Going On A Kaiten-zushi Date? Remember These 10 Faux-Pas To Avoid!

Going On A Kaiten-zushi Date? Remember These 10 Faux-Pas To Avoid!

by Michelle "Ms. Geek" Klein-Hass

Kaiten-zushi, also known as conveyor belt sushi, is a popular inexpensive date night in Japan. And there have been many conveyor belt sushi chains that have opened worldwide as well, so it's not really that unusual to see them in big cities in the US too. There have been places serving these inexpensive little bites of sushi in Los Angeles, anyway, since the 1970s. 

Sure, it's not as impressive as a date at Jiro's expensive little sushi bar. But the average person can afford it more, and usually getting a seat at the bar is a lot easier. (Unless you are talking about Kula Sushi in Little Tokyo on a Saturday Night.) 

However, just as there are rules for eating sushi, there are specific rules for eating at a kaiten-sushi establishment. These rules come from a Japanese site, but are pretty much universal. Your date is watching, and judging, you on your form. Commit these to memory.

10.) Engaging in a sushi eating competition with your neighbor. 

You'd think this needn't be mentioned. But the temptation to play "quien es mas macho" with your sushi bar neighbor seems to be a problem in Japan. Remember: you're paying for what you eat. And think of what your date thinks of you! 

9.) Making your date pay for your plates unless it's already been established the meal is one person's treat.

This is the modern world, people! Stack up your own stack of plates, and make sure you brought your own money or your own plastic. If your partner decides to make the grand gesture of paying for your plates too at the end, that's something else entirely. But make sure you plan to pay for your own plates as a "plan A."

8.) Pouring only your cup of tea, sake, or your dish of soy sauce.

This is kind of Japan-specific. There is etiquette for who pours for whom in Japan, and it's kind of coded as to status. At an English tea, you also pour for your friends as a courtesy.  However, it's nice to do this for each other, especially if this really is a date. 

7.) The long reach over the other lane to grab a plate.

I've not seen this happen most places I've been to that have conveyor belt sushi. Most of the time you have a conveyor belt arranged in a circle or oblong around the sushi chefs. But I suppose that there are places that have two or more "lanes" of sushi. Wait until the plate comes to you, or order what you want. 

6.) Returning a plate you grabbed by accident to the belt.

You pick it, you eat it. Would you want to eat sushi from a plate that's been handled by someone you don't know? Didn't think so. Don't do it.

5.) Making an order, then ignoring it as it comes by.

Don't be a baka. When you order a particular item, and it finally comes to you, you'd better take it and eat it. That sushi chef took the time and trouble to make you what you wanted. Don't insult him by not eating it.

4.) Taking a plate someone else ordered.

OK, that's a real jerk move. Actually most places will hand you your custom order without putting it on the conveyor belt. But if they don't, be aware that the plate that passes you by might be someone's custom order. Communication is better than misunderstanding.

3.) Getting ticked about the wait time before getting into the restaurant.

Again, not usually an issue here Stateside unless you are talking Kula Sushi in Little Tokyo on a Saturday Night. Don't go to one of these places ravenous. Think of this as a tasting menu. Maybe get a snack to take the edge off your hunger before going on your date.

2.) Wearing strong perfume/cologne at the restaurant.

Sushi is delicate. You not only taste with your tongue, but with your nose. If you've got some really obnoxious, smelly perfume on, you not only spoil it for yourself, but for your fellow guests. 

And the one big no-no for Kaiten-sushi dates is...(drum roll please)

1.) Eating the topping from your sushi and leaving the rice.

Ooh, this one's a biggie, and I see it a lot with Americans having sushi. The word "sushi" refers not to what's on top of the rice, or what's surrounded by rice in the case of a roll, but to the vinegar seasoned rice itself. If you want some sashimi, go ahead and order some sashimi. But the rice is part of the sushi. Rice is a food with a lot of symbolism in Japan, and the Japanese "mottainai" ethic means wasting food (or anything) is a bad thing. Considering the "small tastes" nature of Kaiten-zushi, it's probably not that much there anyway. Clean your plate, cowboy.