Quantcast
Latest Stories

Robot chefs make sushi for Japanese



TOKYO—With its masters required to hone their skills over decades, sushi in Japan is steeped in tradition. But it is also often a high-tech operation, where robotic precision steals the limelight from the chef’s knife.

The country is dotted with thousands of “kaiten” (revolving) sushi restaurants, where raw fish slices atop rice balls travel on conveyor belts along counters waiting to be picked up by diners.

Behind the scenes, however, it is far from a simple merry-go-round, with robots in some locations rolling out perfectly sized rice balls onto plates embedded with microchips.

Measured dollops of spicy wasabi paste are squirted onto the rice assembly line before they’re topped with raw fish.

And the most cutting-edge eateries are even connected to monitoring centers that can quickly tell whether the right balance of dishes is being produced—a far cry from traditional places where the sushi chef and his knife still reign supreme.

“Sushi isn’t going round at random but rather it is coming out based on a number of calculations,” said Akihiro Tsuji, public relations manager at Kura Corp., a major operator in a market expected to hit $5 billion in revenue this year, according to industry figures.

“Though traditional, sushi is stuffed with high technology. You can’t operate low-price revolving sushi restaurants without databases and scientific management,” he told Agence France-Presse at a Tokyo outlet.

‘Mr. Fresh’

Kura has invented a serving device called “sendo-kun,” which roughly translates as “Mr Fresh,” a plate with a transparent dome that opens automatically when diners select the dish.

While the hood keeps the sushi moist and clean, it also contains a microchip telling managers what kind of fish are swinging around on the conveyer belts and how long they have been there.

Since their birth half a century ago, kaiten sushi restaurants have evolved from selling traditional sushi into miniature museums of the food that Japanese people eat today, including battered tempura, noodles and even ice cream.

The dishes are cheap, usually starting at around 100 yen (around $1) for two pieces of sushi.

High-speed lanes

Now, more and more outlets are equipped with dedicated “high-speed” lanes where customers can receive their order via a touch-screen menu.

Ryozo Aida, a 68-year-old university lecturer, said he visits the Kura outlet with his wife because of its “affordable prices.” “It may sound strange in a sushi restaurant, but I like tempura,” he said as he jabbed his fingers at a touch-screen panel.

Inside the kitchen, screens show how many adults and children are dining and roughly how long they have been in the restaurant.

“Even if all the 199 seats here are occupied, how much sushi we need will differ depending on how long they have been at the table,” Tsuji said.

The system combines real-time data with information about how many items were consumed in similar circumstances in the past, displaying results for kitchen staff.

Assistance system

Complementing on-the-spot efforts, the Kura chain also has a remote assistance system serving its network of more than 300 outlets.

In-store cameras feed images to dozens of supervisors who move from restaurant to restaurant with laptops—while others watch from monitoring centers—to advise restaurants instantly if there is enough food and the right mix of offerings on the conveyer belt.

The cameras can zoom in on sushi to make sure it is laid out in regulation elegance—although they don’t monitor customers’ faces for privacy reasons.

At another outlet run by Genki Sushi’s “Uobei” brand in the fashionable Tokyo district of Shibuya, the concept of one conveyor belt has been updated. All 90 seats face counters with three decks of “high-speed” lanes delivering sushi directly to the person who ordered via multilingual touch screen.

Name of the game

Accuracy and speed is the name of the game with the store targeting delivery in under a minute.

“As we looked at how fast we can deliver what’s ordered, we came up with this system,” said Akira Koyanagi, district manager for Genki, adding that it also cuts down on wasted food.

All this high technology costs money, but sales at kaiten sushi restaurants have grown 20 percent over the past five years, with the industry expected to rake in nearly $5 billion this year, according to research firm Fuji-Keizai Group.

A key challenge, however, is that Japanese people are eating less fish and more meat these days as world prices rise due to strong demand in the United States and Europe.

“Procurement is getting tough,” said a Genki Sushi spokesperson.


Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter




Recent Stories:

Moderate earthquake jolts southern Iran 9 mins elapsed DOH asks co-passengers of OFW carrier to test for MERS-CoV 27 mins elapsed PH youth boxers off to stumbling start in AIBA World tilt 32 mins elapsed 5.5-magnitude quake hits Sultan Kudarat 38 mins elapsed Passengers denied chance to escape sinking South Korea ferry 59 mins elapsed Asia stocks fail to match Wall Street gains 2 hours elapsed Durant has 42, Thunder beat Pistons 112-111 2 hours elapsed Will Arnett files for divorce from Amy Poehler 3 hours elapsed
Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: food , Japan , Lifestyle , restaurants , robot chefs , robotics , sushi , technology



Copyright © 2014,
.
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
Advertisement Advertisement
  1. Did Deniece Cornejo lambast Vhong Navarro on social media?
  2. Mommy Dionisia sings ‘Riking Bull,’sends netizens ablaze
  3. Tech company: Change passwords or suffer ‘Heartbleed’
  4. Smart phone apps and sites perfect for the Holy Week
  5. DOF: Tagaytay, QC best at handling funds
  6. Mommy Dionisia Pacquiao scores, takes over social media
  7. Philippines may watch ‘blood moon’ online
  8. IT technician found guilty of defrauding firm of P130,000
  9. Memes flourish after Pacquiao victory
  10. Another reason to quit social media this Holy Week: your safety
  1. Did Deniece Cornejo lambast Vhong Navarro on social media?
  2. Mommy Dionisia Pacquiao scores, takes over social media
  3. Nude and so dangerous
  4. Mommy Dionisia sings ‘Riking Bull,’sends netizens ablaze
  5. Memes flourish after Pacquiao victory
  6. Netizens react to Pacquiao’s victory over Bradley
  7. IT technician found guilty of defrauding firm of P130,000
  8. Philippines may watch ‘blood moon’ online
  9. Ireland’s wedding singer priest an Internet hit
  10. Samsung flagship smartphone goes on sale worldwide
  1. #RejectedBbPilipinas2014Questions flood Twitter
  2. Did Deniece Cornejo lambast Vhong Navarro on social media?
  3. Netizens fall in love with Crimea prosecutor Natalia Poklonskaya
  4. Mommy Dionisia Pacquiao scores, takes over social media
  5. Nude and so dangerous
  6. Why didn’t missing jet passengers use their cellphones?
  7. Mommy Dionisia sings ‘Riking Bull,’sends netizens ablaze
  8. Russia tries to curb Crimean prosecutor’s Internet fame
  9. Memes flourish after Pacquiao victory
  10. Netizens thank Capa for Lee arrest

News

  • Moderate earthquake jolts southern Iran
  • DOH asks co-passengers of OFW carrier to test for MERS-CoV
  • 5.5-magnitude quake hits Sultan Kudarat
  • Passengers denied chance to escape sinking South Korea ferry
  • Firetruck rams California eatery; 15 injured
  • Sports

  • PH youth boxers off to stumbling start in AIBA World tilt
  • Durant has 42, Thunder beat Pistons 112-111
  • Walker leads Bobcats over Bulls in OT, 91-86
  • Man City slips further out of title contention
  • Federer would skip tennis to be with wife, newborn
  • Lifestyle

  • Pro visual artists, lensmen to judge Pagcor’s photo contest
  • ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  • This is not just a farm
  • Clams and garlic, softshell crab risotto–not your usual seafood fare for Holy Week
  • Moist, extra-tender blueberry muffins
  • Entertainment

  • Will Arnett files for divorce from Amy Poehler
  • American rapper cuts own penis, jumps off building
  • Jay Z to bring Made in America music fest to LA
  • Why Lucky has not bought an engagement ring for Angel
  • Derek more private with new girlfriend
  • Business

  • Asia stocks fail to match Wall Street gains
  • Fired Yahoo exec gets $58M for 15 months of work
  • PH presses bid to keep rice import controls
  • PSEi continues to gain
  • Number of retrenched workers rose by 42% in ’13
  • Technology

  • DOF: Tagaytay, QC best at handling funds
  • Smart phone apps and sites perfect for the Holy Week
  • Tech company: Change passwords or suffer ‘Heartbleed’
  • Filling the digital talent gap
  • SSS to shut down website for Holy Week
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 17, 2014
  • A humbler Church
  • Deepest darkness
  • ‘Agnihotra’ for Earth’s health
  • It’s the Holy Week, time to think of others
  • Global Nation

  • Syria most dangerous country for journalists, PH 3rd—watchdog
  • Japan says visa-free entry still a plan
  • First Fil-Am elected to Sierra Madre, Calif. city council
  • UC Irvine cultural night to dramatize clash of values in immigrant family
  • Filipino sweets and info served at UC Berkeley Spring Fest
  • Advertisement
    Marketplace