Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Japan: King of Convenience #1

You know, Japan is such a convenient place to live that sometimes it can be really easy to forget how inconvenient a place it is. In this series I want to share some of the more convenient elements of living in Japan (日本の生活).

On of the things that I think the Japanese have really gotten down well is fast food. Sure, they have McDonalds and KFC, and all that jazz, but that's not what I'm referring to. No, I refer to the ticket restaurant. Usually they are little joints with long counters and bar-stool style seats that specialize in noodle or rice-bowl-based fare. My favorite haunt is a chain called なか卯 (Nakau), and mainly offers curry, udon, and soba.

First, you walk in and find the ticket vending machine. Decide what you want and insert your money. Wow, you're almost done!

Place your ticket on the counter and wait for the waiter or waitress to take it. Then play with your cellphone or look around at all the other weirdos in the place. After a couple minutes, tops, your server will place your food in front of you. Bon appetite.

At Nakau, they give you a complimentary glass of green tea-tinted water when you sit down. At many places, they also place several pitchers of ice water at each counter so that you can serve yourself. As I drink a lot of water when I eat, this is much appreciated by yours truly.
When you're finished, just get up and leave. No need to clean up after yourself, you lazy slob. I like to thank the servers for the meal as I leave, but most people don't seem to say anything.

In my experience, many cafeterias in Japan operate by this ticket vending machine system, as well.

Have you eaten at this kind of restaurant before? If so, did you like this style of service?


  1. Have you been faring well at cooking it?

  2. I just can't get the flavor right. Decent, but not quite as good. I'm going to have to fly back over there for a bowl sooner or later.

    On the plus side, I can completely avoid that horrid green tea.

  3. Are you using dashi? You may need to go to an Asian market to get some, but it will make a difference.

  4. I hate udon. Hate! But I love the ticket machines. My favorite is a place called Ichiran, where there is a curtain covering up the servers above the shoulders, I guess so they can't see you? And everyone sits in a little isolated cubicle like thing that looks sort of like a photo booth with only one wall. Actually now that I look back on it this place is pretty creepy... =I

  5. Haha...sounds like a love hotel-style noodle shop.

  6. I loved the ticket meal we had in Kyoto! =)

  7. Had a ticket meal in Tokyo a few years ago. Went in at 11.50 and the place was almost empty. By the time we left (about fifteen minutes later) there was a queue from the counter at the back all the way out of the door. You'd think people might try having lunch at different times to avoid the queue.

  8. Yeah, these places can really spill over during lunch time. Luckily there's a fairly quick customer turnover.