Translated into English, kaiten sushi means “rotation sushi”. You might also hear people call it conveyor belt sushi. In Tokyo, you can’t even throw a tuna and mayo rice ball without hitting one of these marvels of Japanese innovation.They’re fun, inexpensive, and in most case, nearly autonomous. The only interaction with the staff you’re likely to encounter is someone counting the stack of plates you’ve accumulated. Because there are just so many sushi-go-rounds out there, here is a list of some of the best in Tokyo.
Kappa Sushi and Kura Sushi
Kappa Sushi and Kura Sushi are completely different restaurants, but they’re just so comparable that we couldn’t decide which one to start off our list. They’re both family-style kaiten sushi chains, and they’re both ridiculously cheap. Both have touch screen menus with English options, as well as a large selection of non-sushi foods like noodles, tempura, and shaved ice (kakigōri).
Kura Sushi shops tend to be out of the way for most people, while Kappa Sushi has about eight locations in Tokyo. They also recently opened a new chain of shops called Sushi Nova in Shibuya. Sushi Nova uses the same menu as Kappa Sushi, but is also one of the only places you find “vegetable sushi”.
On the other hand, the Kura Sushi experience is more entertaining. Their gimmick is that every table has a gashapon machine. If you insert five empty plates, you’ll start a roulette game for a chance to win a gashapon prize. Another reason for choosing Kura Sushi is that it’s one of the few chains that give you a bottle of unagi sauce. You normally only ever receive unagi sauce with specific sushi, but at Kura Sushi, you can pour that sweet nectar on every piece.
Uobei and Genki Sushi
Uobei and Genki Sushi are owned by the same company, have virtually the same menu, and are both located in Shibuya. The only real difference is that the Uobei menu is smaller and starts at 80 yen. It also gets unbearably crowded around lunch and dinner time. You’re much better off taking the five-minute stroll over to Genki Sushi where the menu starts at 100 yen. While not necessarily unique, the main draw to Uobei and Genki sushi is that sushi you order from your touch pad will shoot straight to your table like on a train. This is preferred over grabbing a plate off the conveyor belt. After all, who knows how many times that piece of nigiri has been around.
Sushiro makes the list because they finally took a stand against annoying and inconsiderate YouTubers, which is something we can probably all get behind. This past March, Sushiro made headlines after one-too-many vloggers tried to pull off the super hilarious stunt of placing their greasy germ ridden GoPro on the conveyor belt. They considered pressing charges and banned taking photos entirely. So while you can no longer impress your Instagram followers with dank uni posts, you can at least enjoy your meal without some aspiring e-celeb ruining the experience.
Sushi Zanmai is the fine dining of cheap conveyor belt sushi and it’s one of the biggest chains in Japan. While not nearly as expensive as authentic sushi restaurants, you will still likely be paying more for most pieces of sushi than you would at another chain on this list. It’s also probably the only kaiten sushi joint where you’ll find modern takes on sushi like avocado and salmon rolls.
If you are looking for cheap, fast, and delicious conveyor belt style sushi, Ganso Sushi is where it’s at. Not only do they have the tastiest tuna you can find for 95 yen, but they also have the best tasting bintoro (albacore tuna) out of all the kaiten sushi chains in this author’s opinion.
Ganso Sushi also tends to feel Japanese. Shops are small, cramped, and you get a bird’s eye view of the chef making your sushi. It’s a great way to experience Japanese culture, as you’ll need to shout to the taisho (sushi chef) with your order in Japanese. If you’re lucky, they’ll have a beat up English menu held together with scotch tape that you can point and grunt at, but you really shouldn’t feel shy using your Japanese here. This is about as far as you can get from Jiro Dreams of Sushi.