Conveyor Belt Sushi: 7 Tips to Go Wild, Cheaply

Conveyor belt sushi is famous for bringing around Japan's best-known food with no effort, but it's also one of the best ways to eat out cheaply while you're here.

Also known as revolving sushi or kaiten-zushi, the video above sets the scene pretty well. The conveyor runs in a big square. Patrons sit on the outside of the rectangle and chefs work inside the conveyor. They're not in the scene here, but waiters are running around behind the customers clearing tabs and serving drinks. On the conveyor belt are plates of sushi, obviously, but also little ads rolling by promoting seasonal items.

Here are 7 tips that let me leave stuffed for no more than 1500 yen:

Notice how prices are marked by which plate it is. The list of prices, with accompanying plates, will be on the wall somewhere.

Maguro005-Most places will cover 'old' pieces with little plastic lids – don't eat these; they're old and gross.

-The traditional accompaniments are miso soup and beer or green tea. Feel free to order them from a waitress passing by. 

-Expats eating on the cheap grab some 'filler' bites like omelette (tamago) or tofu (inari) and save their taste buds for a little high-quality tuna (or whatever else fits their fancy). Salmon and shrimp can usually be had cheaply, too.

There's more stuff available from the back of the house, like rolls made from fried shrimp or a small plate of fried chicken. There are also desserts (like ice cream or shaved ice), too. It's all probably on a printed menu at your station, but it might be all in Japanese. 

-Expats who speak Japanese order directly from the chefs – it's guaranteed fresh! Say "sumimasen!" to get a chef's attention – don't be afraid to be loud – and ask for a certain fish (you'll need to know the Japanese word) and then sign the number for how many you want. For example, to get two plates of tuna, ask for "maguro" followed by holding up two fingers.

-This expat's favorite dish is negitoro: diced fatty tuna with freshly chopped scallions on top. It's always cheaper than a full toro plate and has a really fun flavor.

The video above is titled "the fastest sushi conveyor belt in Japan," and sure enough those little plates run around faster than I've ever seen. To see a belt get that crowded with plates is pretty typical right as a lunch or dinner rush begins, though.

Lastly, if you need to know about Japanese restaurants serving other cuisines, check our guide to Japanese restaurants.