If you are considering a trip to Japan, I have no doubt that many people will advise you to try sushi while you are here. Of course, you can eat sushi in most any country these days, but still there is nothing like eating it in its native home. So advising you to try sushi is very good advice.
But I am going to do that advice one better. I am going to give you step by step directions and let you learn from my successes and mistakes.
You want to go to a place called Muten Kura Sushi. There are many locations throughout the cities of Japan, so I hope you can find one convenient for you. Why Muten Kura Sushi? Well, it is excellent food, at excellent prices, and the entire process is fun. Other than a few special dishes, each plate of sushi is 100 Yen, which is just under $1 (at the time of this writing. Don't I sound official?)
Let's assume you don't speak or read Japanese. Well, you might be a bit overwhelmed when you first enter. Have no fear, I am going to walk you through.
You enter and show, more or less by holding up a certain number of fingers, how many people are in your party. Then the hostess gives you a tiny clipboard with a number on it. This is the number of your table. If, instead of a table you prefer to sit at the “bar”, where you all sit facing the same direction, then each of you will get your own clipboard.
You can ask if they have an instruction card for their international guests. Some locations might. Others might not.
You go to the table shown on your clipboard. (There is most likely a map of the store on the clipboard too, but you need not fear. The numbers are identical to the ones you are used to.)
|The conveyor belt|
At the table you will see a conveyor belt going by with many dishes of different types of sushi. Each one is on a blue plate inside a plastic mechanism that sits on the conveyor. If you want one of the dishes that is moving past, you grab the plate. You do not grab the plastic mechanism. Then you lift slightly and the lid of the plastic mechanism opens. You take the plate and enjoy!
However, this is the sushi that has been going around for some time. You can do one better! You can custom order the sushi you want and it will be made fresh for you!
Above the conveyor (or conveyors, we will get to that in a moment) there is a touchscreen. On this touchscreen, various dishes that you can order are shown. There are many “pages” and you can flip through the pages using two green buttons at the bottom.
|The green buttons for changing pages|
Here you can see all of the choices for sushi, beer, specialty drinks, and desserts. You can order any of these. But here is an important note! Learn from my experience. If you don't want a specialty drink or a beer, water is available. But you may not realize it when you first go. There is a dispenser along one of the walls of the store and there are cups nearby. The dispenser probably has a blue spigot. (This is important, because there are also dispensers that will dispense beer, and you will pay for beer. But you can get the water for free.)
Now you are ready to order from the touchscreen. So you press the picture of the item you want. That picture will appear on a screen with the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 beside it, as well as two green buttons. First, you choose the number of these dishes that you want. Then you hit the leftmost green button (which is the shorter of the two Japanese words.) If you made a mistake and you want to cancel, you hit the rightmost green button (with the longer of the two Japanese words.)
Soon your custom order will arrive. It will come one of two ways, depending on which location you are visiting.
In some locations, there is only the one conveyor track. In this case, your dish will arrive with the blue plate on top of a large red bowl. Your touchscreen will ring at you just before your dish arrives. You grab it as it passes.
|Upper Track with train receding|
At other locations, there is a second track, this one above the conveyor. In these locations, a plastic train will slide out to your table and stop there. Your touchscreen will ring. And you take the blue dishes off of the plastic train. There is a green lit button that illuminates when this train arrives. Once you have all of your dishes from the train, you press that green button and the train returns to the kitchen.
|The red button for when you are done|
When you are done ordering and eating, there is a red button on your touchscreen. You touch this button. A ring happens in the restaurant and a hostess comes to your table.
She counts the number of plates you have and from that knows how much your total is. She inputs this in a handheld device. But you don't pay her.
In some locations, there is a slot for you to deposit your plates. This will also count up the plates. And on the touchscreen, you will see a cartoon of a martial arts battle. Depending on how many plates you enter, your human character either wins a fight or gets defeated by some sort of animal character. Plus, you may get a prize. There is some sort of dispenser that drops a ball like you might find in a gumball machine that gives you little toys.
(It's possible that they only turn on this feature if you are with children. I am unclear on this because I have only visited Muten Kura Sushi with children.)
Now you take your tiny clipboard to the cash register which is located near the main door to the restaurant. The cashier will input the number on the clipboard and your total will appear. You pay, and then you go! Note, you will probably have to pay in cash, as they will most likely not accept credit cards.
The whole process is a lot of fun, plus delectable. That's a win for the stomach and a win for the mind. (And I can only suppose a win for the restaurant as well.)
Thank you for your attention to this Public Sushi Announcement.