I was very happy recently when a good friend, Mark, decided he would stop over in Japan for a few days on his way over to Europe. Mark has visited Japan before so has visited most of the more famous places in Japan so I asked him where he would like to go. The answer came back very quickly. "The Robot restaurant!". I have known about the Robot restaurant for quite a while but had not gone there for my blog as I like to focus on more of the less well known, but even better (in my opinion) places in Tokyo and around Japan (if you are reading this blog for the first time, please have a look at some of the other posts for some hidden gems of places to visit!). So, the Robot restaurant it was going to be!
The Robot restaurant (well, it's not really a restaurant, more of a performance although you can get food there, I can't vouch for the quality of the food though as I didn't eat there) is located in Kabukicho, near Shinjuku station. For those of you who don't know, Kabukicho is one of Tokyo's red light districts. A lot of Japanese people don't go there as they say it's dangerous. To be honest, it's about as dangerous as waking up in the morning! One of my favourite bars is in the area and I feel quite comfortable walking through the area by myself. Of course the African strip club touts will always approach me, but after a couple of no's they leave me alone. I would have no issues letting my Mother walk through the area by herself, in fact. So don't let the knowledge of what the place is stop you from going there, the area is actually an interesting place!
The place first opened in 2012 and it has become more and more popular ever since. They hold 4 shows per day at set times (you can find out more information on their website: http://www.shinjuku-robot.com/pc/?lng=en) and as at the time of writing, the shows cost 7,000 yen (plus an extra 1,000 yen if you want a meal included). A lot of Japanese people don't know about the place as it is definitely targeted more at foreign tourists and they claim to be the 16th most popular tourist attraction on tripadvisor.
I went and met Mark at his hotel and we made our way over to the restaurant. The location of the show and the ticket office are actually in different buildings, but the friendly staff (who speak English) will point you in the direction you need to go if you go to the wrong place first (as we did). Once we had our tickets we went into a waiting area that has a band dressed in, well, robotty, futuristicy clothes (yes, I know I just mad up a couple of words, but as you'll find out if you go there,conventional words fail to fully describe it!). The girls were quite good singers (a big part of the main show is singing, dancing and music) and the waiting lounge gave me a glimpse of what we were about to experience.....
An announcement in both Japanese and English then told us that we could make our way into the show area. The show area was lined with seats (about 200 I think) on both sides and the action took place in the middle. There was no stage, so everything that we were about to experience was going to happen at our level.
A word of warning at this stage. There are a lot, and I mean a lot, of flashing strobe and neon lights, so if this isn't your thing, or if you have been told by your doctor to avoid them, I would avoid the place.
The show started with some taiko drummers, both male and female.
The presence of tattoos on some of the ladies left no doubt as to who the owners are....... With that in mind, no touching the ladies!
Next up were some dancers on a stage that was wheeled in.
Now this was all entertaining. I love taiko drums and the dancing was good. This was turning out to be a very pleasant evening.
They took a short break to get ready for the next part. Suddenly the show changed to a story about an island paradise where everything was wonderful and everyone got along with everyone. Next thing you know, the surrealness slowly started creeping into the show just like a mist floating in over a graveyard in a bad zombie movie. These guys came out and started invading the island, shattering the tranquillity with their spears.
Next Kung fu Panda rode in on his cow to chase away the bad guys.
He was pretty soon killed off by the next wave of bad guys who were better armed and armoured than their witch doctor friends who had succumbed to Kung fu Panda.
Fear not, next up was a forest fairy flying in on her winged dragon. Surely not even the worst of the bad guys could survive a dragon.
Nope, I was wrong. It appeared as though there was no hope for the paradise island as wave after wave of good guys got taken out by successively stronger and better armed bad guys. It was at about this point that I realised the 2 Aussie girls next to me had been laughing uncontrollably throughout the entire show! What was next? Surely the peace-loving island was running out of war machines to throw at the bad guys. I was right. Out came another forest fairy riding on a black and white striped........something
supported by a spark breathing mutant butterfly.
They were easily and predictably dispatched by the bad guys. But wait, I was wrong, the black and white striped thing and the mutant butterfly were just a decoy! Out came a big shark and crushed the bad princess in it's powerful "Jaws".
Surely nothing could beat Jaws. I come from a shark infested area of Australia and I know these things are not to be messed with! Finally I was able to get a good photo of the next bad guy, or girl rather, and I immediately feared for the poor shark.......
Surely nothing could survive the wicked lady on the gun thingy! The shark was blown out of the water and there was a moment's silence as it appeared that the bad guys had won. Suddenly out of the shadows of the forest appeared a great serpent being ridden by another forest fairy.
I swear, the strength and fortitude of these forest fairies might just be the saving grace of the paradise island! The serpent snatched up the wicked lady from the gun thingy and the captive audience cheered as one! But the bad guys had one more dice to roll, and in it rolled!
The once great serpent wisely beat a hasty retreat at the sight of the bad guy's behemoth. Surely this was the final battle, the last stand. What did the forest fairies have up their sleeve. It would have to be good, real good!
This was it, this is what it had all come down to. The battle started.
The battle was fierce,
There can only be one winner in the eternal battle of good versus evil, and thankfully in this particular show, it was good. The forest fairies came out to celebrate and they were joined by drummers and ladies on big colourful robots,
and neon lit robots.
They were joined by a giant smoke breathing robot serpent.
As if it couldn't get any more surreal, I realised that the music playing, as the giant robot serpent was winding around the floor, was Ave Maria!!
Next the party really started as the robot dogs hit the floor and joined the ladies on the big colourful robots.
Finally the climax arrived. About 5 massive, hulking robots were wheeled out and and prepared by their handlers,
and then started dancing........
Incredible. Just like that, the show was over. Mark and I made our way outside, not really sure what to expect or what to find. It was that feeling that you get when you come out of a movie theatre and your mind is still in the movie and you think you see a ninja lurking in those shadows over there around the corner but as you get closer, you realise it is just a cat.
So,how was the show? Well the best way I can describe it is like this. It was as though I was watching anime on TV when suddenly I was sucked into the TV and the anime is happening all around me and I am aware of everything and everyone around me but no-one is aware of me watching them. It was crazy, bizarre, entertaining fun, unlike anything I have ever experienced before. Am I glad I went? Yes, I am, but now that I have gone, I don't know if I will feel the urge to go back again...........until another visitor says that they want to go there!
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See you next time!