Eating cheap at Kaiten Zushi restaurants in Japan

Talking about Japan, sushi often is THE food to eat. So why not trying out sushi on your trip to Japan? There are many traditional sushi restaurants, which are specialized and where real sushi chefs are working. However, a visit there might become super expensive. As adjustment, Japan also has a lot of cheap sushi restaurants, which are known as Kaitenzushi (回転寿司). The name is coming from the way of serving inside these restaurants: the sushi is coming to you on a rotating conveyor belt, also called sushi-go-round. 
Let us take a look, what food you can find at such restaurants and what the most famous chains are!

What you should know about Kaiten Zushi

As said, at a Kaiten Zushi restaurant the dishes go around a conveyor belt. When you see something you would like to eat passing by, you only need to take it off from the belt. Depending on the structure of the shop, if there is something else you would like to have, you can order by just talking to a staff member or the chef who is standing in the middle. At bigger and modern shops now you often have touch screens including pictures for ordering, where you also can change the menu into English. However, if you can speak a bit Japanese it is sometimes better to stay with the Japanese menu, because some English translations sound weird. 
Normally the plates have different colors according to their prices, so when you finished eating the restaurant staff only needs to count the plates and can give you the receipt. Most chain restaurants are very cheap and offer normal plates for around 100 yen each, which makes it very popular for many people, including families, high school and university students, office worker who need a quick meal  and other people who just want to enjoy sushi in a not to formal atmosphere. And even though it has a reasonable price, the quality of the so called “fast food sushi” is still good. One plate normally has two nigiri sushi or six maki sushi on it. However some dishes are more expensive and can get up to 500 yen. 

What food you can find

For sure there is a big varity of sushi you can find at a kaiten sushi restaurant. Starting with the normal sushi with salmon, tuna, shrimps and so on, many different styles of seafood is available and you can try different versions of it. Have you ever eaten salmon sushi topped with onions or cheese? Kaiten Zushi restaurants are a good place to try out new food! 

The most famous forms of sushi at Kaiten Zushi restaurants are the following:
  • Nigiri Sushi (握り寿司): hand-rolled rice with different toppings
  • Maki Sushi (巻き寿司): sushi rolls with fish or vegetables inside and seaweed outside
  • Gunkan sushi (軍艦寿司): translated as 'battle ship sushi', this is hand-rolled rice with seaweed around and several toppings on the top. 

For those who don’t like fish so much, they can eat tamago nigiri with egg, kappa maki with cucumber or inari sushi with sweet fried tofu. Also sushi with corn mayo, boiled egg and natto is seen very often. Some chains even serve sushi with mini hamburger or pork and beef and other meat on top.
The bigger Kaiten Zushi chains are offering not only sushi but also a lot of other dishes which you traditionally wouldn’t combine with sushi. These often include fried potatoes, ramen bowls, edamame, fried chicken, gyudon, curry and more. It is really fun to take a look through the whole menu. Some chains even have a big choice of sweet desserts, like cakes, cream puffs, pudding and ice cream. So even if you don’t like sushi so much, there are a lot of ways to fill your stomach.  
Furthermore, on your table you normally find soy sauce and pickled ginger which are free for use. You also can drink green tea or water for free. But also other drinks like different juices and soft drinks and even beer or sake is offered on the menu.
Sushi in all it forms!

Famous Kaiten Zushi Chains

Kaiten Zushi restaurants are something you can find around nearly everythere. Some are just small shops, but a lot places belong to a bigger chain. Some chains became very popular within the last years. So let us take a look on six well known chains, too. 
  • Kurasushi (くら寿司): This chain belongs to one of my favorites. Not only offering a big sushi menu for 108 yen each, they have a lot of other dishes you can order by touch screen. However, some become a bit expensive. Furthermore for every five plates you can play a kind of slot game and might win a small capsule price. → Website

  • Kappa Sushi (かっぱ寿司): Kappa Sushi is also offering several dishes between 100 and 500 yen, not only including sushi. Especially their plate design is very cute. You can find this kaiten zushi shop over 300 times in Japan. → Website

  • Sushiro (スシロー): Founded already 30 years ago, Sushiro was one of the best kaiten sushi restaurants, however, it seems like its popularity is slowly going back through the competition with other new chains. Here they also offer over 80 dishes mainly prices 108 yen, some are more expensive. In Japan you can find over 400 shops of Sushiro. → Website

  • Genki Sushi (元気寿司): Genki Sushi was founded in 1968 and is soon looking back on a 50 years history with even shops oversea. The menu includes a width range of sushi for 108 yen and some for a little higher price. Unfortunately, there are not so many shops inside Japan. On Tokyo you only can find it once in Shibuya. → Website

  • Uobei Sushi (魚べい): Talking about Uobei, the most famous shop for foreign tourist is the one in Shibuya. There are often long lines in front of it. Here you can find over 80 dishes for 108 yen each and ordering goes via a touch screen, too. It belongs to the Genki Sushi chain and there are several shops around Japan. → Website

  • Hama Sushi (はま寿司): Another popular kaiten zushi chain which has more than 400 outlets across Japan and with this might be the most spread out one. For Tokyo they recommend the one in Takadanobaba. The menu includes sushi and several side dishes for reasonable prices. They even serve Takoyaki there! On weekdays some plates are also prices down to 94 yen. → Website
Are you hungry now for a big plate of sushi and some other dishes? Then let’s go! The next great Kaiten Zushi chain restaurant might be just around your corner!

Claudia Mitsubori