Popular not only throughout Japan, but also now overseas, kaiten sushi (conveyor belt sushi) allows patrons to select their sushi of choice by taking plates off the revolving belt as they pass by.
This casual semi-self-service style, which offers inexpensive prices and transparent accounting, are ideal for families and tourists and have become tremendously popular.
Kaitenzushi got its start in Osaka, after the founder of Genroku Sangyo, the parent company of a small standing sushi restaurant in Fuse, Higashiosaka, visited a beer factory in the city of Suita, Osaka prefecture, and saw bottles rotating around on a conveyer belt and being filled with beer.
His shop was extremely popular, and because he had no time to take orders and then begin preparing them, he kept individual portions of hand-pressed sushi shrimp, squid, and octopus stacked on plates in a pyramid formation, and would hand them to customers as they were ordered.
Understaffed and distressed, he realized that utilizing a conveyer belt would be a helpful labor-saving tool. Fuse is home to numerous small businesses, and he asked one of his regular customers—a manager at a company in the iron industry—to set about developing a conveyer belt. The most difficult challenge was in developing the corners, as the plates were unable to smoothly go around them and often fell off.
Following a long period of struggle, the problem was finally resolved—and the sushi conveyer belt built—several years later. The first conveyer belt in a sushi restaurant, known as a rotating table, opened in 1958.
The apparatus was a huge hit among Osakans, who are known for being fans of all things new and different, and began to appear in other restaurants as well. After being showcased in the Osaka World Expo of 1970, its visibility rose exponentially.
A nationwide sushi conveyer belt popularity boom followed—with the device also serving as a driving force behind sushi’s cultural shift from a luxury item to an everyday household food.
Genroku Sushi restaurant is now found all over the Osaka region.
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