Nothing that originated from Japan that the west has stared at in disbelief and/or laughed at even comes close to the colossus of entertainment that is the Robot Restaurant. Situated in Shinjuku’s notorious Kabukicho district, it is the one thing you must do while in Japan. To be fair, calling it a restaurant is a stretch, but it is, without a shadow of a doubt, the greatest show on earth.
The entrance doesn’t come cheap at 5000 yen, but it is a reasonable price to pay for any theatre performance, and after having been, I can safely say that I would have gladly paid twice as much. Currently, the free weekly English magazine Metropolis is printing a 20% off voucher in every issue, so you can get in for the low, low price of 4000. You need to have one voucher per person to get the discount, which shouldn’t be a problem, as you can find Metropolis practically everywhere.
The decor consists entirely of neon, LEDs, and neon LEDs. Stepping in at first can be a little blinding, but after a while your eyes will adjust to the light as you ooh and aah down a narrow staircase leading to the spacious basement theatre. The seating is teared and there are only 3 rows on each side, so you don’t have to worry about a tall gentleman in a top hat obstructing your view.
The entertainment consists of about 6 shows lasting around 5-10 minutes each, and they are all more jaw-droppingly awesome than the last. Seriously. I sat there thinking that it couldn’t possibly get any better, and then it did. Oh how it did. Every time. Trying to describe the shows would be futile, because no words, pictures or youtube videos can adequately explain how amazing it is to have this stuff happen a few metres away from your face. The only way I will try to sell this place to you if you aren’t already convinced is this: Professional pole dancer on a moving platform with robot legs. Giant dancing robots. Chicks in bikinis riding giant robots. What more could you possibly want? The restaurant caters well to foreigners as the show narratives are done in both English and Japanese as a voice-over or as subtitles on the TV screen walls opposite you. Also, at the end everyone is given a glow stick and asked to join in the fun, and you can take pictures with the robots.
Other sources of entertainment are the looks on the faces of people sitting opposite you. Although my jaw seldom left the floor for the duration of the show, I noticed that a wife (I think) of a guy sitting on the other side was less than impressed with her husband ogling scantily clad dancers. Her face of disapproval was hilarious. To be fair, she should have known what she was getting herself into.
I’ve been told that the show changes every 6 months, and from watching the video on the restaurant’s site I can confirm that this is true, as there was no robotic shark when I went. Now I’m sad I missed the robot shark. Guess I’ll just have to go again.
Although the show is fantastic, I believe you also deserve a fair warning about the food. You get 2 choices: meat or fish. Although the meal comes in bento form, so vegetarians can still eat the rice and pickles that don’t come into contact with other parts of the box. It’s not exactly filling, but it’s also not as bad as some people make it out to be. Just your average Japanese bento. The entry fee also buys you a small bottle of green tea, so if you want alcohol you can purchase a draft beer for 500 yen (standard bar and restaurant price) or a can of chu-hai (Japanese shochu with sparkling water and a flavouring of your choice) for 400 yen.
Before or after the show, do stop by the 3rd floor waiting room bar. It looks incredible, and the drinks are cheaper than most establishments in the area. They are around 500-600 yen per drink!
Not visiting the Robot Restaurant will be the biggest mistake you’ll ever make!