Food: Kaiten-zushi (or conveyor belt sushi) in Tokyo’s Asakusa District


Staying in the Asakusa district of Tokyo makes you a bit isolated from the central hubbub of the downtown area.  That is not to say that there is nothing to do.  There is a sizable bar street and lots of neat small shops in the area.  The hostel I stayed at was called Sakura Hostel.  It was located near adult theaters, pachinko parlors, and a small amusement park with carnival rides.  This being Japan, though the area sounds bad on paper, it was actually quite clean and orderly.  This was during my last few days of my vacation in Japan and I wanted to splurge on some good sushi.  I asked the front desk for a recommendation and she immediately responded with a restaurant called Maguro-bito.  She said it was just around the corner and only a five minute walk.  The walk might have been five minutes but the wait for a single seat was close to thirty minutes.   With this long of a wait, with me as the only foreigner and everybody else a local, it had to be good.  Boy was it ever.

Sushi Plates

The sushi was presented on color-coded plates ranging from white, green, yellow, red, blue, and dark blue.  The costs ranged from 150 yen for a white plate to 500 yen for a dark blue plate.  If there was something you know you wanted, you could ask the chef directly.  The couple sitting next to me (a business and his wife / co-worker / mistress?) ordered several rounds of Matsutake mushrooms steamed in a teapot.  I knew that I wanted to try fatty tuna and uni.  I had to double-check my guide book to make sure I was saying the right thing.

Sushi

Here is the list of all the types of sushi I had. (I think I had I could be wrong on some of these fish/)

  • Maguro (Tuna)
  • Kani (Crab)
  • Otoro (Fatty Tuna Belly)
  • Kohada (Spotted Sardine)
  • Toro (Tuna Belly)
  • Hamguri (Clams)
  • Sake (Salmon)
  • Amaebi (Sweet Shrimp)
  • Ika (Squid)
  • Uni (Sea Urchin)
  • Hamachi (Yellowtail)

Of all the sushi plates, the Otoro had to be my favorite one.  It melted like butter.  It was fresh.  It was sweet.  And damned if it was 500 yen a piece, I had to have two.  My sushi adventure was a success and I have my hostel hosts to thank for that.  Even if you eat only a select varieties of sushi, it was worth coming here to enjoy the spectacle and atmosphere.  It is not like anything else in the world.  It is like an amusement park ride, only with food.

Parting Words

Kaiten-zushi is more accessible than ordering off the menu.  Everything you need to know is displayed right in front of you and you can pick and choose from what you visually enjoy.  Of course, there is always the option to order directly from the chef.  Make sure you know what you want first and how to say it in Japanese.  I had to say “Sumimasen. Uni okudosai” and “Sumimasen. Otoro okudosai” to get my uni and fatty tuna.  Enjoy the parade of the many different varieties of fish and make friends with your neighbor from whom you accidentally stole that sushi plate that he was eying.

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About the Author

John is always trying to find his way back to the road. He has an affinity for Germany due to his three years studying German at Cal, and a year working as an intern in the Stuttgart area. He also likes chocolate cake and good cheese.