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The Big Mac & fries guys guide to cheap sushi.

Welcome to the fun world of cheap sushi--at this popular chain most plates are only \105 yen (= about $0.85 before BushCheney ran a shiv through america, and about $1.25 today).

...belly up to the counter and we'll show you what's what.

two fresh plates of katsuo tataki かつおたたき seared bonito topped here with grated ginger and thin chopped green onion.

the entrance to kappa zushi...a popular and cheap kaiten sushi restaurant. kaiten is the revolving sushi, where the sushi is already placed on small plates by the sushi chefs in the kitchen, and you grab any plate you like as it cruises past on the conveyor belt. your bill is tabulated by waitresses who count the number of plates in your stack and multiply.

here are the 2 kappa, japanese mythical water creatures that eat cucumbers (!?!), mascots of this chain. on the placard are two nigiri portions of maguro, raw tuna, sort of the classic beginners sushi.

and the real stuff on plates, spinning by, this conveyor travels from R to L; in the background are a couple of stuffed nori wrapped sushi (called gunkan ぐんかん after a type of military ship it apparently resembles) traveling from L to R back the other way to another part of the restaurant, usually via the kitchen. for cheap  sushi, these small filets look thick, juicy and well-balanced.

see them suckers, sucker?!

not for beginners, straight out of Star Wars...that is raw octopus namatako 生たこ carpaccio smothered in raw onions and  vinaigrette. I personally don't eat this; raw octopus is bland & rubbery--it fights back when you chew it. and the sucker cups attach to your tongue if conditions are right.

salmon yakitoro 焼きとろ grilled fatty belly of salmon. beautiful thick stripes of healthy omega-3 rich fat and tender pink flesh, slightly charred to release the fat and add a smoke finish to the melty salmon filet. heart smart & yummy!

hold the bagel!   a common way to find salmon served is on a pillow of vinegared rice, drizzled with mayonnaise and under a pile of raw onions. sometimes this is called just salmon, sometimes, more clearly, onion-salmon.

they eat a lot of onions in this country. FYI

everyone loves salmon, so here's more. just plain, in pairs on the pillow of rice, the classic presentation known as nigiri.

saba さば a kind of mackerel. topped with a dollop of fresh grated ginger & thin chopped green onions.

ahh...unagi うなぎ. delicious broiled freshwater eel. this is the kind of food we yanks never ate before we get here, but is delicious and healthy...except probably not these plates.  all the cheap unagi in this country comes from the chemical injection cesspool farms in china and should be avoided like The Plague, which it may in fact induce.  see Note #1 below.

a bit of fun efficient shtick at this restaurant.  you can also choose any dish you want--even if it is already spinning around on the belt but you want to be a fussy demanding & wasteful prick. at most places you summon up the sack and bellow out your order to the guy wielding the knife behind the counter.  here you poke around a photo menu on a touch screen monitor like you're playing video slots. after a bit, this toy shinkansen bullet train--driven by 2 kappa monsters!--comes hissing along this rack over the conveyor and stops at "your station". you learn quickly that there is a lot of gratuitous entertainment thrown around in this country.

food that looks back...full size prawns, boiled, which don't freak me out anywhere near as much as they first did, as I have eaten the head and ass off many a creature since moving to this country.

 

eggs. nuff said.  I don't eat them. for kids.

nama ebi = 生海老 = raw shrimp.  here butterflied and placed on the sushi rice. see Note #2 below regarding the kanji character circled in yellow.

yay!!! kitty chan grape juice.  cute, has 20% real grape juice to 80% kitty juice...and packed with fiber. (also fiber apple and calcium orange, which you can see below or maybe on page 2).

an always welcome friend in japan...the picture menu

this plastic laminated menu shows the more normal traditional nigiri sushi on this side (fish on rice--but the word sushi actually refers to the vinegared rice, NOT the fish, interestingly enough) and...

something a little more funky fresh on the back.  rolls, pickles, roe, seafood salads...many wrapped horizontally in thin bands of nori のり (dried laver seaweed paper) which makes a collar above the rice to hold in the goods--called gunkan ぐんかん after a type of military ship it resembles.

 

some boiled sweet shrimp buried in an avalanche of avocado, raw onions and mayonnaise. not my favorite.

true crab legs--not krazy krab pressed fish cake striped with red dye # 79--boiled and served nigiri style.

hi kappa-chan! a close-up shot of a used sushi plate sporting our heroes.

a version of kappa maki or cucumber roll. this one has chopped pickled purple shiso leaves. maki denotes this type  cylindrical rolled sushi, with the nori seaweed on the outside, and fish or pickles at the center, wrapped in a blanket of sushi rice. a lot of people eat this with their fingers.

tekka maki the rolled tuna cone. fresh slabs of maguro wrapped in sushi rice and finally the nori. amazingly, much food in japan looks exactly like the picture. (remember the classic "What's wrong with this picture!?!" hamburger scene in Michael Douglas' Falling Down? Not here.) Even Big Macs look like the picture!  I'm lovin' it!

 

tobiwo - flying fish roe. nice crunchy pop and not the fishy salty rank of the more common salmon roe ikura いくら。 I saw a flying fish flying once in japan... sailing alongside the boat off Izu for like a mile (1.73 km). amazing... huge eyes, and big long fins that look a lot more like wings. Cool! Sorry I just ingested your babies.

 

coolest gift. a make your own sushi Play Doh set. This one is labeled Set A, so contains the kit to make ikura salmon eggs, ika raw squid, maguro tuna and boiled tako octopus.

a choco mousse pudding & cream parfait. included for shock value. also note it costs 50% more than the fish dishes. wtf?

salisbury hambagu hamburger steak. not convinced that those XXX marks are real charcoal sears and not the chemical burn marks they used to lay on our grilled pork cutlet at lunch in shitty public jr high school of USA. again, let her pass.

one point culinary shock: the japanese use a lot more mayonnaise than I had ever suspected. 

your work's not done yet...

on the way out...don't forget to load up on a bunch of plastic kitty kappa sushi themed knick knacks. some of which are quite cool. good souvenirs.

 
Note # 1:  look for these kanji: 国内産 koku nai san often shortened to 国産 koku san = Made In Japan...domestic grown or raised foodstuffs. If it doesnt say this (the japanese are maniacally proud of their domestic goods, esp. when it draws comparison to anything possibly made in any asian* country, like china, or godforfuckingfend, korea) it's probably cheap & dirty china food. proceed w caution.

kanji breakdown:  国 = country   内 = in or within   産 = made or produced
and, if you'd like a real life example of how to effectively use this information to gain respect & awe.

* I notice that the japanese do not see themselves nor their country as asian. that term, as in asian dining restaurant, asian crafts, asian goods, asian style, asian invasian, is reserved, with a little contempt, for those things from SE Asia...you know Viet Nam, Thailand, Laos, maybe Burma/Myanmar, and their ilk.

 
Note #2:  生 なま pronounced nama = raw for food, draft for beer (on tap), and the first real nihongo 日本語 japanese word  most foreigners learn. for many it will be their only.
 

and the aftermath...in your head, think about 1 plate = $1 and you get the idea. on the wood counter in foreground you can see the disposable chopsticks, shoyu murasaki soy sauce, green tea packets, hot water spigot, laminated picture menu, pickled ginger caddy. extremely self-serve these places. that's the shinkansen bullet train track glowing along the top, behind more hanging picture menus.

the Play Doh set photo-illustrated instructions, on rear of box.

 

いただきます!

 

if you're still hungry for more sushi, like how to use all the accoutrements, shoyu soy sauce, pickled ginger, green tea packets / cups hot water spout, hand towel chopstick rests & so on, click here (soon).