Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Robot Restaurant - Japan 2013 trip report part 7

Since I originally wrote this post, Robot Restaurant has been featured on Anthony Bourdain's "Parts Unknown" Tokyo after dark episode. If you've been searching for it, yes, this is the place!

Now this is what I think of when I think of Tokyo. Bright lights, robots, half-naked dancing girls, fire eaters, and animatronic dinosaurs. Of course - it's Kabukicho!

This is the Robot Restaurant. And if you're looking for Tokyo's wild side, it doesn't get much crazier.

1-7-1 Kabukicho Shinjuku-Ku Tokyo
Tel: 81-3-3200-5500
Reservations required (accepted online)

The Robot Restaurant is not, strictly speaking, a restaurant. I've long since learned that you don't go to themed restaurants in Tokyo for the food (though some are better than others), but this one practically flushes all pretense. What the Robot Restaurant is is a kind of futuristic burlesque show. With robots. And of course, lots of girls.

When you first arrive, you have to buy a ticket from a vending machine (it's Japan!). They charge ¥5,000  and you get to choose between four different bento boxes for dinner. Then you put your stuff in a locker - they really don't like you bringing anything down there except a camera, they love cameras! - and head to the waiting room.

It was empty when we got there, but it filled up fast. We had a beer and took some pics up here. On the wall, they've posted photos of a bunch of famous people that have passed through - there really have been quite a few in the short time this place has been open, but the only ones I remember right now are JJ Abrams and Tim Burton.

At 7:30, they take you down this crazy stairwell. (Ok, this is actually the return trip up, but it's the same thing in reverse.)

When you enter the theater, they hand you your bento box. This was mine. I actually don't remember what it was, but it surprisingly wasn't too bad. Just small. You're meant to eat before the show starts - this is not the kind of thing where you can divide your attention between watching and eating!

Fire! You will notice how close these guys are to us. I could feel the heat as they were throwing these things around. There are two stages at either end of the room, and then this dance floor in the middle. They tell you to watch your feet, because you're gonna get run over if you stick them out too far.

The show has several different acts. This was one of them. We didn't get photos of them all. Here's another:

Gah! Robots! This was crazy. There's a guy in there but the suit is about 12 feet tall and obviously very, very heavy and they wheel him out on what's basically a forklift, with a guy standing in front making sure he doesn't fall over. But once he's off, he's on his own, lumbering all over the floor and coming perilously close to falling on the customers. This place seems very dangerous!

Of course there are the girls to take your mind off all that.

More girls!

And more robots and girls. The ending of this thing is crazy - it's like you put every stereotype anyone ever had about Tokyo or Japan in a big blender, pushed the button for "puree" and then shattered it while it was running.  This show is like being hit in the face with all those shards of glass and bits of Tokyo pop culture puree. In a good way.

I was actually skeptical before we went, but it's really impossible not to get caught up in it. It's a fun show. (Update: I just watched Anthony Bourdain call it "the best show in the history of entertainment." I want to hang out with that guy sometime.)

At the end, all the girls come around and high-five everyone in the first row - and randomly in the second and third rows. I do recommend sitting in front, though - it wasn't hard to get a seat there, just don't dawdle.

On our way out, we were asked to fill out a survey - because I'm obviously a westerner, and they seem very interested in why westerners seem to like their show so much. It does at times feel like a show created more for a westerner's idea of pop culture Japan than something Japanese would actually want to see, although I usually hate stuff like that and it won me over pretty quickly. (Then again, I can't fully escape my own culture bias.) The crowd was about 50/50 split between western and Japanese when we went, and surprisingly also about 60/40 male & female too. There were a lot of couples like us, and my wife had fun too. Who doesn't like dancing girls and robots??

Unless I find something I missed, this is going to be my last post from Tokyo. The next day, it was onward to Okinawa! I'll have more about that coming up!

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About This Blog

This is increasingly not a blog about Alphabet City, New York. I used to live in the East Village and work on Avenue B, but I no longer do. Why don't I change the name if I'm writing about Japan and video games and guitars? Because New Yorkers are well-rounded people with varied interests, and mine have gone increasingly off the rails over the years. And I don't feel like changing the name. I do still write about New York City sometimes.


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