When it’s in Japan.
We showed up at the 100-Yen-Per-Plate-Sushi-Restaurant-That-Probably-Has-A-Name-But-I-Can’t-Read-It-Because-It’s-In-Japanese and faced the first challenge–checking in. A monitor greets the customers, where you indicate how many in your party and whether you want a booth or counter. We got our ticket (094), whipped out our phones to figure out how to say 94 in Japanese, then settled in for the 15 minute wait. The hostess called out numbers in Japanese, as one does in Japan. I tried to listen for numbers without much luck when Tessa came up with a great idea: if no one else in the waiting area gets up then it’s probably our turn.
Smart girl, that Tessa! Mark had an even better idea: standing near the monitor that showed which number was up.
As our waitress led us to our table she handed us this card and pointed out that we are table 21. She followed this with instructions in Japanese that were probably extremely helpful and likely would have prevented what happened next.
The kids love sushi. Love it! We were familiar with sushi go rounds from home, where the plates of sushi travel on a conveyor and you grab whatever looks good. So we saw sushi going around, and we took what we wanted. Like this.
Including a couple of plates with red under-plates like these:
After grabbing several plates of sushi wily-nilly we had this odd feeling that maybe…we…were…taking…someone….else’s….
And we were. Remember that card above, with tables color-coded? Our table was 21, or white. That meant that our special orders would come on a red under-plate. Each station along our conveyor had a unique color. Unfortunately for everyone else on our conveyor belt, we were seated at the first booth coming out of the kitchen. That meant that we had first crack at stealing everyone else’s food. Yessssss! Thankfully we still paid for the food we ate since the totals are tallied by the used plates in front of you. So the other tables re-ordered and I saw the waitress hand-delivering their re-orders. Sorry, neighbors!
In the States there is a lot of hand-wringing over “non-authentic” sushi–the horror of the California roll, or dragon rolls, or anything with cream cheese. Japan has no problem with this, as proven by the following selections: corn with mayo and egg salad. The Japanese love their mayo and put it on sushi, pizza, you name it.
Back to the special orders. Each booth has its own screen for ordering. Just about every electronic screen in Japan (train tickets, ATMs, etc.) has an English button in the upper right corner. This one did too! Relief. So we started ordering away. About a minute before your plate arrives the screen plays a song and flashes a message about your food arriving soon. If you miss it (or your ignorant/American neighbors steal it) there’s an I-didn’t-get-my-food button.
After about an hour of this we settled up. The waitress came over to tally our plates with a plate ruler–never mind counting plates! The total for the four of us: 4200 yen, or around $35. See you next time, 100 yen per plate sushi restaurant!!