Ever since I started mapping out my itinerary for things to do in Tokyo on my first-ever trip to Japan (which just happened this year), I made sure that I would NOT miss out on the well-known Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku because a LOT of people who have already traveled to this dynamic city have highly recommended it as a must-do!
TRIVIA: Legendary foodie and traveler Anthony Bourdain visited Robot Restaurant back in 2013 (as seen in one of the episodes for his segment: Part’s Unknown) and he himself expressed his amazement on how he loved it!
…But of course, there have been mixed reviews about Robot Restaurant.
For example, one particular friend of mine (who we will call as Jack) had one of his acquaintances accompany him to the show: an older Japanese man. Jack told me that he enjoyed it all — but his companion was rather… bewildered. “This is NOT Japan!” he exclaimed.
Upon hearing that, I decided to finally watch a sample recording of Robot Restaurant on YouTube… and all I could think of was: “This IS Japan!”
Surely though, this is NOT to say that Robot Restaurant wholly epitomizes Japan. Nope, definitely not; besides, I wouldn’t go against a local who would know his country more than I do! Furthermore, I do know for myself that there’s MORE to Japan than this. I’m a Japanophile after all.
So what I mean to say is: I think that Robot Restaurant IS a small fragment of what makes up Japan — more specifically the “bizarre” part of it that primarily encompasses a majority of the modern and youth culture. (Years of watching anime [Japanese animations], reading mangas [Japanese comics] and observing otakus [Japanese who have obsessive interests] have given me enough proof of such a ‘side’ to this country!)
End result: I booked a ticket and went to Robot Restaurant, and boy… it was PHENOMENAL.
You see, I’ve never done LSD (and I never will) but I think that what I saw in Robot Restaurant would probably be the closest I can get to an acid trip experience.
So yeah… It was that crazy — and fun!
Now, a lot of people might tell you that this is a ‘tourist trap’… and it may be so, but I say: go and be trapped because you will NOT regret it.
(If you’re more of a visual person, you can already watch the video below to see how my experience was like!)
The Robot Restaurant Experience
First things first, let me clarify 2 things about Robot Restaurant:
- It’s not exactly a restaurant because what it mainly offers is its specially-curated LIVE show. Rest assured, they serve food here should you ever get hungry: their ‘special’ bento box of sushi for an extra 1,000 yen ($10~ to be booked beforehand & paid before show in cash) as well as some other extras that are akin to snacks offered in cinemas such as popcorn, drinks, and chips (can be purchased during the show).
NOTE: Don’t come here expecting that the sushi will be great. If I may give a helpful tip, it’s best for you to eat somewhere else before coming here.
- It does not have robot waiters and/or waitresses because in connection with #1, again: it’s NOT a restaurant. But don’t fret because you’ll have your fair share of ‘robots’ later on as they start the performance.
My out-of-this-world affair with Robot Restaurant started with a grand welcome to their ticket office, which was just across their ostentatiously-decorated main entrance — a hard-to-miss part of Shinjuku’s kabukicho.
As I glanced at these colorful façades before me, I thought to myself that it can’t possibly get any better than this since it was already ‘over the top’! …But obviously, I thought too soon.
After I confirmed my pre-booking, I was lead back to the entrance’s elevator in order to go up to their glitzy lounge that was located at the 2nd floor of the main building.
Once I set foot in that place, I was immediately treated to a room with an overload of bright colors and shiny things — a view that I could have only seen in a kaleidoscopic dream! It was SO surreal, and I certainly felt like I was transported 50 years forward because I bet that all the typical cafes and restaurants in the future would all look like this.
(The pictures below don’t do it justice but I assure you that it was an interior design that is a feast for your eyes!)
TRIVIA: I read somewhere online that building the Robot Restaurant had cost the owners around $10 million! *whistles* That’s a loooot of money; but I bet that with all the hype they’ve gained since 2012, they would have gained it all back by now.
This lounge is open 1 hour before and after the presentation; so as a visitor, you’re absolutely free to hang out in this area to drink (they have a bar on the floor), as well as to listen to a band of musicians dressed like robots singing away mellow songs… as if to slowly ease you into the looming mayhem before you.
A few minutes before the act, we were told that we can finally go to the showing area that was situated a couple of floors down. We had to go down the staircase though for this (and not via the elevator) which I think was part of the fun because it did make me feel as if I was making my way through some secret underground base…
…and it did look like an underground base — or a dark arena if I were to be more precise! There were cramped sections on opposite sides of the wall where small numbered seats with tables were placed (each backdropped with a big bright screen). At this point, those who ordered bento boxes beforehand would be served and everyone else is free to go up the popcorn stand to order snacks.
This took a bit of a while for everyone to settle down with their food, and once the ‘vendors’ finished their job and rolled out, an emcee popped out to prep us up and leave us with a couple of reminders:
- To take as many photos/videos as long as we don’t use flash
- To turn off our phones (or set it to airplane mode) since it can interfere with the controls that are used to remotely operate their robots/machines
- To stay in our seats during the performance (there will be breaks in between for trips to the toilet or for more snack-buying)
Once that was done with, the lights were slowly dimmed and the madness began.
The first act was filled with rockstar-looking kabuki drummers, dancing ninjas, a hip samurai, and followed by two giant robots (that I find hard to describe)…
At that point, I already thought it was hardcore — until they started the second set wherein they had to bring out chains to separate us, the audience, from the ‘stage’.
That’s when it hit me that the real deal was about to go down…
…And it did! It was like an explosion of one bizarre thing after another: Amazon dancers, a giant panda fighter, man-sized robots fighting giant animals and forest queens (or something — don’t ask), scantily-clad girls riding gigantic animals, lots of explosions, flying gorillas, Transformer-like robots, MORE robots, mermaids in hysterics, mammoth sharks, wild stuff, lasers, glow-in-the-dark dancers, blinding lights, futuristic motorcycles…
I will let the photos below and this video do the talking.
For the final act, it was a combined parade of performers and a dozen of huge robots, and I found this absolutely impressive due to how they could control such humongous moving robots in sequence without making a mistake!
The fact of the matter is, if they didn’t coordinate the movements and machinery well enough, some of the performers can get injuries, robot parts can fall down and make a mess, one robot can stop midway and mess the whole routine, etc. etc.
So let’s take a moment to marvel at this fact.
All in all, it’s clear to see that the presentation was made up of things that could possibly be conjured OR have already been conjured in your wildest dreams.
Since I’ve seen far too many weird stuff on Japanese anime and manga, I wasn’t too surprised with the concepts and props… however, I was surely surprised at how messy and random everything was. Soooo random that at times, I can’t just help but laugh at how lively and ‘mental’ everyone and everything was! Without a doubt, it was a very entertaining show for me.
That being said, if you’re a ‘normal‘ person who hasn’t been exposed yet to the world of Japanese anime and manga, you can just imagine how this spectacle can blow your mind away in an instant, and how it can leave you talking for days.
NOTE: Even if there are recurring themes, I was told that every presentation that Robot Restaurant does is different!
Helpful Tips & Guides
RULES: No sunglasses, no people in disheveled appearance, no drunk people permitted, no cosplayers (those wearing excessive costumes), no gang members (yakuza) or anyone with visible tattoos (so do cover up if you have them).
EXPLICITNESS: Not so severe. Some articles will tell you that it’s R18-like, but with the show I’ve seen it wasn’t as so — there were just several girls in bikini-like outfits. But I guess, I leave it up to you to decide how ‘skimpy’ they were as based on the photos above.
» Where to get the cheapest Robot Restaurant tickets?
Current price of a normal ticket without bento box is 8,000 yen or about $80 (Php 3,750).
It helps to note that they raise the price by 1,000 yen every year so I suggest that you grab the opportunity to watch the show as early as NOW! If you want to grab discounts, there are several mediums for you to get some:
- Via Go Voyagin for 15% off: I personally got my tickets via this company and though the discount seem low compared to the other mediums below, I like the convenience that I get from booking with them because Voyagin bookings go directly to Robot Restaurant. Therefore, once you click ‘buy’, you don’t have to do anything else other than to show up at the venue during your preferred time slot.
- Via Metropolis Magazine for 25% off: this is a popular magazine in the country (to know where to get one around Japan, click the link). This magazine typically has 1 discount coupon in the middle of its pages, cut that out and then call Robot Restaurant to place your reservation.
- Via your hotel: if you’re staying in a big hotel in Shinjuku, ask them if they have bundled or discounted offers for Robot Restaurant (it’s possible that they can offer 2 tickets for the price of 1).
NOTE: Due to bright lights, loud noises and skimpy costumes, the show may not be appropriate nor suitable for young children and for people who have photosensitive epilepsy (PSE). However, if you want to, your children under the age of 3 can enter for FREE but they will have no seat allocation (they will have to sit on your lap).
» What is the time schedule of the shows?
They are typically open daily with shows running at 4PM, 5:55pm, 7:50pm and 9:45pm. To be entirely sure of their schedule (because they sometimes close or cancel slots), check their website here.
It’s advisable to arrive 30 minutes before the show. Late entrants will sometimes be admitted, but not after the main robot performance begins which is 40 minutes into the show.
» Where is Robot Restaurant located?
Address: Shinjuku Robot Bldg. B2F, 1-7-1 Kabukicho, Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo,Japan
Station: Shinjuku Station, go to East Exit
Map and contact details: See here
…But really, it’s hard to miss Robot Restaurant because of its eye-catching neon lights!
It was totally bizarre, mental, outrageous, random, and weird… but still and the same, Robot Restaurant was a unique energetic performance that you simply can’t get anywhere else. Because of that and more, I believe it’s safe to say that this experience is a worthy item on your bucket list!
Sure, it may not be for everyone — it can be corny and silly at times; but if you’re someone who is up for something flashy and fun, or if you’re simply someone who has an ‘open’ sense of humor, then this is definitely something that can work for you.
Ultimately though, I urge you to just give this a try and see it all for yourself! Like I always say, life is an adventure; so it’s better to try something at least once, rather than not at all. Aye?
Many thanks to Voyagin for providing me with this complimentary experience! Still and as always, all views that are expressed here represent only those made by myself and NOT of any other entity in their favor.
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I am Aileen Adalid. At 21, I quit my corporate job in the Philippines to travel the world. Today, I am a digital nomad (entrepreneur & travel writer) living a sustainable travel lifestyle.
My mission? To show you how it is absolutely possible to create a life of travel, and I will help you achieve that through my detailed travel guides, resources, and tips!
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