The Robot Restaurant Tokyo
An Outrageous Experience that Needs to be Seen to be Believed
The Robot Restaurant is one of those outrageous experiences that needs to be seen to be believed. I went with a friend who described it as the most typically Japanese thing he'd ever seen. Forget the 'restaurant' part of the name, you get a 'bento' box set for 'dinner' (read, cheap and convenient, available for microwaving from any convenience store). But that's not the point. The show is everything, and beer is served.
It's a great touristy thing to do, and friends of mine still living in Japan when asked if they had been to the Robot Restaurant yet replied that they hadn't, but would consider it if friends visited from overseas. Fair call, but I wouldn't have waited personally. But I like outlandish kitsch stuff like this anyway.
There is a 'plot', or rather sequence of events would be more accurate, and I'll walk you through it. With the stuff that went on, explaining it to friends that hadn't seen it, I felt like I was making up the most outlandish shit I could think up on the spot. I was nearly ready to call 'bullshit' on myself; it sounded so laughably outlandish in the light of day. But it's real, my friends, oh so real...
The entrance is a couple of floors down, and the gaudy stairs are still no indication of the horror that awaits. First up, is a semi-decent Taiko show performed by semi-dressed ladies. This will become a regular theme (not the Taiko)
After a costume change, the girls come out again as a marching band. Of course.
After another break, at this stage, I'm wondering a little whether I've been let down a bit. The stop-start has killed the atmosphere a bit. But then the chain fences are brought out and the battles begin. The reason for this becomes real obvious real quick. The costumes aren't so good for seeing out of, and the action gets a bit real. Then it's on like Donkey Kong. First up, Champion Robo Big Boss Vs King Godzilla!
Next battle, Champion Robo Big Boss Vs Kung Fu Panda. Kung Fu Panda gets his tail handed to him, and he retreats...
...only to return charging in on a cow!
Then it's Cutie Honey with a Captain America Shield and a Thor Hammer vs mecha. Cutie Honey Wins! Flawless Victory!
Then there were some girls on the back of a robot Armadillo attacking some mecha. I'm not making this up!
To celebrate, we then have a good old-fashioned Roller Disco. With Robot dancers and robot DJ on the back of a truck. Because Japan.
Then the huge robot women that get carted around town as advertising get ridden into the roller disco by scantily clad girls.
Then the giant robots come out for a dance. For real. They are basically large puppets from what I could gather, controlled by a ninja at the back. I'm not making this up, honestly!
The ladies explain that, before the finale, folk can come out and have happy snaps taken with the giant robots.
Meanwhile, other scantily-clad ladies are suspended in seats above the customers, ready to go for a ride around the floor.
The Robots are ready...
The girls are ready...
Just a quick reminder of the rules (basically don't be a lecherous jerk) in English!
And we're off!
This is the bit you may have seen on Youtube. A bomber comes out of one side, with cute girls hanging from all parts and lights and sounds going nuts.
Remember all the while, the girls suspended above you are giving you high fives while this bizarre show is happening...
We all got handed these mini-light-sabers to wave around while this was going on. Yeah, look down, below the nice girl, you might see a couple. Of mini light-sabers that is.
The Bomber circles around with its payload of scantily clad performers
Then the camouflage tank attacks from the opposite direction. Camouflaged in a disco that is, with lights flashing, and cleverly hidden under more scantily-clad girls.
And it's tank vs bomber in the raucous finale. And the winner? All the innuendo flying about the place. Stuff that up your Glee!
Tanks for the show!
This is what I came to Japan to see.
Update 24 June 2015
Well, I did it again. And the whole show has changed. I’m going to be honest here, and say that I thought the original show, as described above, was the better show, but it is still an outrageous night out, and still highly recommended.
Big improvement number one, you can book a seat without having to book a meal! I recommend catching an earlier show, then head out into the Kabukicho sprawl and find some real food.
There is a waiting room upstairs now, that has a Robot band playing terrible covers while you sit back and enjoy a quick over-priced beverage, or stand in the smoking room, which is like being inside a dry bong, especially if you’re a holiday smoker like me (quit at home, smoke while on vacation, quit again upon returning).
The opening Taiko act is, I must say, an improvement on the original. Expanded, better costumes, moving stages, it was a great opener, and great eye-candy! Then an enormous stage is driven out (yes, driven out! Everything is mobile here in Robot Land!), and the heavy metal robots bash out loud music while the dancers get with it on the stage.
Kung-Fu Panda makes a return on his charging cow, but he’s one of the few familiar ‘faces’ from the original show. And remember I said earlier about the breaks in between acts, and how annoying it was? It’s worse this time around. And they use this to sell sell sell overpriced cans of beer, popcorn, and anything else they can. Oh well…
There’s now a ‘story’ involving an attack by a Disney-esque evil witch upon an undersea kingdom of hippies, with backgrounds played out on the giant screens behind the audience (don’t worry, you’re looking past the audience across from you, you’re not having to crane your neck). It’s all super loud and crash-boom flash WTF with robot sharks, snakes, steampunk tanks, angel getting blown up, tragic hero defeats, and a final defeat of the evil witch, etc. It was a bit ho-hum Hollywood to be honest, but technically impressive nonetheless.
Then some mobile robots carry out some dancers and a band, while the scantily-clad brass band from the first Robot Restaurant show (see above) make a return, and generally jiggle about. A couple of the original giant ‘puppet’ robots from the first show, as well as some new remote-controlled (by ninjas. I saw them) robots come out and spin around, lights flashing. A ridiculously big Robot Snake-thing comes out, taking up pretty much all the available space left in the arena, and then everything pirouettes out.
The Robot Ladies make another appearance (I’m glad they didn’t retire them!), followed by a legion of super-girls (let’s hope the DC lawyers are asleep for this part) dancing with new giant robot puppets with everyone madly waiving their glow-sticks around like it’s some rave in Blade-Runner, and that’s the end.
The girls suspended from the kaiten-track above the audience are gone (the tracks are still there, curiously), Thor-Cap Girl was absent (or maybe had a very minor cameo. I can’t remember clearly, I had a blinder after the event, and couldn’t see her in the photos I took). And many of the really impressive robots from the original show are gone. And there’s no opportunity to go down afterwards and have your photo taken with the robots. I can only imagine some idiot screwed that up for everyone (thanks douche-dick!) but that was also a bit disappointing as well.
Despite all that, it’s still a must-see, and should be a part of any visit to Tokyo.
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About the Author
Peter (Pedro) Pascoe lived in Japan from 1999 to 2010, and since returning to his native Australia, has returned on regular visits to his second home. When returning to Japan, Peter makes a point of visiting the heavy metal bars in Shinjuku, keeping abreast of the latest Japanese pop-culture and ticking off onsens and castles to visit. When back in Australia, he organises a Record, Comic and Toy Fair which is quickly mutating into a Pop Culture Expo, and previously ran a Heavy Metal Radio Show on community radio.
He still spends too much money on comics.