16 Nov 2010

Hokkaido, Japan : Dining in the Future

I finally posted some long overdue photos I took during my trip to Japan back in Feb.

They're not so great, but I just thought I'd share them with every body because I've been dying to blog about some interesting things I did and saw there but couldn't because there were no pictures.

In Otaru (小樽) up in Hokkaido, we had kaiten sushi (aka, conveyer belt sushi, sushi train, sushi go round). It was pretty amazing, not really the food, but the technology on display.

QR Code Waiting List

Right from the start, the table booking system was fully automated. So instead of having to talk to the waitress, you put in your details on this machine with your name, number of people and you're given an estimated time of seating. Then if you have a Japanese cell phone, you can scan the QRcode and bring up the live view of the waiting list page. So you can wonder out for a walk or get notified as soon as your number is up.

Once you're seated, you're confronted with this double decker conveyer belt. Talk about space optimization. The sushi goes on top and miscellanous bits like mugs go in the bottom.

Todays Special

Although, at this stage, turns out the manual interaction with the sushi chef is required as there aren't any fancy screens to order custom bits and pieces. In fact, the specials are written in Japanese on these pieces of paper. Once something is sold out, they get removed.

When we asked for the bill, instead of counting the plates by hand, the waitress comes over with this RFID scanner and just sweeps it across the plates we've accumulated. We were so fascinated with it we asked her to do it again. In fact, she does it twice anyway as to make sure there's some error checking (?). Turns out underneath each plate is an RFID that identifies the plate and the type of plate it is.


After the bill is totaled, we're given this blank plastic card which is our token for the bill. We take the bill to the payment counter and the amount we owed is stored inside. The bill is scanned by the checkout lady and we're told the amount we have to pay.

All in all, it was a fascinating experience. We never stumbled across other hi-tech sushi establishments in Tokyo - but maybe we were just going to the wrong places.

You can reply to me about this on Twitter: