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Business trends

Japanese restaurants embrace robots as labor crunch bites

From sushi to tempura, local delicacies are increasingly made by machines

Children take sushi dishes from a conveyor belt at a Sushiro restaurant near Tokyo's Ogikubo station (photo by Ken Kobayashi)

TOKYO -- At lunchtime, the Sushiro restaurant near Tokyo's Ogikubo train station is packed with families, couples and business people, but one thing is missing: staff.

Instead of receptionists, diners use a touch panel to find a table. At their seats, they navigate a tablet to order from a menu spanning some 130 items including sushi, ramen noodles, fried chicken and hot coffee. The dishes are delivered directly to the table via a conveyor belt. A self-serving register awaits them on their way out.

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