It’s almost like the New Year already wanted to give him the cold shoulder…or rather, a cold fish cake.

Our illustriously zany Japanese-language reporter Mr. Sato is a big fan of inexpensive sushi. It’s not unusual to find him dining at one of Tokyo’s numerous conveyor belt sushi chains such as Kura Sushi, which is exactly where he was headed on this particular day. His goal was to try the New Year’s kosechi (“small osechi”) that the chain began selling last year and which his coworker K. Masami had tried at the time. Eating extravagant and expensive osechi is a traditional New Year’s activity in Japan, so he couldn’t quite wrap his head around the thought of having a small, single-sized version for only 770 yen (US$5.75).

The particular West Shinjuku location that he was visiting had been quite packed with long wait times recently, so he prepared himself for a bit of a wait.


Sure enough, he walked in and was greeted by a check-in monitor which said that all seats were currently full. There was a crowd of mainly younger people also waiting around, likely students who had extra time now that they were on winter break.

However, a closer glance at the screen then made his jaw drop. The wait time for a single counter seat was a grand total of 67 minutes!

Mr. Sato was a little too hungry to wait there for an hour on an empty stomach, so he decided to take a trip outside to grab a snack in the meantime.

One hour later, the crowd had noticeably thinned out. He discovered that his number had actually been called a long time ago, but after talking to staff he was able to score an empty seat at the counter with no problem this time. He immediately started to browse the food options on his touchscreen panel and quickly spotted the kosechi meal.

▼ Kura Sushi’s kosechi, which includes small portions of eight individual foods that each have a symbolic, auspicious quality

He placed his order and sat back to wait. Other customers’ special orders passed by him on the belt but his kosechi was nowhere to be seen. Five minutes became 10 minutes…which turned into 15…and almost 20 minutes of waiting. For “fast food” at a sushi restaurant, something definitely seemed to be wrong. He began internally debating whether to call over a staff member to see if there was a problem. Just as he was about to turn, however, the kosechi dish pulled up right in front of him.

The eight individual foods this year consisted of freeze-dried tofu, a cooked shrimp, snow peas, kabocha, shiitake, sweet potato, and a kamaboko fish cake.

On top of the freeze-dried tofu was branded the kanji 寿 (kotobuki; it’s also the kanji used to write the su in sushi), which means “longevity.” It was a very fitting visual for New Year’s. Mr. Sato proceeded to take a bite and was pleasantly surprised by its crunchy texture.

He particularly admired the sweet potato, which was expertly sliced into the shape of a rabbit to celebrate 2023 being the Year of the Rabbit.

He continued trying each of the individual foods one by one. Once he took a bite of the kamaboko fish cake, however, he paused in surprise. It tasted…frozen! Sure enough, a closer look showed that there was still some ice around the cake.

So that must be what had taken so long–his kosechi had needed to be defrosted.

Apart from that unfortunately chilly greeting, Mr. Sato enjoyed his meal. He did have to wonder though why Kura Sushi felt the need to offer dishes of things such as kosechi which they don’t specialize in. It seemed like it just made the staffs’ jobs harder and made the customers wait longer. Oh well. Perhaps he’ll go in the opposite direction next and visit somewhere that specializes in one thing–such as the café where Mont Blanc was first offered in Japan.

Reference: Kura Sushi
All images © SoraNews24
● Want to hear about SoraNews24’s latest articles as soon as they’re published? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!
[ Read in Japanese ]