Kaiten sushi, or kaitenzushi, as it is pronounced in Japanese, is sushi that may be considered fast-food sushi, as opposed to sushi served at a traditional sushi restaurant. The sushi at kaitenzushi restaurants are on plates that sit on a rotating conveyor belt that runs through the restaurant and by every table and counter seat. Customers select the sushi that they want to eat as it passes by. If they don’t see what they like on the belt, they may order it from one of the chefs. Desserts, soups, some beverages and sometimes other food are also available on the conveyor belt. Condiments, such as pickled ginger, wasabi and soy sauce are self-served, as is green tea or water. Restaurants keep track of how long the sushi has been on the conveyor belt so they remove the plates that have been in rotation too long.
Most of the plates run from about 100 – 500 yen per piece, and the tab is calculated by the number and types of plates, either by an attendant or a counting machine, available at some restaurants. Some restaurants have a flat rate for all plates.
While kaitenzushi restaurants are welcome destinations for the budget-minded who want to enjoy sushi without it costing them an arm and a leg, they are also exceedingly popular with families with young children, who are not generally welcome at traditional sushi restaurants. Non-Japanese speaking customers also like the fact that no language skills are needed to enjoy their sushi dinner-they can just grab their choice off the conveyor belt!
Kaitenzushi has been popular in Japan for decades, and recently has been gaining an audience overseas. In the states, chains such as Kula Sushi and Sushi Land have opened several restaurants that have been very well received.