Kaitenzushi chain Sushiro wants to give you an extra order of fun as you order your sushi.

It used to be that when you walked into a conveyor belt sushi/kaitenzushi restaurant in Japan, you’d see the belt packed with plates making a continuous circuit around the restaurant either until a customer claimed them or enough time passed that the staff took them out of circulation. That’s no longer the case, though. As restaurants look to reduce food loss and diners desire the freshest possible fish, most of the sushi served at kaitenzushi restaurants in Japan is now made-to-order with said orders being placed by customers on touchscreen tablets.

But Sushiro, one of the country’s most popular kaitenzushi chains, wants to bring back some of the old-school style of seeing plates drift by and choosing one when that visual enticement strikes. Their plan to do that is something they’ve dubbed Digital Sushiro Vision, alternatively called Digiro.

Digital Sushiro Vision is a gigantic monitor that stretches the width of your booth. It’s a touchscreen, replacing the order tablet for your party, and it’s animated, too, with images of the sushi currently on offer sliding from one end of the screen to the other, virtually recreating the pre-stocked sushi plate processions of yore.

Digital Sushiro Vision is still in its test stage, but luckily for us, one of the trial locations is Sushiro’s Shinjuku Nishiguchi branch, which is a walkable distance from SoraNews24 headquarters in downtown Tokyo. The branch’s Digital Sushiro Vision monitors went into service on Thursday, so we stopped by to try the system out ourselves.

Right off the bat, an on-screen prompt asks you to choose between “Sushiro Mode” (スシローモード) and “Dakkozushi Mode” (だっごずしモード), and also “Do you want to enable the Dakkozushi game?” (だっこずしゲームを実施しますか?)

Curious to see what the Dakkozushi Mode is, we went with that option, and it populates the screen with adorable illustrated characters, each holding dakko a sushi topping.

The Dakkozushi characters are Sushiro originals, but Digital Sushiro Vision being able to switch between different visual themes for the menu could come in handy should the chain, for example, have some sort of tie-up with a popular anime or character line. As for the “Dakkozushi game,” we still weren’t sure exactly what this was, but we did notice that the upper-right corner of the screen had a gauge labeled “Progress to game start” that was currently at zero but goes all the way up to 100 percent.

Automatically, images of sushi plates start scrolling across the screen, each labeled in case you can’t tell what they are just by looking. If you’re not the patient type, you can also open up a more conventional menu display…

…or, if you want to see as many options as once as you can, expand the menu out across the entire monitor, as shown in our video here.

Another cool feature Sushiro has been adding, though not necessarily exclusive to Digital Sushiro Vision-equipped tables, is a private extension of the conveyor belt to deliver your order to you.

Usually, when you order a plate at a kaitenzushi restaurant, a cart, carrying a plate with your food on top, comes zipping down the lane to where you’re seated. Once it comes to a stop, you take the plate off, hit a button, and the cart zooms back into the kitchen. With Sushiro’s new belts, though, there are little branches off the main lane, kind of like freeway offramps, that deposit the plates themselves at your table.

Since they’re immediately out of the way of the central lane, there’s no anxiety-inducing rush to grab them ASAP to clear up the central lane, making the meal more relaxing.

Getting back to that mysterious gauge in the corner of the screen, as we ordered food, it began to fill up. At 800 yen (US$5.40) worth of orders, it was up to 66 percent, and soon after we hit 100, which brought up this screen with the title “Dakkozushi Slot Machine.”

After tapping the “Start” (スタート) button, sure enough a cute slot machine came up.

Tapping the buttons spins the reels, which cycle through pictures of the Dakkozushi characters and various food items. This is a game of pure chance, with no ability to time the reels’ stops to create matches, and unfortunately luck was not with us on this day, so we’re not sure what, if any, sort of rewards are available for winners.

▼ Though you could argue that being provided with an excuse to eat more sushi is a prize in and of itself.

When you’re ready to leave, you can tap to bring up your bill, then tap “Go to register” (レジへ進む) and head to the self-service register to make your payment.

All in all, Digital Sushiro Vision is a fresh, fun idea. The size of the screen can make it a little less practical than a normal-sized tablet for ordering, but it offsets that with a sense of fun entertainment. Kaitenzushi restaurants are popular with families, and Digital Sushiro Vision seems like it’d be a big hit with kids.

We do have a couple suggestions for how the system could be improved, though. First, remember how we said that when the sushi plate images are moving across the screen, they’re labeled? A few times while we were playing around with the screen, the labels disappeared. We’re not sure if this was a glitch or an intended feature that we were unknowingly triggering, but it added an unwanted bit of guesswork for some items that we couldn’t immediately identify by appearance alone.

▼ Labels

▼ No labels

Also, as you might have noticed in the video, the responsiveness of the touchscreen could be better. The frame and refresh rate make moving around the menu sort of choppy, and when the view does move sometimes not all the photos have loaded in. It’s not a major problem, but it’s a bit of an annoyance, especially when the size and uniqueness of the screen are going to make it a focal point of diners’ attention if it’s their first Digital Sushiro Vision meal.

As mentioned above, though, the system is still in its trial stage, with the Shinjuku Nishiguchi and Esaka (Osaka Prefecture) branches the only Sushiro locations where it’s currently up and running, and a third (Tenpaku Yakiyama in Nagoya) set to join them in October. With a few of those wrinkles ironed out, this could be part of the fun future of kaitenzushi.

Restaurant information
Sushiro (Shinjuku Nishiguchi branch) / スシロー(新宿西口店)
Address: Tokyo-to, Shinjuku-ku, Shinjuku 1-1-1 Shinjuku Palette Building 6th floor
東京都新宿区西新宿1丁目1-1 新宿パレットビル6階
Open 11 a.m.-11 p.m. (weekdays), 10:30 a.m.-11 p.m. (weekends, holidays)

Photos ©SoraNews24
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