Let’s eat at a Kaiten Sushi!

Jun 14 | Evan | No Comments |

What you should expect when eating sushi at a kaiten sushi, converter belt sushi. 

Do you like sushi? Who is excited to go to Japan to eat fresh sushi? 

Well, sushi has become an internationally well recognized Japanese food in the 20th century. However, not everyone has been to kaiten sushi, the sushi that comes around on a converter belt! Today, let’s learn about kaiten sushi and what you should know before going to one so that you can prepare yourself for the photo tour of Japan, especially when you have an opportunity to venture out to eat! 

What is “kaiten sushi?” Is it different from regular sushi? 

So what is kaiten sushi? You all know what sushi is so what does “kaiten” mean? Kaiten in Japanese means “rotaining.” Thus, kaiten sushi is a particular sushi that comes on a converter belt, which rotates around the restaurant

Sushi comes in many different forms in Japan, which also varies in prices. In general, you can consider “kaiten sushi” to be a cheap option. In comparison to sushi where you eat at a counter seat, kaiten sushi is much more relaxed, casual, and accessible to everyone. The matter of fact, because of such nature, it is popular among families to go to kanten sushi. Of course it is a sushi restaurant, so you will have a lot of different sushi, but at kaiten sushi, many other options such as sides, soup, and desserts can also be ordered at an accessible cost as well. 

Make sure to pay attention to the colors of the sushi plates! 

One thing you might like to be aware of is the color of plates. Yes, kaiten sushi is much cheaper than other options, but depending on the colors of plates, some are more expensive than others so make sure you are aware of the colors of plates, thus prices. Otherwise, you could be eating all expensive options, thus at the end of the day, you will be paying a lot more than you were originally planning. 

In general, at kaiten sushi, the different colors of plates indicate different prices. It is usually 3,4 different colors of plates that are rotating so it’s not that hard to keep a track of the price. You also keep all your plates at your table where you eat so that staff can count the number of plates at the end to calculate the cost. 

This clear identification of price is so crucial and why kaiten sushi became so popular. For example, some or all of the items are market price so you may not know the price till the end at high-end sushi places like eating at a counter table. Kaiten sushi is created for its accessible/cheap cost and clear identification of price so different colors of plates is one of the key features of this venue. 

History of kaiten sushi 

So how did kaiten sushi come to life? Originally, sushi was an expensive food, which was not for everyone. However, everyone wanted to eat sushi and the idea of kaiten sushi came to life. At the beginning, it was more like “all 100 yen ($1),” but later on, different colors of plates, thus different prices of sushi, automatic tea dispensers, and sushi robots were introduced. 

Interestingly, the idea of kaiten sushi was born in Osaka at a beer factory in 1948. 10 years passed since the idea emerged, the first ever kaiten sushi opened in Osaka in 1958, called “Mawaru Genroku Sushi 1st Store.” Since then, the first franchise opened in Sendai city in Miyagi Prefecture in 1968, followed by the creation and placement of automatic tea dispensers in 1973. From 1975 to 1985, the kaiten sushi boom came to Japan with the introduction of sushi robots, major chains entering the competition of the industry. 

By 2007, kaiten sushi became a 500 billion yen industry and now it is becoming international. If you are around the Los Angeles area, you might have seen “KULA,” Japanese kaiten sushi chains. There are around 10 KULA stores around the LA area and is popular among American people. As well as KULA, another major chain “Sushiro” is focusing its international market expansion in Asia, opening stores in Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, and Hong Kong in recent years. In 2018, there were 12 stores internationally and in 2019, there were 13 more additional stores opened, a total of 25 international stores operating outside of Japan. Currently the international market is expanding more than Japanese market in that each international store produces more revenue per year than a store in Japan. 

close up cuisine delicious dining table

Conclusion

So who is hungry for sushi after reading this article? As you learned, there are different chains of kaiten sushi in Japan so if you are so keen, you can try different chains of kaiten sushi when you are on the photography tour of Japan to see, which one suits you the best. Each kaiten sushi has unique features that are different from one another so try a few and let me know what you like about each kaiten sushi! Of course, with COVID19, kanten sushi is most likely not the same today, but let’s hope that in 2021 when we are on a photo tour of Japan, we can go to a kanten sushi to enjoy fresh fish together!

What’s Different, Maiko and Geisha?

Apr 07 | Evan | No Comments |

What is the difference between the two? 

Maiko and geisha are one of the most iconic symbols of Japan. They are mysterious, beautiful, elegant, and perfect photographic subjects for your photo tour of Japan. With 300 years or so of history, we can learn so much about Japan through them. In this article, let’s learn about maiko and geisha so that when you are on your next photo tour of Japan, you have more knowledge of Japan, and furthermore, you are more prepared to photograph them and/or even become one for a day! 

Let’s learn about maiko! 

In short, a maiko is the girl who is training to be a geisha, an apprentice of geisha. Most of the girls start training to be a maiko after graduating from Jr. High School for 5 years or so. Back in the day, the training started as early as 10, but in today’s modern world, the girls who dream to be a geisha start their training as a maiko after graduating from Jr. High School, which is age 15 and then by age 20 or so, they turn into a geisha. 

So what do they do during those 5 years of training? Well, the first year is all training, they don’t even go anywhere near the customers. The girls learn traditional dance, dressing kimono, tea ceremony, flower arrangement, etiquette, and how to treat customers. After 1 year of training, then girls debut as a maiko to be in front of a customer for the first time. In the 2nd year onwards, the girls continue training as well as work as a maiko in front of customers until they make a decision to continue or discontinue working in the industry as a geisha or end the career around the age 20. 

Some fun facts about maiko is that maiko hair is not a wig. It’s all her natural hair and once the hair is made, a maiko wears the hair without washing it for a week! Additionally, a maiko wears a seasonal “kanzashi,” hairpin. If you are trying to differentiate between a maiko and geisha, check out their hairpin to see what kind of hairpins they are wearing. Furthermore, one clear difference between a maiko and a geisha is what they are wearing on their feet. Those ones with very thick platow heels are maiko. Geisha wear geta or zouri, which are much more flat compared to maiko’s footwear. 

Can you guess if she is a maiko or geisha

Let’s learn about geisha!

In short, a geisha is the woman who graduates from being a maiko. After 5 years or so of training being a maiko, then you become a geisha. Yes, everyone starts from maiko and then eventually turns into geisha. As well as a word, geisha, you also hear “geiko” and “geiki” which all mean the same. The difference is the area, which part of Japan you are in. Just to make things easy, let’s stick to geisha here. 

Geisha are the traditionally trained hospitality professionals. Not everyone can be one and those who are named as geisha have extensive training as described earlier in the maiko section. Besides its mysterious beauty and elegance, they are the living traditions who are passing down Japanese traditions.They also act as ambassadors to the world when international events take place. There is no age limit to being a geisha, thus some people continue to be a geisha even in their 80s! However, in general, once a woman marries, she graduates from being a geisha. 

If you want to meet a geisha and a maiko, you might be lucky enough to run into them randomly on the streets of Kyoto, but if you really want to spend time with them, then you need to go to ozashiki where geisha and maiko entertain guests. Back in the day, only a handful people with fame, money, connection, and power could spend time with maiko and geisha, but time has passed that there are some services offered today that with an interpreter, you can also enjoy ozashiki with geisha and maiko. I don’t know the cost involved, but if you are looking for one and only experience, perhaps request this in your private photo tour of Japan?

Maiko for a day – Let’s try to be a maiko in Kyoto! 

One of the most popular activities for females visiting Kyoto is to become a maiko or a geisha. There are many companies, which provide full make up, wig, and kimoto service to magically turn you into a maiko or a geisha for a day. You get to do a photoshoot with the full look and/or get out of the streets of Kyoto. No, you don’t need to be Japanese to be one. Anybody can be one if you use any of these services below. Don’t worry, all these companies below have English websites so you will be able to get a feel for what to expect. Additionally, if males also want to try wearing a kimono, some companies also offer services for males too. 

Maiko-Henshin Studio Shiki

Yumekoubou Kyoto Head Studio

Studio Kokoro

Gion AYA Maiko & Geisha Makeover

For those of you who want to know more about the actual experience, below is the YouTube video from Gion AYA Maiko & Geisha Makeover. This is from when American reality big family star, “19 Kids and Counting,” the Duggars girls as well as the mother and the grandmother are all trying this Maiko experience. 

So hopefully you learned something new about maiko and geisha in this article. Maybe we can travel to Japan later in 2021 or the following year on Japan Photo Tour so that you can capture beautiful maiko and geisha then. Of course, if you get inspired and interested in being one for a day, perhaps it’s not a bad idea to turn into one on your tour too. Just a note to remember is that there has been a significant number of complaints from the maiko and geisha of the Kyoto community in the recent years that some travelers have been too aggressive when it comes to approaching maiko and geisha. Besides the obvious facts, it’s not appropriate to touch their hair, kimono, and/or body, if you meet them on the streets of Kyoto or anywhere else, please be respectful and mindful. If you are photographing them, please always ask first so that it’s a pleasant experience for both sides. 

2019 Cherry Blossom Photo Tour | Kyoto Geiko Portrait Session

Jul 21 | Evan | No Comments |

In 2014 I received a request to arrange a private tour in Japan for a photographer and his family. There were a few photography opportunities requested such as spending time with a master sword smith as he worked to to take portraits of a real maiko, geiko or geisha in Japan. So it was in 2014 I first started working with this (at the time) maiko and during the 2019 cherry blossom photography tour of Japan I took portraits of her for the first time as a geiko (she finished her apprenticeship and earned new title).

I’ve really enjoyed working with her and creating portraits in Kyoto with her year after year and hope to continue to bring small groups of photographers to take portraits of her for many years to come in Kyoto.

The photo below is courtesy of and created by one of our group’s photographers, Daniel Leffel. Take a look at Daniel’s website for more excellent photography not only of Japan but all over the word.

Kyoto Japan

The 2019 Cherry Blossom Photography Tour took a small group of photographers to Japan. We started in Tokyo and continued to Hiroshima, Miyajima, Himeji Castle, Kyoto and Mt. Fuji from Shizuoka and from Fuji Five Lakes. Here is the trip report from the 2019 Cherry Blossom Photography Tour of Japan and the 2018 Cherry Blossom Photo Tour of Japan. The 2020 Cherry Blossom Photo Tour of Japan is already planned and live! Limited spots are available for the 2020 Cherry Blossom Photography Tour of Japan, with first booking already reserved!

Here is a gallery of more geiko portraits taken during the 2019 cherry blossom tour of Japan.

2019 Cherry Blossom Photo Tour | Kyoto

Jul 17 | Evan | No Comments |

The 2019 Cherry Blossom Photography Tour took a small group of photographers to Japan. We started in Tokyo and continued to Hiroshima, Miyajima, Himeji Castle, Kyoto and Mt. Fuji from Shizuoka and from Fuji Five Lakes. Here is the trip report from the 2019 Cherry Blossom Photography Tour of Japan and the 2018 Cherry Blossom Photo Tour of Japan. The 2020 Cherry Blossom Photo Tour of Japan is already planned and live! Limited spots are available for the 2020 Cherry Blossom Photography Tour of Japan, with first booking already reserved!

So far our cherry blossom photography tour of Japan was lucky enough to have nice weather and perfect cherry blossom timing for just about all cities we traveled to in Japan. Kyoto was more of the same with cherry blossoms in full bloom just about everywhere in Kyoto waiting for our group to photograph them.

Sometimes I get asked what my favorite place in Japan is to visit or favorite place in Japan for photography is. This is a really difficult question as Japan has so many wonderful options for tours and photography in Japan. Also, the answer really depends on the time of year for most places in Japan. That being said, Kyoto is my favorite place in Japan to travel to and photograph any time of the year but especially in cherry blossom season, I love spending time and guiding photographers in Kyoto.

Kyoto Japan
Kyoto Japan

The two photos above are courtesy of and created by one of our group’s photographers, Daniel Leffel. Take a look at Daniel’s website for more excellent photography not only of Japan but all over the word.

Here is a gallery of more photos from our photography tour in Kyoto:

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