Japan’s Most Popular Conveyor Belt Sushi Restaurants Among Foreign Residents

Japan’s Most Popular Conveyor Belt Sushi Restaurants Among Foreign Residents

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Conveyor belt sushi
Picture: YO / PIXTA(ピクスタ)
It may be under fire in Japan but conveyor belt sushi is still a popular way to grab a quick bite without breaking the bank. Here are the ones that foreign residents ranked as their favorites in a recent survey.

The popularity of conveyor belt kaiten zushi restaurants has been on the decline for years, with businesses moving away from the iconic revolving delivery system over hygiene concerns. But thanks to ease of access, diverse menus with side dishes and fusion blends, touch panels with multilingual support for easy ordering, relatively cheap prices, and overseas locations, kaiten zushi chains are also drawing in more foreign residents than ever before.

A classic kaiten zushi setup (Source: Wikipedia)

Yolo Work, a job information website targeted to non-Japanese workers, asked users living in Japan to name their favorite kaitenzushi restaurants. There were a total 164 respondents (a bit small, but still indicative of larger trends) hailing from 48 countries including the Phillipines, the US, and Brazil. Most of the respondents live in Japan as students and spouses of Japanese partners.

Here are their top ten kaiten zushi restaurants:

10. Sushi Choushimaru (すし銚子丸)

Sushi Choushimaru
Ad for Sushi Choushimaru.

Founded in 1977, Sushi Choushimaru opened its first location in 1987 and is local to Chiba, Tokyo, Saitama, and Kanagawa. Prices tend to be a little higher than other chains, with most plates starting at 180 yen.

Like many kaitenzushi restaurants, it’s had to pivot from the traditional conveyor belt method due to customers with abysmal hygienic manners. In February 2023, a location in Yokohama found discarded e-cigarette cartridges in pickled ginger dishes. The company subsequently suspended conveyor belt operations and removed toppings and small plates from tables.

9. Kaitensushi Misaki (回転寿司みさき)

Up until 2021, Kaitensushi Misaki was known as Kaisen Misakikou. This is the oldest chain restaurant on the list, having started as the traditional Japanese ryotei restaurant Kyotaru in the 1930s before expanding into the kaitenzushi market in 1997. Misaki prides itself on using red vinegar sushi rice with a mild acidity for a subtly richer flavor. Most plates start at 121 yen, and most locations are easy to find near train stations and other public hubs.

8. Nigiri Chojiro (にぎり長次郎 )

Nigiri Chojiro reigns in the Kanto region and offers slightly pricier fare than your average kaitenzushi restaurant. In operation since 1979, this chain is popular for its cozy homey atmosphere and wide variety of standard and seasonal menus.  

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7. Sushizanmai (すしざんまい)

A smaller chain with only 49 locations, Sushizanmai boasts an expansive menu and average prices. It also makes the news every year when CEO and self-styled “Tuna King” Kimura Kiyoshi spends a fortune bidding at the New Year tuna auction. Some locations have life-sized statues outside to welcome (or terrify) customers.

A statue of Kimura Kiyoshi outside the Sushizanmai in Osaka (Source: Wikipedia)

6. Genki Sushi (元気寿司)

Genki Sushi currently operates 9 locations in Tochigi, Ibaraki, and Fukushima prefectures, featuring typical sushi fare with prices starting at 110 yen. In 2013 the company discontinued conveyor belt operations in favor of touch-panel ordering that offers English, Chinese, and Korean language options. Genki Sushi is also starting to expand in the US, with locations in the Hawaiian islands and Washington state.

5. Uobei (魚べい)

Owned by the same group behind Genki Sushi, Uobei is cheaper than its sibling brand with the same high quality. They’re known for speedy servicing thanks to a high-speed delivery lane that runs above a regular lane. Uobei has also been aggressive in its overseas operations, boasting 192 locations worldwide compared to its 165 nationwide.

4. Kappa Sushi (かっぱ寿司)

Named after the river-dwelling creature of Japanese folklore, Kappa Sushi maintains a diverse menu, including a kids menu, at low prices. They launched their super-popular all-you-can-eat menu in 2017. The story goes the founder tried to put a spin on the conveyor belt method by floating plates of sushi in water to customers, similar to nagashi somen, but the company hasn’t verified if this is a myth or fact.

3. Kura Sushi (くら寿司)

The second-largest sushi chain in Japan, Kura Sushi places a premium on food safety and quality, having eliminated all four major food additives in all their ingredients from toppings to seafood. Kura Sushi’s also led the way towards stricter food hygiene and customer satisfaction, including adding plastic covers for every plate and using AI software to monitor lanes for any suspicious handling of foods.

2. Hamazushi (はま寿司)

Hamazushi currently operates over 500 locations nationwide, an impressive feat since its only been around since 2002. In 2017 they installed the multilingual humanoid Pepper robots to act as receptionists. After a spate of social media posts in 2020 lamenting the absence of Pepper, the company confirmed the quiet removal of the robots from most locations, switching to touch panel support instead. Hamazushi has suffered not one but two high-profile “sushi terrorism” incidents, but this hasn’t put a dent in their popularity.

1. Sushiro (スシロー)

Sushiro sushi ad
Ad for Sushiro from their Web site.

Surprising no one, Sushiro claims the number one spot as the most popular kaiten zushi chain among foreign residents. They’re the largest chain nationwide and a familiar presence overseas in Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore, and more. They expanded their services to takeout and delivery in 2020 to meet high demand during the pandemic.

Like Hamazushi and others, Sushiro’s also dealt with sushi terrorism. Last year, videos went viral of a customer rubbing a nigiri sushi with a spit-slicked finger, then proceeding to lick a soy sauce dispenser. Sushiro temporarily suspended lane delivery services and resumed with restrictions in May 2023, but by October Sushiro announced it would terminate the classic method for good.

Sources

日本在住外国人がよく行く回転寿司チェーン店ランキングTOP10【YOLO総研】. Yolo Work

すし銚子丸「回転やめます」…迷惑行為対策で店員が直接客席に、価格別の色皿も廃止. Yomiuri Shinbun

スシローの進化についていけなかったかっぱ寿司. IT Media

はま寿司の店頭から「ペッパー」が消えた 2年前は受付担当で大活躍だったのに. J-Cast

スシロー「回るすし」再開せず 水留F&LC社長が言及. Nikkei

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Alyssa Pearl Fusek

Alyssa Pearl Fusek is a freelance writer currently haunting the Pacific Northwest. She holds a B.A. in Japanese Studies from Willamette University. When she's not writing for Unseen Japan, she's either reading about Japan, writing poetry and fiction, or drinking copious amounts of jasmine green tea. Find her on Bluesky at @apearlwrites.

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