The smell of ramen lingers of out of cheap noodle bars on the streets of Tokyo, but you walk on, you want something else. You are on the look out for sushi, the distinct dish of the Japanese cuisine, you don’t have to search far. On every street you have a choice of sushi bars, with a varied price range. For the budget traveler it is best to hunt for the ‘sushi-go-round’. This type of fast food sushi which is surprisingly fresh sits on a conveyor belt and as you choose your dish (and price) depending on the colour of the plate, you can sit back with a varied menu not worrying about the bill.
Conveyor belt sushi was invented by Yoshiaki Shiraishi, he got the idea for what is now a Japanese icon by watching the bottles of beer go round an Asahi brewery. After nearly five years of planning he opened up the first conveyor belt sushi restaurant in Osaka in 1958, eventually opening 250 restaurants all over Japan. From then, with the realisation that it is cheaper and easier to run, this type of restaurant has popped up all over Japan. You won’t have to walk far to find one.
The oldest sushi recipes, dating back to 7th century Japan is known as narezushi. Back when narezusi was first introduced into the diet it was a form of salted fish that was fermented for many weeks, it wasn’t until the 10th century that the fish was stuffed with rice before the fermentation process. Back then sushi had a very pungent smell and didn’t look as appetising as it does spinning round the conveyor belt today.
By 19th century Japan, different cities had developed their own sushi recipes, making the pungent smell and long fermentation process a thing of the past. Modern day sushi is beyond appetising, with a mixture of smells, colours and taste hitting your every sense. Maki sushi (Makizushi) is the most common form outside Asia, it is sushi rolls filled with anything from chicken and avocado to tuna.
Inside Japan it isn’t so popular, they have other recipes to choose from. Nigiri sushi, the vinegar rice topped with raw fish or vegetables is most common in conveyor belt restaurants but you will find oshi sushi, chirashi sushi, inari sushi, oniiri in various locations around Japan.
Thought to be one of the greatest sushi restaurants in Japan, and there after the world is in Tokyo. Sukiyabashi Jiro is a tiny sushi bar run by the chef Jiro Ono, whats so good about this sushi? Well, it is argued that you can’t compare it to a standard conveyor belt restauraunt, it uses fresher ingredients and more passion. But what you can compare is the price, a full sushi meal will set you back between $300-$400. I can just imagine how much conveyor belt sushi you could eat with that.
But 85 year old Jiro and his story is so famous that there has been a documentary made about him, which may, if you can afford it entice you to visit his world class 10 seater sushi restaurant.