Techno Cabaret at Robot Restaurant Tokyo
The Robot Restaurant Tokyo is one of those rare things in life. A unique blend of imagination, big thinking, spectacle and a reported five million light bulbs. This robot cabaret is also, unexpectedly, a family show and bonding experience. Yes there are dancing girls but this is not an adult show. And don’t bother with a menu. The last thing you will want to do is eat…
Mind your head, madness is about to descend
A line of giant metallic figures stand brooding in the darkness at this robot themed restaurant in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district. What now? This robot cabaret show is as unpredictable as it is exciting. Just when you think you have a handle on it; it offers something even more bizarre than everything that has come before. Ten minutes ago I’d have said there was no way that a ten foot panda was likely to gallop through the auditorium on the back of a cow in the middle of a battle to reclaim the rainforest, after robots have displaced indigenous people and commenced a battle with a panto witch on a metallic tank. But, yes, it happened. And it all made perfect sense. Sort of.
In fact, the giant robots’ next move is to break into a Gangman style routine, complete with dancing girls and a clown on roller skates. Could there be a restaurant anywhere in the globe that’s less about food?
Let your high tech hair down at Robot Restaurant Tokyo
If there is anything in the capital city that symbolises Japan then this is it. Not the orderly, traditional, formal Japan. That’s all in fancy restaurants, ancient temples and eclectic galleries and museums. This restaurant, in Tokyo’s Shinjuku area, at the heart of the Kabukicho district is Japan after it has come home from the office, loosened off the uniform white shirt, let down its hair and had a glass of sake or two. The Robot Restaurant Tokyo is Japan’s creative imagination, with pencil strokes of manga, and neon lights stripped directly from Electric Town. Thousands and thousands of lights. Some say millions.
The restaurant was fitted out at a reported cost of ten billion Yen and you can see it coming from a mile off. Its bling ignites the sky, and then it fills it with electric guitar riffs while wearing angel wings and a visor.
Up until an hour before we visit, I’m under the impression that kids aren’t allowed, or welcome. But thankfully we read beyond the prudish comments in many reviews online. This robot cabaret is a family friendly show. It has elements of computer game, of animation, and film. It has a sense of humour. It has someone writhing about in the mouth of a snake, girls on motorbikes, tanks and swings, and of course a wide selection of ‘bots.’ It has a story too, in places. There is only one uncomfortable moment when the scantily clad dancing girls get a little too close to Matthew on the front row, who looks like he doesn’t know where to put his eyes. Luckily Stuart does.
Life in technicolour
From the laid back jazz band pre-show from a robot cabaret band in a mirrored, velvet bar, to the intimate venue, with seats that look like they came straight from a TV quiz show recording, the setting is designed to grab you and shake you awake. This mix of late night cabaret, drumming concert, and dance spectacle is about robots of course, but it’s also about life, in technicolour. The battle for good and evil figures in pretty much every set. You could go down the road and buy tickets for Wicked or for The Lion King and get a battle for good and evil with better music, and a far less tacky set at similar prices. But you won’t see anything like this.
This show is bucket list stuff. If you are in Tokyo, then take the kids. It’s not cheap. And the food isn’t included in the ticket price -but anyway it is little more than a picnic on a plastic tray table and most people don’t even bother to order any. If you like sophisticated narrative and music then you won’t get it here. But what you will get is a unique show that will make you cheer as you are waving a neon stick at it. It’s also a rare chance to see the lighter side of the buttoned up Japanese; whether they are waving a wand, hopping into the boxing ring for a couple of rounds with a walking computer, banging drums dressed in white glitter bikinis and Ronald McDonald wigs, or racing like Tron.
It is also incredible to see how such a spectacular and energetic show, with such enormous props can be put on in such a small space. The main auditorium isn’t much bigger than the ground floor of my house. You can’t imagine more than a couple of robots fitting in to it. And yet they do. They come, silver horse following neon motorbike, following chariot and car. They fill up every last available space. At one point I have a drumming set whizzing past my nose, with the thighs of drummers (in not many clothes) only inches from me. It’s an education for the teenage boys if nothing else. And you wonder where on earth they store all the robots between shows on a tiny road in a packed Tokyo district.
“You would never ever see that show anywhere in the world. Only in Japan,” says Cameron, who comes out buzzing and spends the next few hours editing the video below. I’m inclined to agree. I don’t think it’s something any of my children will forget. And how many restaurants can you say that about?
There are three shows nightly with an extra one on a Saturday night. It’s 6,000 yen a ticket, regardless of age. You need to arrive about 45 minutes before the show starts to allow time to pick up your ticket and see the pre-show.
If you have time, then track down a copy of Time Out. It has a voucher that will save you a significant amount of money. Or see if your hotel has a voucher offering a 1000 yen discount. You can book by phone, in English, online or in person. We got tickets for a Saturday night show just a couple of hours in advance. But every seat was full for our performance, so don’t leave it too late.
Food wise, you can order a Bento box. Or you can buy beer from a robot with a tank of it on her back in various breaks during the show. Our advice is to eat after the show. You won’t be able to concentrate on your food during it, and the surrounding area of Shinjuku is full of cheap noodle bars and restaurants. But just to warn you, Tokyo is going to look a little less neon when you exit this glittering robot cabaret.
This post has been added to the Mummy Travels City Tripping Linky
More Japanese Adventures
For more on our Japanese Adventures why not check out our Week in Haiku posts. While travelling around Japan we wrote a haiku every day, capturing something of the highlights of our daily travel experiences in verse together with a brief explanation and a picture. You can find the posts here:
Haiku Travel Diary: Adventures in Japan Week 1. In which we introduce you to purikura, lantern festivals, geisha tea parties and shrine etiquette.
Adventures in Japan: Haiku Journal Week 2. Poetic musings on hiking Japanese style, cat cafes, robot love, Tokyo gold and more.
Another Week in Haiku: Adventures in Japan 3. In which we get poetic about maglev trains, participatory dance festivals, the spirit world, pumpkins and atom bombs.
Yet Another Week in Haiku: Adventures in Japan 4. On bamboo groves, industrial incineration plants, car factories, ancient Buddhist cemeteries and more.
More Practical Posts on Travelling in Japan