The Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku’s Kabukicho area isn’t anything like it sounds like (a restaurant where you’re served by robot wait-staff). However, hands down it was better than anything I could have ever dreamed of.
Here’s a little backstory so you can appreciate Tokyo’s gem, the Robot Restaurant a little more. It opened July 18, 2012 in the Kabukicho District of Shinjuku with a 10 billion yen startup cost. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Kabukicho, it is basically a large red-light district in Shinjuku (Tokyo), full of host clubs, love hotels, hostess clubs, nightclubs, and – well, restaurants like the Robot Restaurant, all without the technical “red-light” prostitutes.
Knowing that about Kabukicho, I really shouldn’t have been surprised that the robot restaurant was not exactly “family friendly,” if you know what I mean. Spoiler alert- the Robot Restaurant fulfilled a lot of male fantasies by creating a cabaret that combines hot girls in bikinis with gigantic robot battles and flashing neon lights.
The outside of the Robot Restaurant is pretty difficult to miss. It lit up the streets with flashing neon lights. Oh, yeah, and there was a gigantic robotic dinosaur waiting outside, hanging out with a man in a Transformers Bumblebee costume.
You’re supposed to arrive thirty minutes before the show starts, and you MUST have reservations. They do three one hour shows a night, so as long as you buy tickets a couple days in advance, you should be fine. When the robot restaurant first opened in Tokyo, tickets were 3,000 yen ($32). Now, nine months later, tickets have jumped up to 5,000 yen (about $55) and are still sold out nearly every night. They check your name, let you select one of the four, pre-prepared bento dinner boxes to eat at the show, and let you mingle with all the other guests in a large lounge.
I didn’t mingle, mostly because large groups of foreigners in Tokyo make me feel uncomfortable. I’m not quite sure why.
Highlights of the lounge were:
- The fact that a vast majority of the other customers were foreigners
- They had pictures of celebrities (like Tim Burton), riding in these gigantic fembots with enormous boobs
- The lounge was a difficult mix of classy and seizure-inducing bright lights.
After about fifteen minutes waiting in the lounge, they let you go down several flights of narrow, Ed Hardy-inspired stairs. I’m being completely serious, if you chose to drink up in the lounge (Asahi beer and alcoholic lemonade and grapefruit juice are available for 400 yen), be really careful.
After several flights of stairs, the lot of you will end up in the basement of Shinjuku’s Kabukicho, in the Robot Restaurant itself. Kind of like a wresting rink, the stage is set in the middle, and three rows of red, plastic seats rise up on either side.
The performers (cabaret members, robots, robots wearing rainbow afros, a giant panda, the fembots, and a robotic armadillo) do their show in the middle. It’s set up so that everyone gets a great view of the stage.
One thing to be careful about: I spent a good portion of the time looking at other customers, who were drooling over the girls. The bright lights mixed with the fact that the rows of seats are facing each other means that if you’re going to make “awkward” faces during the show, you need to realize that people on the other side of the stage are probably laughing at you/judging you.
I’m sorry I’m a horrible person. But it was funny.
Act 1: Taiko Drummers, Fan dance, Sword dance.
The show started off with some authentic Taiko (Wadaiko) drumming and fan dancing (there aren’t any robots in the beginning). However, these girls were seriously talented, both in drumming and dancing.
Next it moved onto sword dancing. I’m a girl, and I still thought they were both incredibly sexy and incredibly talented.
That was the end of the first set. In between sets, they play mini-movies on the large tv screens behind the guests, as well as blast popular Western and International music (Harlem Shake, Gangnam Style).
Act 2: Marching band drummers, trumpet players, chair dancers.
The next set was to the music of Christina Agulara’s ‘Burlesque,’ only intensifying the burlesque cabaret experience. At this point there’s still no robots, but the girls are wearing progressively less clothing.
Not that anyone minded.
The trumpet players and drums really were playing their instruments, and they were all pretty good.
At one point, some of the women went into the crowd and “Played” with the guests. This woman took the chopsticks of the man sitting near us and hand-fed him part of his meal. Then she moved onto my fiancé, pulling off his baseball cap, spinning it around his head, and blowing him a kiss before she strutted off.
Even before I saw any of the robots in action, the Tokyo Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku totally and completely stole my heart.
Act 3: Humanoid Robots VS a dinosaur, a panda, sexy fem-Captain America, sexy Neanderthals riding a robotic armadillo, panda riding gigantic robotic cow
The next set was the robot battles. And yes, it was real robots (half of the time). All of the sets were two people in robot costumes, fighting either sexy warriors (sexy, female Captain America or sexy Neanderthals) or fighting robots (robotic dinosaur or Panda riding robotic bull).
The robots lost to the Panda riding the gigantic bull, mostly because that robotic bull was enormous.
The humanoid robots at the Robot Restaurant beat both sexy fem-Captain America and the sexy Neanderthals riding the robotic armadillo.
And they beat the robotic dinosaur.
They also put out a chain fence surrounding the stage, to make sure none of the guests in the audience got hurt.
Act 4: Robot Parade and disco (with robots in segways)
For the next set, they passed out glow-sticks.
Then they sent out the robotic dogs, nearly the size of a (small) human, followed quickly by sexy ladies, riding and piloting the robotic fembots with enormous boobs.
I really liked those robots.
It kind of just became an enormous disco, with robots darting everywhere. The released a little smoke, brought it some bright green neon lasers, and pounded the music.
They put on Psy’s Gangnam Style again, and all the dancers and robots started doing the dance. Have you ever seen a robot dance to Gangnam style? You really should…
Spread throughout the arena, hiding in the corner, were these guys in white hard-hats and lab-coats, secretly controlling the robots.
After Act 4, they did a short intermission, so you could come down onto the stage and take pictures with the robots. I, of course, did.
It was really cool to see the robots (who were controlled afar by those guys in the white hard-hats and lab coats) move. They had short, jerky motions. And they were really tall.
Act 5: Aero bikes, tanks, planes, and pole dancers.
The final act was incredible. Some of the dancers got up on these little motorized bicycles that looped around the ceiling, hi-fiving guests and dancing to the music.
Their butt’s got surprisingly and scarily close to everyone’s face.
It was a never-ending party.
Just when you thought the Tokyo Robot Restaurant couldn’t get any stranger: bikini-clad women came out riding a tank.
And a neon airplane, with chains hanging down and women twirling around those chains like they were pole dancers.
The performance ended shortly after. They let you stick around for a bit, taking pictures with the robots before ushering you outside. (If you have to go to the bathroom, the bathroom in the basement is pretty neat – but there are really long lines after each show). They have to prepare for the next show.
Final thoughts about the Robot Restaurant in Tokyo:
If I had enough money, I would go again. As a college student, I can’t exactly afford $50 a ticket. I will probably end up going once again, before I leave Japan (but tickets have nearly doubled in price since they opened, so I’m scared it will get more expensive).
Access Guide: It’s a five minute walk from the Shinjuku Station East Exit (follow signs for Kabukicho). Walk straight out of the exit, heading for Studio Alta (it’s an enormous studio recording building). Cross the street and pass by Studio Alta (it should be on your left). Take a left. Robot Restaurant is located on Sakura-Dori, a pedestrian only street. You can’t miss it; its has bright flashing lights (like a pachinko center), and a gigantic dinosaur in front of it. Robots will be walking around Kabukicho, so worst case, just follow a robot/ask it for direction.
Things you should know before you visit the Tokyo Robot Restaurant in Kabukicho:
- It is not child-appropriate. And even if you thought it was, you have to be 18 or older to enter.
- Dress nicely. Despite what anyone might say, this is a classy event.
- No visible tattoos. They want to keep yakuza out (and in Japan, yakuza have strong ties to tattoos). Except for one of the dancers, she had an enormous tattoo covering most of her back.
- Buy your tickets in advance. You can reserve tickets online on their English website or, if for some reason you don’t have access to internet, they have a ticket counter across the street.
- Eat something before-hand and don’t complain about the food. You’re about to witness women in bikinis ride robots. Who cares that your hamburger was bland? If all you have to complain about the Robot Restaurant is the fact that the food wasn’t very good, I think you’re missing the point (but yes, I understand how you might be upset when the restaurant doesn’t serve very good food. Just, eat a little something before-hand).
- Don’t go to the Robot Restaurant if you have any history of seizures. The flashing neon lights after the Burlesque section were enough to give me a massive headache, and it’s only worse if you’ve been drinking.
- You can take all the pictures you want, so bring a camera. They will even let you take pictures with the huge robots at the end.
- No recording the performance or taking any videos within the restaurant.
- No touching the performers (even when they are flying above you on their suspended bikes). This is a different kind of cabaret performance.
Add me on Google Plus: +Grace Buchele