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Hidemi Woods 

Singer, Songwriter and Author from Kyoto, Japan.

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Hidemi’s Rambling No.521

I happened to find a conveyor belt sushi restaurant in the city where I often go shopping. For those who aren’t familiar with it, let me explain what it is. Conveyor belt sushi is a self-service system to serve sushi on a narrow conveyor that winds around the restaurant. Sushi is put on a small plate by two pieces, or by one piece for an expensive kind, and those plates are continuously moving on the conveyor. Tables are set along the conveyor and a customer grabs a desired plate when it passes by. Usually it costs $1 per plate, and a customer pays according to the number of their empty plates. Tea and condiments are free. I hadn’t eaten at a conveyor belt sushi restaurant for years and during my absence, it has made remarkable progress. The place I got in was one of the major chains and had a state-of-the-art system. For a customer who wanted to order a kind other than what were going around on the conveyor, there was a touch screen display above each table. It showed a huge variety of sushi and all I had to do to place an order was just select and touch. An additional, express conveyor was running above the normal conveyor and the plates of my order were riding on a miniature bullet train. The train appeared from the kitchen, running fast on the additional conveyor, and stopped at my table. After I picked up the plates from the bullet train and touched ‘OK’ on the display, the train went back in the kitchen. I had never seen anything like that. The place fascinated me entirely. It was spacious and clean with a modern, westernized atmosphere, western background music, and a booth. Eating was done without seeing people working there except when I entered and when I paid. That I didn’t have to watch a hardheaded sushi chef was so comfortable and felt free. And the variety on their menu was amazing. In addition to popular kinds of sushi, they had the original sushi like roast pork, duck pastrami, hamburger steak and so on. It wasn’t just sushi coming on the conveyor. They had different kinds of miso soup, tempura, fried chicken and desserts. Above all, almost every plate was only $1 so that I had as much sushi as I could eat! It was so exciting to spot my favorite kind on the conveyor and see its plate moving toward my table from the far end. It’s also thrilling to see if other customer might pick it up before me. The bullet train was extreme fun. I enjoyed even watching it carry other table’s order and passing through my table with a small wheel sound. I touched ‘Checkout’ on the screen display when I finished eating. A server came to my table and counted the empty plate I stacked up high. I received the bill and paid at the cashier. They didn’t take a credit card and accepted cash only. The payment method was terribly low-tech somehow. While I wish to eat there as often as I can, my partner said he couldn’t because he felt dizzy as he watched so many sushi plates coming and going around him…

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