I happened upon a kaiten sushi-ya (conveyor belt sushi restaurant) while on an extended trip to New York, and I was surprised that something other than the hot wasabi brought tears to my eyes.

Japanese Restaurant EAST in Manhattan is a far cry from any Japanese kaiten sushi-ya – this place is as hip as any nightclub in the area. The chef is not Japanese, but his skills are just as good as those of any “genuine” sushi chef. He rolled out perfectly squeezed nigiri sushi and delicious miso soup.

And though I like to get adventurous with the wasabi from time to time, I was not prepared for the rotating item that would move me to tears on this day.

A donation box for the Great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami sat on the conveyor belt and slid smoothly around the restaurant. It said “EARTHQUAKE & TSUNAMI RELIEF” and “HELP JAPAN SOS” in block letters, and “Emergency Relief Funds” and “People of Tohoku and Kanto – Hang In There!” in Japanese.

While I watched it wander past the other diners, I noticed Americans putting money into the donation box. These people from the opposite side of the world were treating Japan as a next-door neighbor. I was truly touched that they would remember Japan and its plight while out on the town enjoying some sushi.

The conveyor belt system works exactly the same way as the ones in Japan do, where the different colors of the plates indicate the price of the sushi and other foods on them. Double-nigiri salmon might go for 175 yen while tuna sashimi fetches around 140 yen. I was able to find one staff member who understood Japanese as well, so it looks like I’ve found a place for a little taste of the warmth of Japan in Manhattan.

Japanese Restaurant EAST

366 Third Ave. New York, NY

(212) 889-2326

Article/Pictures by Pouch Editorial Staff

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