Kaitenzushi in Japan has specific etiquette guidelines to follow, such as taking a plate once touched from the conveyor belt and not changing your mind. The sushi you order should also be taken from the conveyor belt, and you should not take someone else’s ordered sushi. The restaurant has a system in place to indicate whether sushi is available for anyone or reserved for a specific patron.
However, let us move away from the rules and etiquettes for a while, and instead, look at how to actually enjoy dining in a conveyor-belt sushi restaurant, which is what it’s called outside of Japan. Below are 5 tips that may help you navigate around the restaurant, and hopefully, allow you to enjoy the sushi-dining experience to the fullest!
1. Unlimited Green Tea
Generally speaking, at Japanese restaurants, a glass of water is served to each of you without your ordering it, but, as far as I know, no water is served at any conveyor-belt sushi restaurant. Instead, there are water machines somewhere in the house, and on each table, you will find green powder and a tap like this. Cups for green tea are over your head or on your table. How to make green tea is very simple. You have only to put a spoon of green powder in your cup, and then pour hot water into it. This green tea is free of charge, and you can have free refills as you like. If you drink it up, please make another cup of tea by yourself. By the way, please be careful not to burn yourself as this hot water is very hot.
2. The Right Way to Pick Sushi Up
Pickled ginger is called “Gari” in Japanese. Gari is served to freshen your mouth. You can freshen your mouth with gari, to prevent any flavour of fish you have just eaten, from remaining in your mouth when you eat another fish. Gari is on your table. Please eat it by putting as much as you want on your dish. I always put a lot of gari on a dish with sushi and eat it little by little, while some people eat it by putting it on a soy sauce dish. Gari is accompanied by tongs without exception. Please be sure not to use your chopsticks, but use tongs instead to pick up gari for sanitary reasons.
3. The Various Ways to Order Sushi
Sushi moving around is not always sushi you wish to eat. So, you can order any sushi you want, as needed. How to order sushi varies from restaurant to restaurant, but in general, there are 3 methods as follows.
① Order by paper
There is an order form on your table or counter. You put the number of sushi you wish to eat next to the name of fish, and then hand it over to a chef behind the counter.
② Order by tablet
A tablet like this is on your table. In most cases, you can select any available language you wish to use, so please place an order after changing the language settings.
③ Order verbally
There are many sushi restaurants in Tokyo where you can place an order in English such as “scallops” or “amberjack”. If the chef cannot understand the English name of fish you said, just try to ask any Japanese visitor next to you for help. That person may not speak English fluently but will surely strive to help you. If you want to place an order in Japanese since you came all the way to Japan, just try to say “Kudasai”. “Kudasai” means “Please”. Using this word makes your Japanese expressions very natural and polite. The term “Kudasai” comes after a product name. For example, “Scallops kudasai” or “Amberjack kudasai”.
4. Experience the Spicy Wasabi (Japanese horseradish)
Basically, sushi served at conveyor-belt restaurants has no wasabi or Japanese horseradish. That is because they are the places also for small children to visit together with their parents. Therefore, if you wish to eat wasabi, you put it on sushi by yourself. At some restaurants, a bag of wasabi is on the table or on the lane, while at other restaurants, you have to say “Wasabi please” to the chef.
5. How to Eat Sushi
Put a little bit of soy sauce on the ingredient, not on rice. Eat wasabi by putting it on the ingredient, not by dipping it in soy sauce. Strictly speaking, there are various ways of eating sushi such as eating it by hand, but conveyor-belt sushi restaurants are casual places. So, you can eat sushi as you like. Because eating deliciously is more enjoyable than eating correctly, isn’t it? By the way, when you make payment, an employee counts the number of dishes you have eaten to calculate the payment amount. So, please be sure not to return any empty dish onto the lane. However, at Kura Sushi, each table has a hole like this to clear empty dishes away. You can put the dishes into the hole before making payment.