As a name, ‘Robot Restaurant’, may be something of a misnomer.
Not because there’s any lack of giant mecha Valkyries, neon technicolour tanks or cave-girls that fly in on leather-winged dinosaurs but because the food is definitely not the main attraction.
Sadly, we missed out on Robot Restaurant (for a variety of reasons), but we couldn’t ignore it’s existence.
While wandering the streets of Tokyo huge advert vans (they’re a thing) and trucks towing Robot Restaurant trailers will pass you on the road, blasting out ‘ROBOT RESTAURANT ROBOT RESTAURANT’ in a kawaii cheer that is, frankly, both loud and absurdly optimistic.
Located in Shinjuku’s ‘red-light’ Kabukicho district (think ‘Japanese Vegas’) this ten billion JPY venture is a show of such lavish hyperbole that many people refer to it as being ‘straight out of the bubble era.’
Featuring robots, dinosaurs, glittering mirrors, intense laser shows, dancing girls, gadgets, live music and special effects, the Robot Restaurant spares (almost) no expense to make sure you’re blown off your feet.
On entering you should be seated very close to the stage to ensure, once the show starts, you’re at the centre of the action. The food is apparently extremely limited, average and expensive and, I suspect, is provided to keep your blood sugar up.
Once the show starts you’re likely to forget about your food anyway.
Over the next hour there will be an onslaught of sensory treats for you to absorb as quickly as possible: Valkyrie Robots operated by bikini-clad girls from a chest cockpit (possibly a satire of The Gundam?), Taiko drumming, a marching band, a bike performance, tanks, B52’s and, on your part, a giddy amount of high-fiving and glow stick waving.
The show is described by Tokyo Scum Brigade as a ‘celebration of cultural quirks’ such as ‘right-wing propoganda, WWII fetishism and innocent idols.’ TSB point out that the marching band is particularly good at ‘fulfilling Japan’s panache for doing Americana better than Americans.’ (!)
And I know what you’re wondering – are you going to witness an actual robot fight between the two bikini-clad Valkyries? I’m afraid not. Somewhat sadly/hilariously (I’m not sure which) the Valkyrie robots only fulfill two functions: waving at guests and wiggling their pneumatic breasts at the audience.
I mean who doesn’t want to watch robot women of Amazonian proportions do actual battle while you eat? Oh well.
The show is often described as ‘more silly than sexy’ and an absolute must-see.
Gaijin should be a little more alert in Kabukicho.
Although the Robot Restaurant is a legitimate business that is welcoming to gaijin, Kabukicho is an area largely populated by criminal establishments that are sometimes not-so-friendly to foreigners.
Kabukicho is, straight up, a seedy nightlife area that has heavy Yakuza involvement. According to Metropolitan Tokyo (2004) there are more than 1,000 yakuza members in Kabukicho and 120 different enterprises under their control. A friend of mine, who lived in Japan for many years, warned me to stay away from clubs or eateries in this area that don’t display an English menu.
The truth is, it’s unlikely that anything bad (read: violent) will happen to you in Kabuchiko, but if you enter the wrong club or eatery you may be extorted for money before you can leave.
The area is, reportedly, a strange mix of illegal and legitimate business. There are mob-run ventures such as casinos, brothels, ‘hostess bars’ and tattoo parlours crammed together with ‘teen entertainment’ such as karaoke and gaming arcades. Then there are the legitimate businesses that cater to the needs of the criminal establishments.
Business such as hair and nail parlours, hotels (including capsule), locksmiths, neon light stores, legitimate massage parlours (largely visited by the hostesses), printing companies (business cards) and an extremely dubious local phenomenon known as ‘travel agencies’ that will give you an ‘itinerary’ of local strip clubs and brothels.
That last one is a bit genuinely gross.
Because of the needs and spending habits of this unique community it’s often commented that the ‘bubble still hasn’t popped’ in Kabukicho.
So make sure to visit Robot Restaurant! Not to sate your literal hunger but to satisfy that thirst for the ‘quintessential’ Tokyo experience.
Next post: Meiji Shrine
Until next time,
Kally & Mon.
Visiting Robot Restaurant
The Robot Restaurant is a very short walk from the Shinjuku train station on one of Kabukicho’s main roads:
Each show is one hour long and there are three shows each night at 7pm, 8.30pm and 10pm. The entrance fee is 5,000 JPY (or around $50.00) and the restaurant’s opening hours are 5.30pm – 11pm.
The restaurant is closed every Sunday and bookings are essential.
[Feature Image Credit: Rob Sheridan]
[Image Credit (1, 2): The Daily Mail]
[Image Credit (3): Tokyo Scum Brigade]
[Image Credit (4-6): Rocket News]
Have you visited Robot Restaurant? Was it everything you hoped and more?