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Wacky Tokyo: The Robot Restaurant

A visit to Tokyo’s weird and wonderful Robot Restaurant.

The room looks like a kaleidoscope threw up in it. There are shapes, colours, jewels, and mirrors everywhere.  The aesthetic is… I struggle for a label.  Tacky? Jaw-dropping? Bizarre?

Finally it comes to me: the interior is the love-child of kitsch and psychedelic.

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Tokyo is probably, and I mean this in the nicest way possible, one of the weirdest places I have ever been.  Blame it on my Western, left-leaning-but-still-slightly-conservative perspective: this land of anime, cosplay, and fetish culture is jarring to the girl who grew up in Canada, a country that is straight-laced and square in comparison. I suspected Tokyo was a city like no other when my friend and I visited a fetish cafe where cherub-faced waitresses dressed in maid costumes and offered spankings and ear-cleanings on request; my suspicions were confirmed when we made the acquaintance of Japanese reggae enthusiasts at a dancehall club who spoke poor English but were somehow fluent in Jamaican patois.

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I repeat: Tokyo, and I mean this in the nicest way possible, is one of the weirdest places I have ever been.

So really, I shouldn’t have been surprised by what I saw when my friend and I arrived at Tokyo’s Robot Restaurant and found ourselves blinded by its, er, colourful interior. 

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So what is this enchanted place? Well, for starters, “Robot Restaurant” is a bit of a misnomer.  There are robots, yes, and while the bento boxes filled with wilted sushi on offer technically qualify as food, designating the place a restaurant is pretty far off the mark.  Instead, the Robot Restaurant is more accurately defined as a cabaret show with some Transformer-like automatons thrown in. 

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 There are two shows daily, at 8:30pm and 10pm, and it’s prudent to book a spot in advance because the restaurant reaches capacity quickly. Luckily, we manage to snag tickets to an 8:30pm showing the night before we are due to depart Japan.  Tickets are about $50 USD per person but all the online reviews we’d read told us that the spectacle is worth the price of admission and more. We turn up with half an hour to showtime and are ushered with other guests through a series of hallways until we get to a bar that somehow evokes the stage from the Starlight Express. We grab a table and busy ourselves with taking pictures.

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 Five minutes to showtime, we are then directed to another room which resembles a very small amphitheatre.  The seats are similar to the ones found at the movies and they are packed tightly together– unfortunate for my knees but I am impressed at how close we are to the stage.  Once all guests have been seated, the aforementioned bento box is served– one look and one sniff convince me that it’s better that I leave it uneaten! The lights are cut and the show begins.

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What a show it is! Loud music pumps and loud lighting refracts on bodies that are very young and scantily clad.

There are complicated dance routines (to songs from Broadway musicals like Dreamgirls!),  majorettes dressed as bunny rabbits who slay with their baton-handling skills, a pole dancer(!) and of course, robots galore. If the show follows some sort of storyline or narrative, it is completely lost on me.  But even if the spectacle is devoid of any meaning, my friend and I are captivated from start to finish.

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Ninety minutes-ish later, the lights dim for what we think is the last time and the humans leave the stage.  A couple of robots are trotted out and guests are invited to take their pictures with them. As shameless tourists my friend and I jump at the opportunity!

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After our cheesy snaps, we are treated to an encore, which is greatly appreciated by the guests. We leave the venue, eyes filled with wonder and heads spinning with everything we’ve seen over the course of the evening.  I exhale deeply upon exiting and think for the umpteenth time this trip about how weird, yet fascinating Tokyo is, and how the Robot Restaurant is definitely an experience worth having!

Have you ever been to or heard of the Robot Restaurant? 

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15 Comments

  • Reply
    NOLA M
    April 28, 2015 at 11:58 pm

    I did not visit the robot place, but I have been to Tokyo a few times.
    Here are some things that stood out…
    We went to a sushi bar where you could point to the fish you wanted in an aquarium, and they would cut the meat from a living fish and serve it to you while that fish was still jumping on the cutting surface. (I couldn’t)
    My husband was almost 7 ft tall Black man with a bald head, and elderly people would see him and and look terrified for a quick second…then regain the composure and act like they didn’t see him. On the other hand, cute little children is school uniforms would rush him squeeling with delight and climbing all over him like he was a jungle gym.
    We had a fun day at a huge shopping mall when my husband decided to go into shoe stores and ask what shoes they had in his size (size 17).
    We went to some beautiful parks with temples. Supposedly, the smoke had cleansing qualities. My husband kept saying he needed some more smoke.
    Well there was not enough smoke in all of Japan…that’s why he’s my ex now.
    The hotel beds were so tiny…like the one from The Three Little Bears.
    I went to a hair salon where I was told my hair “Is very bad…” They wanted to do a treatment that would make my hair bone straight. (I didn’t do it.)
    I left looking like a character from an animae film with thick fluffy bangs that took years to grow out.
    All in all, I did enjoy it very much. I would go back…but it’s not on the top of my list.

  • Reply
    Sarah
    April 29, 2015 at 9:08 am

    This is exactly the sort o experience that makes me want to visit Japan! Weird in the nicest way as possible.. 😉

  • Reply
    Caroline Achieng Otieno
    April 29, 2015 at 1:35 pm

    Looks really interesting! I dare say, I’d love to visit someday..my visit should be later on this year after TBEX I guess..I hear that Japan is quite costly..maybe I should breeze through, like for four days or so! Need to plan financially..:-)

  • Reply
    Jessica
    April 30, 2015 at 4:38 am

    Hi there,
    I am currently living in Tokyo and have been to this insane show several times now! Definitely a must-see. Just to let you know.. there are now 4 shows per day and the price is more like $70 USD. Still worth it though! Also– I agree with the idea of skipping the bento box. There are so many amazing restaurants just a short distance away.

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    Tan
    February 10, 2016 at 1:46 pm

    You can per-purchase tickets for this show online at a cheaper price. Just do a google search. You have to select the day and time of the show you want to attend. I purchased mine for 50 bucks

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