Conveyor belt sushi is popular among foreign tourists to Japan. It's not only for the sushi itself. The conveyor belt sushi restaurants also offer a variety of side dishes.
Today, we went to the popular conveyor-belt sushi chain Kappa Sushi. Kappa Sushi is among the pioneers of the now very popular “100-yen sushi.” The first Kappa Sushi restaurant was opened in Nagano City, Nagano Prefecture in 1979. In 2019, the company has been in business for 40 years, and has now 325 stores nationwide, with a large fanbase of all ages.
Today, we visited Kappa Sushi with Timothy, from the U.S. We will look into all the dishes, including the side dishes!
Today, Timothy, our English editor from the United States, is surveying Kappa Sushi!
“It’s been a while since my first time to Kappa Sushi! I’m really looking forward to it because there are some unusual items that you will not find in other conveyor-belt sushi chains!”
We are looking forward to hearing what you think!
In recent years, more and more Kappa Sushi stores have upgraded to touch-panel ordering systems, rather than simply grabbing dishes from the belt.
When you order something, the item is made on the spot and delivered fresh right to you. It’s nice to be able to always eat a freshly made dish. Even at shops where the touch panel is in Japanese, but the photos are very clear, so it will be easy to order even for foreigners who are not comfortable with the language, but if you have any issue, feel free to call the staff.
In addition, Kappa Sushi has a take-out service for most items on the menu. If you order online, you can pick up your order with almost no waiting time, making the experience even more convenient.
The most popular item on the menu! “Maguro Tuna” (100 yen + tax)
With the exception of only one prefecture, the most popular item in Kappa Sushi stores is the tuna (more on this later...)
“I'll try eating with my hands,” said Timothy
“It’s really good! After all, the tuna is quite fresh and the shari (rice) is delicious. It’s amazing that this tuna is only 100 yen for two pieces!”
The thing is that the tuna is frozen immediately after being caught. The thawing system changes depending on the place, but this is a special dish that is cut and prepared in the store. The cutting is done by skilled craftsmen. In fact, only 2-3 people in each store can do it!
The tuna is one of the highest quality products among all Kappa Sushi items, making it even more amazing to have for that price. It’s very popular among customers.
The shari is very particular, and even though the 325 stores around the nation are all of the same company, the composition of the rice changes from region to region, making it more connected to the territory. “I could eat 10 of these. The texture of the tuna is great. I understand why everyone likes it.”
Popular in Nagano Prefecture! “Salad Gunkan Sushi” (100 yen + tax)
Nagano prefecture is the one exception to the popularity of tuna in Kappa Sushi branches around Japan. In Nagano Prefecture, the most popular item is the “Salad Gunkan Sushi,” a popular soul food. It’s not clear why it’s so popular, but it seems to have originated in Nagano Prefecture, and it was originally promoted on the menu.
Let's try this Salad Gunkan Sushi. “It’s sweater than I expected. I like the sweetness of the mayonnaise. It’s really good. It has a good chewy texture.” Timothy is right. The chewy texture he detected is squid, and the geso and kanikama are seasoned with mayo.
There is a trick to eating this dish! Add wasabi to it.
Then add the sweet sauce.
At first, it’s a little intimidating to eat so much wasabi in one shot, but then...
“First of all, I can’t feel the wasabi spiciness at all! I can taste the flavor, but not strongly, and the sauce is delicious! I actually like to eat raw wasabi, but this way it’s even better by having the wasabi flavor be milder.”
Despite a lot of wasabi, the spiciness is mild, thanks to the sauce. This way of eating, thought to be a good match when accompanying sake, is also a popular way in Kappa Sushi. “This sauce... it might be good over vanilla ice cream!”
This sweet and spicy sauce reminds of mitarashi flavor, and it seems to be a good match with anything from sushi to desserts.
Healing homemade warm flavor: “Chawan Mushi” (180 yen + tax)
The most popular side dish is ramen, but “Chawan Mushi” is always in the top 10 among the popular items. The dish is prepared in store upon order. What makes it popular is its unique flavor and texture.
“The natural sweetness of the eggs and the fragrance of the shiitake mushrooms are delicious. The flavor has a handmade feeling that makes it easy to love. I thought it looked like pudding, so when I bit down I was surprised by the taste (laughs).”
Also, if you add a little soy sauce, it becomes an even better match with sake.
Timothy's favorite: “Shari cheese-dog” (100 yen + tax)
“I’ve been waiting for this!" exclaimed Timothy, "In fact this is the dish I was most interested in, among the handmade sushi items."
"Upon eating it, I was very happy. It tasted just as good as I expected!”
“I guess it’s nacho cheese. It’s thick, but not too much and it’s really good with the sausage. The sausage also has a smoked flavor and aroma, and a solid texture.”
Recently the Shari Cheese Dog has been upgraded with new sausages, and has an even better taste.
“It also has a visual appeal. I've never had rice and sausage wrapped in seaweed. You can’t even find it at the convenience stores!”
Recommended by both Timothy and the store! Authentic “Kalbi Beef Nigiri” (100 yen + tax)
This is another meat-based sushi dish, Timothy was excited to try.
Kappa Sushi puts a lot of effort into meat-based sushi, so a new line of products was created for these items in particular. The kalbi beef is prepared in the oven and then grilled. The manager of the store also recommends it.
“It’s delicious! I like meat sushi a lot. The meat itself looks like a slice off a rib from a yakiniku restaurant, and the sauce is delicious. I’m sure both young people and adults would like this.”
By matching the meat with vinegar rice, you can experience this conveyor-belt restaurant's unique take on the donburi (rice dish).
Once you start eating you can't stop: “Fried gyoza” (180 yen + tax)
Next up, the popular fried gyoza side dish.
“I really like the crispy dough! When I eat gyoza I always add some sauce, but even without, these ones taste great! I could have 20 or 30 of them.”
As expected, the gyoza was liked. Even though they are fried, they don’t feel heavy, and once you start eating them, you won’t want to stop.
“Good! It's like popcorn. The more you eat, the more you want to eat. If you come with your friends, it’s going to be a gyoza battle (laughs).”
Popular soup! Original “Kichijoji Musashi Family Ramen” (390 yen + tax)
This soy sauce ramen dish is the top ranked in the side-dish menu. It was created with the supervision of Musashi store in Kichijoji, a dish that since it was released became more and more popular, selling faster than any other (at the time of the interview).
“This is not a side menu ramen! It’s serious ramen. It’s delicious!” It tastes authentic and cannot be classified as a side dish.
The difference between this ramen and others is that it comes from a ramen restaurant recipe. The taste, thickness of the noodles, its size, etc, are all based on the original dish but adapted to make it a proper side dish for sushi.
You can also dip dumplings with seaweed and spinach, making “Mashimashi,” or top it with egg.
However, since the ramen series is always limited, it’s displayed on a different menu. From December 13, a new “Shinsen” supervised by “Shinkei Kanazawa Miso Ramen” has been introduced (390 yen + tax). Rich and flavorful miso ramen is perfect for cold winters. Try it!
Plenti of umami! Perfect for sushi: “Kai no Shio Ramen” (300 yen + tax)
This dish is “Shell Ramen” with plenty of big clams and packed with umami.
“I like hot soups with a lot of light clams. There's nothing like the scent of shellfish. It feels like a western soup. The flavor is really deep!”
Timothy seemed to like the salted ramen soup. Kappa Sushi specializes in “Ramen that goes with sushi.” Both the size and the seasoning make you feel the full commitment of the restaurant.
It’s like a sweets specialty store! Premium pudding with a smooth texture (200 yen + tax)
Kappa Sushi also focuses on desserts and has been developing various dishes in recent years. One of the most popular is this pudding.
“Delicious! It’s smooth, not too sweet, and the caramel isn’t too strong. This is not what I expected from a sushi restaurant!”
This smooth-textured pudding had a lot of customers asking “why is this not for take-out?” If you taste it, you will understand why.
Endless combinations! Soy sauce caramel ice cream (200 yen + tax)
This soy sauce caramel ice cream got Timothy curious.
“Good! I wonder what it is... I have had soy sauce ice cream before, but it’s the first time I taste one like this. Rather than the taste of soy sauce, it has the aroma and impact of a caramel latte.”
An here is a trick to make it even better: sprinkle “kappa tea” powder on it!
By the way, you can also buy “kappa tea” from the stores.
“Kappa Sushi soy sauce for sushi” (45- yen + tax) and “Kappa Tea” (powdered brown rice tea)” (216 yen + tax) *also available in original cans
Another way to enjoy the ice cream is the “Choi soy sauce version.” Also delicious!
What are Timothy's top three favorite items?
“It was all delicious, but if I had to choose one, I would probably go with the ‘kalbi beef nigiri.’”
“Another one is the ‘Salad Gunkan.’ I like salad rolls in general, but this particular one has a little sweetness, good texture, and a good balance all around. The sweetness of the mayonnaise was delicious, and even more so with the sweet sauce.”
“The other one would probably be the ‘salted shellfish ramen.’ The clams were big enough and they were delicious. In a sushi restaurant I eat a lot of rice, so, when it comes to soups, the shellfish broth was better than miso soup. It’s a perfect combination with sushi."
Enjoy it however you like! That is the beauty of the conveyor-belt sushi
“When I was a child, I was told I could not play with food, but here I can combine and try new things, in a manner that makes me feel like playing while eating. Sometimes I may not know how to eat it ‘right,’ but it’s fun to be able to explore and try new things. It makes it for a more relaxing and enjoyable experience with friends.”
When it comes to Japanese food in general and sushi in particular, you may think that it’s high-end and “stiff,” but the beauty of Kappa Sushi is that you can use different seasonings and combinations to find the best for you. It’s also nice to be in a restaurant where you can make your own dining experience.
"Whether you want to try fish, meat, ramen or something else - it's great that you can sit down at a conveyor belt sushi shop like this and fill your tummy. I think everyone would want to give Kappa Sushi a go when they visit Japan!"
Kappa Sushi has started a new ramen menu with a focus on meat since December. If you're curious after reading this article, visit the shop and discover new ways to enjoy your meal!
Written by: Miyuki Yajima
Kappa Sushi Nerima
2-18-16, Nishiki, Nerima-ku, Tokyo
The nearest station is Tobu Nerima Station on the Tobu Tojo Line. 10 minutes walking from the South exit
Hours: Weekdays 11:00am-11:00pm, Saturdays, Sundays, Holidays 10:00am-11:00pm
Last order: 30 minutes before closing time