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:

Senator’s kickback from pork bigger than those of Enrile, Estrada, Revilla – Lacson 4 mins elapsed 43 out of 414 Etihad passengers yet to be found, tested for MERS-CoV – Palace 10 mins elapsed Filipinos coming home from Mideast must obtain MERS clearance – DOH 19 mins elapsed ‘Unlimited’ Internet promos not really limitless; lawmakers call for probe 44 mins elapsed Maid confesses in killing of 2 and stabbing of employer in Laguna 1 hour elapsed SM to rebuild Tacloban hospital 1 hour elapsed N. Korea finally offers condolences over ferry tragedy 1 hour elapsed PSEi slips after 4-day rally 1 hour 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. Nokia to be named Microsoft Mobile
  2. Senator wants to probe PH slow Internet connection
  3. PH has slowest internet in Southeast Asia
  4. Facebook rolls out ‘nearby friends’ feature
  5. Facebook page launched to help people on Pag-asa Island kill boredom
  6. SC junks motions vs cybercrime law
  7. Did Deniece Cornejo lambast Vhong Navarro on social media?
  8. Judge in Apple v. Samsung patent trial fed up with smart phones in court
  9. Apple offering free recycling of all used products
  10. CFOs slowly getting tech-savvy
  1. Did Deniece Cornejo lambast Vhong Navarro on social media?
  2. PH has slowest internet in Southeast Asia
  3. Netizens seethe over Aquino’s ‘sacrifice’ message
  4. Mommy Dionisia sings ‘Riking Bull,’sends netizens ablaze
  5. Nasa’s moon-orbiting robot crashes down
  6. Tech company: Change passwords or suffer ‘Heartbleed’
  7. Judge in Apple v. Samsung patent trial fed up with smart phones in court
  8. Philippines may watch ‘blood moon’ online
  9. Facebook rolls out ‘nearby friends’ feature
  10. Smart phone apps and sites perfect for the Holy Week
  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. Mommy Dionisia sings ‘Riking Bull,’sends netizens ablaze
  7. Russia tries to curb Crimean prosecutor’s Internet fame
  8. Memes flourish after Pacquiao victory
  9. PH has slowest internet in Southeast Asia
  10. Netizens thank Capa for Lee arrest

News

  • Senator’s kickback from pork bigger than those of Enrile, Estrada, Revilla – Lacson
  • 43 out of 414 Etihad passengers yet to be found, tested for MERS-CoV – Palace
  • Maid confesses in killing of 2 and stabbing of employer in Laguna
  • N. Korea finally offers condolences over ferry tragedy
  • 16 CADPI sugar refinery workers now out of danger after toxic shower in Batangas
  • Sports

  • UP nips St. Benilde; Adamson blasts RTU in Filoil women’s caging
  • Kevin Garnett responds to Raptors’ GM F word
  • Albert Pujols hits 500th HR of major league career
  • UST posts twin kill in Filoil pre-season cup opening day
  • Wizards beat Bulls in OT to take 2-0 series lead
  • Lifestyle

  • Entering the monkhood a rite of passage
  • Haneda International Airport: A destination on its own
  • Wanted: Beauty queen with a heart that beats for the environment
  • Kim Atienza: At home with art and design
  • Life lessons I want to teach my son
  • Entertainment

  • Bollywood Oscars, film stars come to Florida
  • Ex-Fox exec denies allegations in sex abuse suit
  • Kris Aquino backtracks, says Herbert Bautista and her are ‘best friends’
  • Summer preview: Chris Pratt enters a new ‘Galaxy’
  • Bon Jovi helps open low-income housing in US
  • Business

  • SM to rebuild Tacloban hospital
  • PSEi slips after 4-day rally
  • Toyota sells 2.58 million vehicles, outselling GM
  • McDonald’s 1Q profit slips as US sales decline
  • SEC approves SM’s P15B retail bond offer
  • Technology

  • ‘Unlimited’ Internet promos not really limitless; lawmakers call for probe
  • Viber releases new design for iPhone, comes to Blackberry 10 for the first time
  • Engineers create a world of difference
  • Bam Aquino becomes Master Splinter’s son after Wiki hack
  • Mark Caguioa lambasts Ginebra teammates on Twitter
  • Opinion

  • One-dimensional diplomacy: A cost-benefit analysis of Manila’s security deal with Washington
  • No ordinary illness
  • Reforest mountains with fire trees and their kind
  • Day of the Earth
  • When will Chinese firm deliver new coaches?
  • Global Nation

  • Filipinos coming home from Mideast must obtain MERS clearance – DOH
  • US Secret Service in Manila ahead of Obama visit
  • Palace thanks Estrada for successful HK mission
  • Hong Kong accepts PH apology; sanctions also lifted
  • China won’t budge, wants PH gov’t to apologize to HK
  • Advertisement
    Marketplace