When Eating Kaiten Sushi, Don’t Make This Fatal Mistake

When Eating Kaiten Sushi, Don’t Make This Fatal Mistake

Want more UJ? Get our FREE newsletter 

Need a preview? See our archives

Revolving Sushi no-no
Pictures: saa / PIXTA(ピクスタ); Canva
It's easy to breach etiquette when traveling. But even 1 in 10 Japanese people say they've made this error at revolving (kaiten) sushi restaurants.

Kaiten sushi, or revolving conveyor belt sushi, is a fun Japanese culinary experience. Recently, despite being the subject of some controversy, it’s been making a comeback.

If you’re worried about breaching etiquette at a kaiten sushi restaurant, don’t sweat it. Rest assured that even Japanese people don’t always get it right. Indeed, in a recent survey, more than 1 in 10 people in Japan confessed to this faux pas.

Is the kaiten sushi boom returning?

Picture:

Kaiten sushi restaurants distribute affordable sushi and sashimi on a revolving conveyor belt from which people pick their favorites. Customers can also fresh-order certain dishes, along with drinks and side dishes such as gyoza, which some stores send out on an “express line.”

First created in 1958, the concept exploded and grew over the next few decades. However, it’s It’s been a rough few years for the restaurant model. Before the global health crisis, many chains were contending with how to address issues regarding waste. Many were abandoning the revolving belt – which only accounted for 15% of sales in some chains – and dedicating themselves to on-demand orders.

Then, in 2023, a wave of “sushi terrorism” hit the Internet. Ne’er-do-wells seeking TikTok or Instagram fame uploaded videos of themselves licking soy sauce containers or dumping wasabi on other peoples’ sushi. As a result, more chains abandoned the revolving belt. Several filed charges against the aggressors.

Now, with the return of tourists to Japan, kaiten sushi is more popular than ever. To Japanese citizens and residents, the stores represent the affordable end of sushi experiences. For many foreigners, however, the very idea of “sushi in Japan” makes the experience feel luxurious and high-end. The concept is so popular that it’s expanded overseas, with chains like Kura having restaurants around the world.

What did I order again?!

Sushi

The combination of revolving sushi plus the special order line can create confusion, however. According to one recent survey, a not insubstantial number of people admit that they’ve completely forgotten their orders before.

Advertisements

Online magazine Sirabee surveyed 1,000 men and women between their teens and 60s about their experiences with kaiten sushi. Of those surveyed, a full 13.9% admit they’ve forgotten that they’ve placed a special order.

Source: Sirabee

As part of their effort to reduce food waste, some kaiten sushi restaurants have built functionality into their ordering tablets at seats to announce when an ordered item is coming. However, some Internet users sheepishly admit that, even with those reminders, they sometimes forget to grab their order.

Eating the kitchen’s mistakes

One woman in her 30s recalls forgetting her order once when she was in middle school. She was eating at a kaiten sushi place that had just opened up nearby with her family. She said she was so involved in snagging new plates from the conveyer that she didn’t realize she’d forgotten her order until an employee brought it to her.

“It was a holiday and crowded, so I was mortified I’d cause so much trouble,” she said. “Also I remember being chewed out by my dad.”

Another man in his 20s says he once ordered a “frozen mango” dessert. When he saw a “mango parfait” pass by, he assumed it was for someone else. However, after seeing it go around and around, he realized the kitchen had made a mistake with his order.

“If I left it as if it’d melt and they’d toss it, which is a waste,” he said. “So I ate it. It was delicious.” He says the staff straightened things out for him when he paid his bill.

If you go to Japan any time soon, by all means enjoy your kaiten sushi experience. Just don’t get so wrapped up in the shiny objects on the conveyor that you forget what you ordered.

Sources

せっかく注文したのに… 回転寿司でおよそ1割の客がやらかしてしまうこと. Sirabee

回転寿司 訪日客に人気は変わり種. LiveDoor News

訪日外国人からみた日本の“食”に関する調査. Nochu Bank

Want more UJ? Get our FREE newsletter 

Need a preview? See our archives

Jay Allen

Jay is a resident of Tokyo where he works as a reporter for Unseen Japan and as a technial writer. A lifelong geek, wordsmith, and language fanatic, he has level N1 certification in the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) and is fervently working on his Kanji Kentei Level 2 certification.

Japan in Translation

Subscribe to our free newsletter for a weekly digest of our best work across platforms (Web, Twitter, YouTube). Your support helps us spread the word about the Japan you don’t learn about in anime.

Want a preview? Read our archives

You’ll get one to two emails from us weekly. For more details, see our privacy policy