Enjoy a mind-boggling night at Tokyo' s Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku
It’s no secret that Tokyo is a multi-faceted city. It’s tame, serene and business-oriented during the daytime, while as dusk falls, the cityscape bursts into neon glow and staid streets of the sprawling metropolis morph into a kaleidoscopic wonderland.
The luminous walkways are filled with adventure-seeking Tokyoites and the flashy marquees beckon passers-by inside offering a variety of night-time entertainment for all tastes.
What better way to get insight into local oddities and learn more about the preoccupations of Japanese than to immerse into the themed scene of the city? The choice is vast and varied, although one that stands out and leaves you in a dizzy whirl is Robot Restaurant.
Mainly popularized among expats by Anthony Bourdain’s show Parts Unknown, Robot Restaurant has piqued the interests of locals and foreign visitors alike and has been ranking as one of the top attractions and themed entertainments in Tokyo. Couple of weeks ago our friends were visiting us from the U.S. and we thought it was a perfect time to book the tickets and finally see first-hand what the hype was about. To say it was a sensory overload will be an understatement. The show was edgy, bizarre, quirky and hilariously entertaining all at once, and I can tell you one thing right from the start– it’s a must-see!
Tucked away in the neon-drenched narrow streets of Shinjuku’s Kabukicho district, a.k.a. the red light district, the Robot Restaurant glimmers brightly in comparison with neighborhood’s other establishments. Two gigantic female robots greet you at the entrance and set the tone for the surreal happenings that are ahead of you.
One thing should be made clear from the very start – don’t expect this to be a foodie experience. While you can order a bento box when you make ticket reservations it looked utterly uninspiring to me. I’d recommend you eat elsewhere before or after the show. You can get drinks and snacks in-between the acts, but don’t hope for a menu or multi-course gourmet experience despite it being called a “restaurant.”
The venue opened in 2012 at the cost of $10 million and gives show goers an overwhelming 2-hour experience replete with laser lights, giant animatronics, roof thumping hyper pop songs, and scantily-clad dancing girls.
Once inside, you are ushered through a gaudy maze to an equally flashy elevator which takes you to a Las Vegas-esque flamboyant lounge, only one with a Japanese twist. Gold shell swivel chairs, crystal chandeliers, wall-to-wall mirrors and lots of dazzling sparkle.
You get a bit of time to absorb the craziness of the room and have a drink at the bar. Ten minutes before the show start-time you are escorted to the showroom via another staircase all the way down to what felt like a basement.
I was struck how small the runway-like stage area was, but aren’t Japanese experts in making most of their limited spaces?
Once seated, you are given strict instructions on how to behave and then the lights turn off, loud music comes on and you are immersed into a totally psychedelic experience. For about two hours you are treated to a show that is out of this world.
Broken down into four sections, the room is filled with a spectacle of LED screens with anime style graphics, blinding laser and electronic effects, super cool futuristic chrome bikes, gigantic clowns, the divas in glittery mini dresses and knee-high boots and huge Transformer-esque robots. The show throws logic out of the window, it’s totally random and nothing makes sense yet it is simply awesome.
The entire first act is a full-blown taiko drumming war, with the girls beating their hearts out to the drums.
The frenzy continues in the following acts when forest and water characters battle an evil army. Kung-Fu Panda on a cow? Not a problem! The fire-breathing dinosaur fighting robots? Check! Every single stunt was crazier than the previous one.
There was a whole team in the dark controlling the robots with practiced expertise. I was amazed by the surprising ease and grace these massive machines move with.
Overall, the energy coming from the performers was infectious and the show is a pure bombardment of the senses. Four of us left with a single question “What on earth did just happen?” It was a real acid-trip and the one we will never forget.