Robot Restaurant. Wow, where do I begin?
First of all, Robot Restaurant (ロボットレストラン) is barely a restaurant. It’s really a burlesque/dinner show on an acid trip, liberally splattered with enough bright flashing lights to induce a mild seizure. It is over-the-top, tacky, silly, gaudy, and bizarre. And yet, for many folks, Robot Restaurant could be one of the most oddly entertaining things they have ever seen. It’s actually rather fitting that I went there the weekend before Halloween.
The entire “restaurant” is designed with sensory overload in mind, as if it’s trying really hard to make you develop attention deficit disorder. You first walk into a waiting area which is covered floor to ceiling in bright lights and bling — it’s the entire Las Vegas Strip packed into one room. To get to the venue, you actually have to walk down several floors via a stairwell that is decorated in similar fashion to the waiting area. You feel like you’re descending ever deeper into a technicolor kaleidoscopic underworld. Even the restrooms are designed the same way, with metallic gold toilets.
I won’t give away too much for those interested in seeing the show, though they apparently change up the program every few months to keep it fresh. But yes, there are giant animatronic dancing robots. Yes, there are scantily clad women. Yes, Kung Fu Panda rides into the room on a gigantic dairy cow to fight an alien invasion. And yes, there is a neon-lit Enola Gay (you know, the plane that dropped the atomic bomb on Japan). Did I mention that it’s a dinner show on an acid trip?
You might not be surprised to hear that opinions about Robot Restaurant are quite polarized. Some folks did not like it at all. I noticed a foreign couple sitting across the performance area from where I was, who was scowling for practically the entire time.
Others really enjoyed the zany weirdness of it all. After all, Robot Restaurant doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously, so why should you? Those familiar with Japanese pop culture will notice the anime and video game influences in both the style and action of the show. It would not sound right to say that it is “so Japanese,” yet you won’t see anything like this anywhere in the world except in Japan. Heck, I don’t think anyone else could even conceived of something quite like this.
In case you are still feeling insecure about being there, there’s a wall in the waiting room featuring photos of various foreign celebrities who have also discovered the spectacle of Robot Restaurant. For example, there’s director J.J. Abrams who would have been highly satisfied with the amount of lens flare he would have gotten if he had been filming the show. There are also photos of directors Tim Burton and Guillermo del Toro. And the British rock trio Muse, whose music would have made a great soundtrack for this entire production.
Since this is a food blog and the place is called Robot Restaurant, I’m obliged to mention that you are given a choice of a meat or fish bento as part of the price of admission (5000 yen per person). But it’s completely forgettable. In fact, some folks ignored the meal entirely.
But really, you don’t go there for the food. You go there to watch shiny robots dance to Gangnam Style.
Happy Halloween!Robot Restaurant Location: 1-7-1 Kabukicho, Shinjuku, Tokyo 160-0021; Shinjuku Robot Building, B2
How to Get There: Go to Shinjuku Station via JR (Yamanote and Chuo lines), Metro (Maranouchi line), Oedo Line, Keio line, or the Odakyu line. Go out through the northern end of the station.