Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Japan Trip XVIII: Railgun Sushi

After our day full of interviews, hair cuts, and cutlets, we decided to go on one more adventure with Xan and Steven before they headed back to Fukushima. Specifically, we decided to get dinner.

I don't know who knew about this place or even what it was called, but from then on we just kind of referred to it as Railgun SushiTo be clear: a railgun is a device that uses electromagnetic rails to accelerate a projectile to extremely high velocities. The technology is currently existent, but it isn't currently being used in practice just yet. The obvious use of such technology is military uses, for particularly destructive yet precise guns. However, the technology is still too expensive and large to be used in the field.

The other practical application of the technology is to launch things into space. There are currently plans to use such a system to launch unmanned craft into space for, say, supply delivery. However, the system would require a very long track and a manageable acceleration speed for human passengers to survive.

That said, Railgun Sushi is nothing like a real railgun.

The restaurant was a bright white, well-lit restaurant in an alleyway somewhere near Shibuya Crossing, surrounded by pachinko parlors with Yakuza-types standing outside the doors. We walked in and had to break into groups, depending on how many open spots they had available.

We each received a seat number and walked into the main room, which consisted of several bars for the patrons to sit at. Each seat was basically a self-serve control center, with condiments (soy sauce, etc), chopsticks, cups, and a faucet for hot water, which you would mix with green tea powder. There was also three small conveyor belts, one on top of the other, where food occasionally passed by. 

Above everything was a touch screen menu. You used this screen to browse through the selection and choose what foods you wanted. There were many different types of sushi, as well as a few Americanized choices, drinks, and desserts. You could order up to three items at a time (though there's nothing stopping you from placing multiple orders in a row) and submit that request, which would then add the cost to your tab. Eventually, your order would come out on plates on a platform on the rail. The platform stops in from of you and you remove your order from the platform. The platform returns to the kitchens at the press of a button.

The food is cheap and comes in small portions, so it's easy to order a lot and try a variety of things. It doesn't take long for your section of the bar to have a stack of empty plates, serving as a testament to your conquest.

I tried a few things, particularly some of the seared options (pork, salmon) for sushi. They were pretty good, though I learned that I don't like wasabi--luckily there was a "no wasabi" option for most things. I also had to try their Americanized options, just to see. In the end, though, I think my favorite thing was the seared pork.

It was a really cool restaurant that, thankfully, required no translation to order anything. The only human interaction was with the receptionist when entering or leaving the place (for getting your seat assignment on the way in or paying your tab on the way out) or with a server if you ordered a soda or something. Other than that, it felt completely automated.

My only complaint was how, much like the beef bowl place, the default complimentary drink was green tea. However, I found a solution that didn't require the purchase of sodas: I simply filled a cup with the hot water intended for tea, then waited for the water to cool down. It worked out.

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