After Hours: Akishima's Hamazushi belts out inexpensive sushi, fast food
One of the manliest skills anyone can have is the ability to catch his own dinner.
But if a baiting a hook and sitting in a boat for a couple of hours isn’t your thing, you can still catch your dinner at one of Japan’s many sushi trains.
Kaiten zushi — literally meaning conveyor belt sushi but more affectionately known in English as a sushi train — offers a fast food alternative to the dish nearly everyone immediately thinks of when asked about Japanese cuisine.
The concept is simple: The chef assembles each bite-size roll on a small plate, places the plate on a conveyor belt and off it goes winding through the restaurant until someone’s inner huntsman tracks it and catches it. After the meal, an attendant will come by, count the plates and total the bill.
There are dozens of well-recognized sushi train chain restaurants and thousands more small, family-owned places throughout Japan. Though sushi is the obvious draw, anything from fried chicken to apple pie can find itself rolling down the belt, making it easy for even the pickiest of eaters to find something to eat.
Among one of the least expensive sushi train chains is Hamazushi. There are 120 locations dotting Japan, meaning there’s probably at least one near every American military base. The one I went to is in Akishima, about a 10-minute drive outside Yokota Air Base’s east gate.
Weekdays are the cheapest days to visit Hamazushi, with each plate running about 90 yen, or roughly 88 cents. On the weekends, Hamazushi raises the price of each plate, but only by 10 yen.
With each plate holding one or two pieces of sushi or the occasional bowl of edamame, the price of each person’s meal is only limited to how much one can eat. Or how thick the wallet is that day.
More important than the price, sushi trains allow guests to be as adventurous or conservative as they want. Tuna, salmon and shrimp pass by just as frequently as squid, natto (a fermented soybean salad with a pungent smell) and pickled eggplant.
Another major advantage of the sushi train for those who don’t speak Japanese or aren’t comfortable with it yet; there is no need to converse with the staff. Instead, the food comes to you. For those who do use the menu to order a specific plate, the menus are often touchscreen and require no human interaction. This doesn’t mean you won’t ever see a whole, raw baby squid trucking by at one-half kilometer per hour, but it does mean that plate won’t end up in front of you by accident.
Serves: Conveyer belt sushi, ramen, fried chicken and other typical Japanese fast foods.
Location: We visited Akishima City, Tsutsuzigaoka 2-8-45, but there are 119 more around Japan. See http://tinyurl.com/q4b92x8 (in Japanese only).
Price: 90 to 100-yen per plate, budget about 1,500-yen per adult or 500-yen for young children.
Website: www.hamazushi.com (in Japanese only).