Being back in Japan has made us realise just how much we miss the place. It’s really hard to describe just what it is that we love so much, but a trip to a kaitenzushi-ya the other night illustrates much of it.
Sushi is, as you know, raw fish. We know it isn’t everyone’s taste but we really enjoy eating most types of sushi. It took us about 4 years of living here to even begin to appreciate it though. Anyway, kaiten mean rotating or revolving. So, kaitenzushi is literally rotating sushi. Try this video we took to get an idea of what a kaitenzushi-ya is all about:
In the video you can see the sushi moving along the belt through the restaurant. You don’t have to move from the booth. All you need is right there. Hot water for green tea (which you can see Setsuko making from green tea powder), soy sauce… even ordering is done through the touch sensitive computer screen above the belt. The belt goes all the way through the restaurant past all 40 or so of the booths.
You can take anything you want off the belt. But if you want something in particular, you order it through the computer menu and it arrives on a special plate which says it’s a special order. Each plate costs Y100 (about 73p/$1.17) and you can eat as much as you want. When you’ve finished a plate, you drop it through the plate slot you can see at the end of the table below the belt. The plates then get returned to the kitchen automatically.
Every 15th plate, you get the opportunity to win a prize through the computer screen when you play a little game. Yuta, the boy with us, won a beach ball as a prize after playing one of these games. He was really keen for us to get 15 plates finished. In the end, we ate 40 plates between us.
We finished off with a novelty: an imitation box of sushi that wasn’t what it seemed. Instead of fish etc, they’d used various items to recreate sushi. Instead of rice, they had sweet rice cakes (mochi), on top of this, to simulate sushi, they’d put strips of mango, strawberry jelly, egg custard etc. It looked really realistic but tasted great. Great idea we thought!
There’s so much about this simple experience which we love. It’s so convenient, it’s relatively cheap, there’s a great bustling atmosphere, it’s total fun, it’s interactive and hands on, it has some very ingenious uses of technology and yet it’s very simple, etc. etc.
For a better idea of what a kaitenzushi-ya looks like, check out this amazing video:
Wow. December the 12th was a big day. Who noticed? Well, yes it was the day that we finally finished our training at Wycliffe UK. But while we were doing that, in fact at exactly the same time as we were having our closing ceremony in the UK, 9 time zones away on the other side of Asia, CESA English School in Japan was closing its doors to students for the last time.
We both worked at this school for nearly six years. Some of the students I taught every week during that time. It was an amazing period for us. We learned so much and now have a deep love of Japan as a result of the opportunity to teach there.
I wrote to the owner and asked why it was closing. It seems that student numbers have been dropping consistently over the last few years and it just isn’t viable as a business any more. It would need a huge injection of cash to keep it going. That’s cash the owner simply doesn’t have any more.
The Seto Inland Sea is a very calm piece of water. Because it is surrounded by islands, there usually aren’t many waves. That night, when we finally left it and moved north of Kyushu and out into the Yellow Sea, the water became rougher. I was woken up by the boat pitching and rolling in these waves at about 3am. I could not sleep and so decided to go on deck and look around. Apart from a security guard, watching TV, and the crew on the bridge, there didn’t seem to be anyone else awake at all.