Japanese Restaurant Chains in the UK


Japanese Restaurant Chains in the UK

It was only a couple of decades ago that the majority of Brits were rather unfamiliar with Japanese food. It seemed exotic, and perhaps a little scary; the idea that ‘sushi’ is synonymous with ‘raw fish’ is a misunderstanding that persists even now. However, the situation today is quite different. Many British people are familiar with not only sushi but other Japanese dishes like katsu curry, donburi, and udon. There are Japanese restaurants on the majority of UK city high streets, and most British supermarkets sell packets of makizushi with pickled ginger and tiny bottles of soy sauce. This article introduces the four most well-known Japanese restaurant chains in the UK. 


YO!Sushi (established in 1997) offers sushi and other Japanese cuisine via a ‘kaiten’ conveyor belt system, in surroundings of vibrant and funky interior designs. The sushi is made by chefs inside the conveyor belt loop, around which the customers sit and view their food being made. They can then pick their chosen sushi from the conveyor belt, or order special items from the menu. The dishes are colour-coded according to their price, and so at the end the customer can count up their stack of empty dishes in order to calculate the bill. YO!Sushi restaurants can often be found in airport terminals and department stores. 


The oldest company in this list, Wagamama opened its first restaurant in 1992. The menu is mostly made up of modern twists on traditional Japanese cuisine, but there are also Thai and Vietnamese-inspired dishes. There are also some innovative vegan options, like ‘Vegatsu’: a plant-based version of katsu curry.

Wagamama’s seating design is quite unique in that customers sit on uniform rows of communal benches, so different groups dine alongside each other at busy times. Also, as soon as a dish is ready it is served at the table, even if other people on the table haven’t received their food yet. This goes against custom in the UK, where it is considered polite to wait for other people’s meals to arrive before one starts eating. However, it is in-keeping with East Asian etiquette – and saves the food from going cold! 


Itsu’s brand (established in 1997) is centered around clean eating. This means raw vegetable smoothies, ‘klean katsu’ rice bowls, and vibrant salads of seaweed and edamame beans. When it comes to sushi, however, there is not much to choose from apart from the usual salmon, tuna, and prawn. All the sushi and salad goes half-price 30 minutes before closing time, and so there is often a flurry of customers around then. Itsu also sells grocery products like ramen broth and miso powder in UK supermarkets, so that people can make their Japanese dishes at home. 


Named after the pungent Japanese horseradish, Wasabi (established in 2003) is a popular high-street choice, and boasts an extensive menu of hot and hearty bento dishes; customers can choose from combinations of pumpkin katsu curry, salmon teriyaki, yakisoba noodles, and more. Wasabi also sells individually wrapped pieces of sushi which encourages customers to try new types and build their own tasty platter. 

Each of these four restaurant chains are built around their own unique concepts, but what they all have in common is a focus on nutrition, clean, minimalist brand design, and the fact their first branches were all established in London. Whilst all four have proved to be very popular dining choices for UK people, many Japanese (or people who have been to Japan) say the food is a far cry away from the real deal. For example, avocado and tuna mayonnaise-filled makizushi are some of the most commonplace sushi fillings in the UK, but are not at all prevalent in Japan. The dilution and modification of food culture is inevitable when attempting to penetrate a foreign market, but perhaps with a growing British familiarity with Japanese cuisine, will come a greater yearning for more authentic and traditional Japanese food.


・decades ago・・数十年前
・be unfamiliar with・・知られていない
・high street・・繁華街
・pickled ginger・・生姜漬け
・most well-known・・最も知られた

・‘kaiten’ conveyor belt system・・回転コンベアシステム
・inside the conveyor belt loop・・回転ベルトの輪の中で

・modern twists・・現代風
・Thai and Vietnamese-inspired dishes・・タイやベトナム風の料理
・uniform rows of communal benches・・一列に並んだ共同のベンチ
・in-keeping with~・・〜に則ったもの

・center around・・焦点をあてている
・rice bowl・・丼(どんぶり)
・vibrant salad・・色鮮やかなサラダ
・goe half-price・・半額になる
・a flurry of・・たくさんの
・grocery products・・食料品
・ramen broth・・ラーメンのスープ


・far cry away from~・・〜とは全然違う
・sushi filling・・寿司詰め













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