You've probably heard of kaiten-zushi, restaurants where sushi plates are delivered to customers on a rotating conveyor belt.
One Japanese restaurant takes a radically different approach, delivering dishes not on a solid conveyor belt but on a stream of water. When your order arrives, it comes floating in a wooden tub on an artificial "river" that circles around the counter. And although you won't find sushi, you will find a wide variety of sweets, parfaits, shaved ices, as well as rice and noodle dishes and other cafe fare.
Welcome to Donguri, a restaurant and cafe in Numazu, Shizuoka Prefecture.
When Donguri first started over forty years ago, conveyor belt sushi restaurants didn't exist. The shop owner trained at a restaurant where they had a trademarked "river counter" system, and when he decided to open a cafe in the Nakamise shopping area of downtown Numazu, he installed one there to distinguish himself from his competitors. It was the Showa Era at the height of the kissaten boom, and cafes were opening everywhere. However, no cafe had a "river counter."
The owner's instincts were right, and soon, Donguri became an institution in Numazu.
When you arrive at Donguri, you'll see all the food samples in the window case. A quick look will give you a sense of the variety of items available on the menu.
To place your order, you'll need to buy a ticket from a ticket machine.
The interior is clean and well-maintained for a shop which has been around since the 1970s. Japanese ukiyo-e prints decorate the panels at your table, as the stream of the "river counter" flows gently by. It's very soothing and enjoyable to see dishes float by on traditional wooden oke tubs.
Unlike sushi shops or ramen shops where a staff member takes your ticket by hand, at Donguri you clip your ticket to a clipboard, slide it into a holding slot on the wooden tub and send it downstream.
When your order is ready, it will be sent from the kitchen area and the marker at your table will light up. Each table has a city name such as Numazu 沼津 or Mishima 三島 (near Numazu and the closest shinkansen station). We took a seat at Numaz.
Here's a short video we took showing you what it looks like when you order a strawberry parfait.
If you wait too long, the tub will float right past you, so you may want to gently hold it in place with one hand as you remove the contents.
In addition to the "river counter" system, one of the attractions of Donguri is the Showa Era mood with fills the shop. To begin with, you'll find an authentic jukebox which takes coins and plays classic Japanese hits from the last 40 years, along with a bit of The Beatles and Queen mixed in for good measure.
You'll also see letters from fans and photos of entertainers, actors and famous people who have visited before, testifying to the shop's enduring popularity. In fact, Donguri was just featured on February 15th in Itadaki High Jump いただきハイジャンプ, a Fuji Television show featuring members of the popular idol group Hey! Say! JUMP. Daiki Arioka and Yuya Takaki visited Donguri.
And of course, since Numazu was the setting for the popular anime Love Live! Sunshine!!, Donguri has also become a favorite among some fans of the series when they visit Numazu on an anime pilgrimage. As with many popular shops in Numazu, fans have contributed goods, posters and stickers from the anime, which the owner has gladly accepted and displayed, albeit in moderation, to make them feel at home. (Scroll back up to the photo of the ticket machine and you might notice one).
Address: 静岡県沼津市大手町5-8-22 (5-8-22 Otemachi Numazu, Shizuoka Prefecture)
Hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. (L.O. 18:30), open on Sundays and national holidays
Closed on Wednesdays (Thursdays when Wednesday is a national holiday)
Payment: Cash only
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