route home, and so I decided to check it out. Usually, I go to a place called “Ganso Sushi,” which is a fair place. I’ll order a plate of maguro, and if it’s good, I’ll eat there that night (quality varies dramatically from day to day).

This new chain, called “Sushiro,” makes a big deal of their ¥105-yen plates (roughly a buck a plate, with each plate having two pieces of sushi), which is fairly cheap. This chain has started sprouting up everywhere, with the same building style as many “family restaurants” (Denny’s-style) in Japan–a second-story restaurant with a ground-floor parking lot.

Anyway, I stopped by one evening and went in–and very quickly freaked out. I can’t say exactly why, but something about the place just creeped me out somehow. Unlike most kaiten-sushi joints, this one had no central bay with the sushi chefs. The chefs were hidden behind a wall. There were, instead, three or four rows of booths clustered around conveyor belts that led back behind the wall leading to the kitchen. To order any special kind of sushi, you would talk to the chefs via an intercom, and in a minute or two, the order would come rolling out. How you could be sure that your order would not be snatched up by diners before you on the conveyor belt I don’t know, maybe they have a system for that, an order tag or something.

The thing is, the whole place gave me the willies. It just felt wrong. After figuring out how it worked, I simply felt that I had to get out of there and never come back. It’s one of those unconscious things that you can’t explain. Don’t ask me to be rational about it.

Obviously, I am not in the majority on this: the place was crowded, with people waiting in line to be seated. Every one of these places I’ve seen has people streaming into it, likely because of the low prices.

Still, you won’t catch me in one of those things.

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  1. K. Engels
    April 14th, 2007 at 12:45 | #1

    At least you can get Sushi. Where I am living, the only thing I can find is crappy grocery store sushi. The only kind they sell is chopped up artificial crab meat rolls. I image that Japanese people would die of laughter if you told them that these “rolls” were Sushi.

  2. April 14th, 2007 at 13:07 | #2

    hmmm I’m no expert on these places, but my guess would be the fact the chefs are hidden. You are dealing with a raw food, and it is coming at you from a “mysterious” source, not that you know the other guys by name mind you, and you lose some of the connection you have in the standard places.

    I haven’t even been in one, and it creeps me out a little!

  3. Jeff Stewart
    April 14th, 2007 at 17:59 | #3

    “I’ll order a plate of maguro, and if it’s good, I’ll eat there that night (quality varies dramatically from day to day).”

    You mean it’s actually better in the evening? why is that? I eat at those places all the time, but nearly always during the day.

    As far as this place goes, if I’m eating raw seafood I want to keep a close eye on what the chefs are doing.

  4. Claus
    April 17th, 2007 at 00:02 | #4

    I think I’ve been to one of those in Kyoto, last year. If it is really the same, a waitress will bring you your order, if you order any particular piece.

  5. April 26th, 2007 at 15:24 | #5

    Wow, that was exactly the same reaction I had when I went to Kura-zushi, which seems similar in every description to the place you went. It was just all wrong. Aside from the general creepy feeling was the fact that the intercom was really loud and had all the quality of drive-through intercoms back home; the lack of a system for special orders (I accidentally picked up someone else’s special order more than once) and the poor quality of the sushi. Not terrible, just not good. I noticed most of the toppings were of the cooked and mayonnaise-slathered variety.

    The weird thing is, the place was recommended to me by two people (Japanese!) who just raved about it.

    I round out later that their sushi is made in the back by “sushi robots” instead of actual human chefs. Not surprising at all.

    My favourite kaiten-zushi places are Ganso and Choshi-maru (branches mostly in the suburbs). Choshi-maru actually has live tanks of fish and will actually capture and butcher the fish right in front of you. Doesn’t get any fresher than that.

  6. Andy
    June 7th, 2007 at 18:22 | #6

    hey Luis, interesting reads. I dont know what sushi places you go to — you must know a ton of good ones. Give this joint by Akabane JR station a try. Its got live tank fish and similarly fresh stuff with 4-5 sushi chefs working in front of the counter. Seating may take a while since its always crowded. Its 140 yen a piece (comes in 2s) for any kind of fish (my favorite being chitoro and uni). DUnno if that is cheap but pretty cheap compared to what I had in U.S. price and quality wise.

    Care to recommend a few sushi joints? something cheaap and gooooood….?

  7. Luis
    June 8th, 2007 at 10:51 | #7

    Andy: I’ll have to look and try that out. One of Sachi’s friends pointed us to a place in Tsukiji that specializes in Maguro and Toro, but I don’t know where that is yet–Sachi will fill me in. Otherwise, I tend to find a single sushi joint that does a good job and stick with that; choose a place at random and you risk food poisoning, as I found out the hard way. But the place I use is along my scooter route home, along Rout 20 in Chofu, so you likely won’t get to it, and it’s no huge deal anyway. But it is a chain, and so you might find one–it’s Ganso Sushi.

    However, if you like Yakitori, then I would very much recommend Akiyoshi, a chain which has a branch in Ikebukuro, west side of the station. Their web site with branch locations is here:


    Branch locations (there’s one in Akabane!) here:


    And I wrote a review of it here:


  8. Bob V
    June 8th, 2008 at 09:26 | #8

    The experience you had is very natural when you compare it to going to a sushi restaurant that has a sushi master cutting the fish in front of you. This place you went to is tailored to provide lower grade fish at extreme discounts. In this place, there are plasma displays that you electronically place your order. When that order comes on the conveyor, a message comes up on the screen identifying your order and the distance that it is from you. It is also identified by your order’s plate being on top of an upside down bowl, telling everyone that it was a special order. Another thing that probably made your experience seem weird is that there are usually long lines of people waiting to get in, giving it a bit of a carnival feel to it, especially on Sunday evenings.

    If you want to get great sushi at a reasonable price, go to Yokosuka Chuo Station on the Keihin Kyuko Line. Directly underneath the train ticket purchasing booth, there is a small Kaiten Sushi shop, with a large refrigerated take-out booth, as well. Usually, you will need to wait 5-10 minutes to get a seat, but it is well worth it. The fish portions are large and very fresh. Highly recommended.

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