Zauo, which translates as “sit and fish” is a unique restaurant chain where clients are given fishing gear and get to catch what they want to eat. It’s one of those quirky places where you just have to go for an authentic Japanese experience.
I don’t know if they were inspired by the old saying “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime” or if they just thought the concept would put them ahead of the competition, but one thing is for sure – whoever thought of making Zauo a fishing restaurant hit the jackpot. It is one of the most popular venues in all of Japan, for locals and tourists alike, and whether you like sushi and sashimi, katsus, sukiyaki and other hotpots, or cooked fish, Zauo has it all.
But it’s not the delicious food that makes Zauo restaurants so popular, it’s what comes before eating. Upon entry, your eyes are treated to a rather unusual sight – a large wooden boat full of dinning tables, surrounded by dozens of water tanks full of fish. Members of the staff present you with a fishing rod and bait and direct you to the right fishing tank, depending on what you feel like eating. Each tank has a mix of different fish to make fishing random, but still weighted towards specific catches. You can opt for fish like sea bream, red snapper, horse mackerel, or you can go for the high-end species like saltwater eel, shark, Japanese sea snail, or lobster, but these will usually set you back a few hundred dollars.
As you might expect fishing in a water tank full of fish, you get a bite pretty fast. Once you’ve proven you’re a worthy fisherman, the staff will sometimes do a silly cheer in honor of you catching a fish, and ask you how you want it prepared… You can choose from a variety of traditional meals, although it’s recommended some fish be cooked a certain way. One thing you can’t complain about in a Zauo restaurant is the food not being fresh. Oh, actually there is one thing that might freak you out a little: if you go for a raw specialty, there’s a big chance the fish will still be twitching when it’s served on your plate, but Japanese folks don’t seem to mind much.
Anyway, if you’re looking for an eating experience you can only get in Japan, you have to go to a Zauo restaurant. Or, if fishing’s not your thing, you can try the Umewaka Restaurant, where they serve the world’s biggest sushi.