Note: This post contains photos of showgirls in bikinis. If you’re allergic to that sort of thing, you should click on the ‘back’ button now and check out my non PG13 posts.
Let me flat out state the disclaimer: Robot Restaurant in Tokyo has been around for several years, and things really took off for the tourist attraction when celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain featured it his show, Parts Unknown. I may not be a famous chef, but I’d recommend it too, because it’s an incredibly fun, intoxicating experience.
I repeat, it’s an unabashedly florescent, commercial and mainstream TOURIST ATTRACTION found in the Kabukicho district of Shinjuku, Tokyo. The only thing more mainstream than this place is DISNEYLAND.
Travel hippies looking to ferment yeast with Buddhist monks to brew beer should look elsewhere.
Robot Restaurant is the sort of place that takes what you know about a cabaret performance, and smashes it with a mallet. The entrance itself should tell you things aren’t quite normal: There are 2 metre-tall, Amazonian women waiting to grab you and hustle you into paying almost S$100 per ticket for a 90-minute performance.
Once you step inside the building’s lobby, you are greeted with so many colours and flashing lights you feel like you’re in a giant strobe. The throbbing headaches of most customers start here. But again, the upcoming fun is well worth it.This entrance inside the entrance leads to an amazingly trippy stairwell that leads you into the building’s basement, where the show takes place.If like me, you haven’t tried hallucinogenic drugs like LSD before, there is no reason to experiment anymore, because this stairwell is it. It’s like an angry Unicorn came in and exploded, leaving rainbows and reptiles all over the shop.Walking down the stairs to the basement is an adventure in itself, and people will stop for selfies. Nobody passes up on mirrored staircases.If you look up on the ceiling, you’ll see these amazingly life-sized works of – what I presume to be – a teenage boy. It’s not Michelangelo’s Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, but you know it’s tacky fun.Then you arrive in a den about the size of a tennis court. There’s loud Japanese pop music playing and a buzzy vibe. People are talking and getting their cold beers off the tap. They used to sell bento boxes a few years but the food was terrible, worse than the microwave fare you find in a badly-stocked 7-11, so trust me, you’re not missing anything.After everyone gets seated, the thunderous drums clap, and they don’t stop clapping for the next 40 minutes. It’s a horde of Mu-lans dressed in crazy wigs banging on florescent drums while riding a giant swivelling float!They’re nailing it with the choreographed drumming. All the Chinese New Year Lion Dance troupes I’ve seen do not come close in terms of precision and fury. It’s insanely-loud but every fibre in my body is awake now.Then there’s more of them, and I start wondering if they ever mix their wigs up. Or if they wash them. I hope so.The show’s music gets under your skin in the best way possible – it’s rousing, frenzied, and pumps the adrenalin, and you forget to think.Is that a pole-dancer with a harem of drummer girls? Why, yes. We totally saw that coming.If I tried to do what she’s doing I’ll smash my nose.So much energy in these Harajuku girls it makes me feel terribly sedentary. And it’s like, hey, they’re watching us!If you’ve ever wondered what a body-pump class in an anime looks like, this is it.They come out riding their giant robot machines, and it’s everything a teenage boy wants. Girls, lasers, remote-controlled robots and metal clowns skating around.At this point you stop questioning the art direction of the show, and begin feeling underdressed because what they’re wearing looks so much more fun.Why, hello there. Konichiwa!This contraption starts bouncing out from behind the curtains. It’s like RoboCop and Tron had a baby on steroids.But no, it’s not enough, he has to bring on more friends on these fantastic unibikes.The audience lap it up, swinging their glow-sticks to the beat.Then, the pirated version of Daft Punk appears.Proving that they thought of kick-scooters long before it became hip to annoy pedestrians everywhere.I guess her squad goals are achieved more than the rest of us.
This jumbo jet flies slowly over our heads, while the Kabuki girls dangle gleefully.It’s my party and I’m Tank Girl if I want to.End of the show, and the maintenance staff comes in to sweep all mechanical rides back for rebooting. Mr Robotos!
Where: B2F Shinjuku Robot Building, 1-7-1 Kabukicho Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
Hours: 4pm – 11pm daily
Getting there: Get off Shinjuku Station, head towards the Kabukicho Area, and ask for ‘Robot Building’.