The sushi train

Ask anyone to name something typical of Japan, and it is highly likely that they will say ‘sushi’. After my return to Belgium, I have often been asked if Japanese people really eat sushi every day. The answer is no! Japanese cuisine is incredibly varied and there is so much more to it than just sushi.

Since I am not a fan of these stereotypical ideas about Japan and did not want to encourage them further, I have put off writing about sushi for more than two years. But despite all my ranting, I cannot deny that sushi is in fact a part of Japanese cuisine. Moreover, it is an extremely delicious part of Japanese cuisine. By the end of my stay in Japan, I could be found in a sushi restaurant on a weekly basis. (*´∀`*)

So it seems that the moment has finally come. It is time for a post about sushi.

In Japan, sushi is often enjoyed at a restaurant, rather than at home. There are many different kinds of sushi restaurants, ranging from extremely high-end places where the chef personally prepares each delicacy in front of you, to the more moderately priced conveyor belt restaurants (kaiten zushi 回転寿司 in Japanese). Even in the conveyor belt category, there are different prices and qualities. Today I will talk to you about the lowest of the lowest: Kappa Zushi. Although this is not a great introduction for a restaurant, I assure you that compared to most European (or at least Belgian) sushi restaurants, the quality is still very good.

kappazushi logo
Kappa Zushi logo
Interior of a Kappa Zushi restaurant. The mascots of Kappa Zushi are these two green creatures. In Japanese, kappa is a water monster from folk tales. But it can also mean a sushi roll with cucumber in the middle. Hence the choice for kappa as mascots I guess. Despite their best efforts to make these kappa seem cute, they still scare me a little – image from the Kappa Zushi website
kappazushi conveyer belt
Kappa Zushi conveyor belt
tuna sushi on the conveyer belt
Tuna nigiri zushi on the conveyor belt

At conveyor belt restaurants, the kitchen prepares a standard selection of different sushi dishes and places them on the conveyor belt. The sushi passes by all the tables and the customers take off whatever they want to eat. Usually the colour of the plate determines how much the sushi costs but at Kappa Zushi, all the sushi costs 105 yen per plate (about 1 euro at the time we were in Japan). At the end of the meal, the plates are counted to determine the price to be paid.

kappa zushi stack of plates
Our stack of plates at the end of the meal

In case you don’t find what you are looking for on the conveyor belt, you can also order  directly from the kitchen (for the full Kappa Zushi menu, click here –  click on each category to see more sushi). Kappa Zushi has a computerized system for those orders. You operate it with a touch screen above your table. Not an easy thing to do if you can’t read kanji. There is one button that summons a waitress. I am afraid we accidentally summoned the poor lady twice before we figured it out. But if you press enough buttons, you will eventually end up in the orders menu.

kappa zushi touch screen
Kappa Zushi orders menu. You might notice some unusual sushi like tonkatsu sushi (fried pork cutlet) and beef sushi. You will definitely not find any meat sushi in a high-end sushi restaurant.
hamburger sushi
Another special sushi: hamburger sushi. I guess you can pretty much slap anything onto a piece of rice and call it sushi.

Now comes the best part: the orders are delivered on a special sushi train! It is shaped like a shinkansen and swishes over to your table in no time. You take off the plates and the train goes back to the kitchen. Never mind sushi quality, that train in itself is a reason to visit Kappa Zushi!

Something else that I love about Japanese conveyor belt sushi restaurants, apart from all the sushi, is the table side tap of hot water. You get a cup, a tin of green tea powder (different from matcha) and you serve yourself from the tap at your table. All you can drink green tea and an endless stream of sushi passing by under your very nose… pure bliss!

kappa zushi tea
Tea can in the bottom left, cup in the middle, and the tap is below the conveyor belt, next to the red box with pickled ginger. The black box holds the chopsticks. Each table also has their own supply of soy sauce and wasabi.

If this post has made you hungry, or you want to see the sushi train for yourself, you can find your nearest Kappa Zushi restaurant on this map (Japanese only). This is the Kappa Zushi in Toyota City:

Kappa Zushi in Toyota City – image from Google Maps Streetview

12 thoughts on “The sushi train

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  1. I’m not the biggest sushi fan, but I would love to try it in Japan with a sushi train delivering it! 🙂 Great post and you did a great job clarifying that sushi is not a daily staple in Japan.

  2. So miss kaiten sushi! My favorite place was in Toyota shi, just around the corner from the Toyota Palace Hotel. Yep, some non-traditional stuff sure shows up on the belt, でもおいしくてたのしかったですね. And とても安い! And you’re right, placing an order is a hoot when you’re a foreigner. We had a Kappa Sushi near our home in Nagoya. Didn’t know the name at the time, or exactly what the little mascot creatures were supposed to be, so we just called it “Two Turtles”. 😀

    1. We also used to call them turtles. When I was writing this post, I had another good look at them and also looked up some stuff about kappa. That is when I realized they aren’t turtles. I actually like the thought of two cute turtles more than two scary water monsters :-s

      Our favourite sushi place in Toyota was one block away from Toyota City Sky Hall. But I will write about that in another post.

    1. I heard from some Japanese friends that Kappa Zushi does not have a good reputation for quality but if you ask me, their price-quality ratio is great! Hurray for Kappa Zushi ^_^

  3. I’ve only been to Kappa Zushi once, and it was five years ago, but it’s one of the most memorable sushi experiences I’ve ever had. The hamburger sushi and Shinkansen stick out in my memory most. When my friends were visiting I wanted to take them to a place like this to show them the gimicky side of sushi (compared to the usual ritzy style of an American sushi bar), but I was a little disappointed when we wound up at a little conveyor belt sushi place frequented by salarymen men instead. Still tasty and still a good experience, and it did have the same green tea set up, but no Shinkansen.

    1. The shinkansen really is added value, don’t you think so? Although after having lived in Japan for a few months, we upgraded from kappa zushi to a slightly higher quality kaiten zushi. But that’s for another post ^_^

  4. Oh my gosh, we just returned from Japan last Thursday and we did eat at Kappa Sushi in Nagano! I love the shinkansen that brings your order from the kitchen! Great post, brought back pleasant memories! 😀

    1. The first time I tried to use them, I made a bit of a mess. You should press the cup horizontally against the black button under the tap but you have to press quite hard before any water comes out. It took a bit of getting used to.

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