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ETIENNE'S COOL JAPAN: Sushi's secret codes are worth preserving

Quote herewith "ETIENNE'S COOL JAPAN: Sushi's secret codes are worth preserving" by Asahi Shinbun dated Feb 18, 2010. This time in "Etienne's Cool Japan", he refer to Kaiten-Zushi (回転寿司=Conveyor belt sushi bars).

In the article, he explains that "Conveyor belt sushi bars, known as kaiten-zushi, are great for foreigners who do not speak Japanese".
This means that we can enjoy any kind of Sushi without speaking any japanese. 

Conveyor belt sushi (回転寿司, kaiten-zushi) (also called sushi-go-round (くるくる寿司, kuru kuru sush), mainly by foreigners living in Japan is the popular English translation for Japanese fast-food sushi. In Australia, it is also known as sushi train (as the sushi goes around a track on a train, rather than a conveyor belt).

(Kaiten-Zushi / Image)

(Kaiten-Zushi / Image)

Kaiten-zushi is a sushi restaurant where the plates with the sushi are placed on a rotating conveyor belt that winds through the restaurant and moves past every table and counter seat. Customers may place special orders, but most simply pick their selections from a steady stream of fresh sushi moving along the conveyor belt. The final bill is based on the number and type of plates of the consumed sushi. Some restaurants use a fancier presentation such as miniature wooden "sushi boats" traveling small canals or miniature locomotive cars.

collakaige1.jpg image by yixiaohere 
(Kaiten-Zushi / Image)

(Kaiten-Zushi / Image)

ETIENNE'S COOL JAPAN: Sushi's secret codes are worth preserving
Feb 18, 2010 by Asahi Shinbun

Conveyor belt sushi bars, known as kaiten-zushi, are great for foreigners who do not speak Japanese.

They can enjoy sushi to their stomach's content simply by selecting from the dishes that rotate in front of them and reaching for whatever looks good. There is no need to use a word of Japanese and it's cheap too!

(Modern portable scanners make life easy for sushi waiters.(ETIENNE BARRAL))

At first, everybody picks dishes that look safe. Salmon, egg and tuna sushi are the usual favorites. But, after a while, most people become more adventurous and start trying all sorts of fish.

I have become a frequent visitor to these restaurants and a real fan.

A while ago, I had an interesting experience at a large kaiten-zushi place outside Tokyo.

When we finished eating and asked for the check, the waiter took a portable computer out of his pocket and held it toward the empty dishes.

The machine calculated the total automatically, adding up the variously priced dishes in an instant.

I was intrigued and asked how the machine worked. Each dish, I was told, had an integrated circuit (IC) tag attached.

When the mobile tag reader was held over the pile of dishes, it could figure out how many dishes were in front of it and what prices they were.

How convenient!

I was reminded of being taught at a kaiten-zushi joint more than 10 years ago about the codes used by staff when counting up a customer's dishes: "one" was pin, "two" was ryanko, "three" was geta, and so on.

I was told that some sushi restaurants used this argot so that other diners would not know how much the customer who was leaving was being asked to pay. I was moved by the sensitivity of the system.

I hear more and more kaiten-zushi bars have introduced the tag readers.

While improved business efficiency is a good thing, it would be a little sad if the thoughtfulness of the old sushi shop codes were to disappear.

* * *

Editor's note: This column, originally published in the vernacular Asahi Shimbun, is written by a French journalist who has lived in Japan for more than 20 years. Etienne Barral sheds light on unique aspects of Japanese culture from a foreign perspective.
By T.S. in Feb 20, 2010
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Author:T. SATOH