Visiting Robot Restaurant is a mind blowing, near spiritual experience that can’t easily be put into words. Thank goodness they allow photos and videos to be taken inside, because I’m not sure anyone would believe me if I tried to explain this place to them. It’s a fantasy world – a complete, alternate reality the likes of which I’ve never seen before. Being there is like being teleported into a scene from The Fifth Element, and leaving is like waking up from a dream. I went with my cousin, Nick, who was visiting from Texas.
Our adventure starts on the streets of Shinjuku, where hostess bar hustlers, clothing vendors and tourists gather together to form a single, writhing mass. For us squares, the phrase of the evening is, “No, thank you,” as we meander around the shops through the light of a thousand electric signs (we have no interest in debauchery – only robots). Despite our sensory overload, Robot Restaurant isn’t hard to find.
The entrance is a portal to the most ostentatious of the many worlds.
Every inch of the place is decorated. In the upstairs bar, we’re surrounded by mirrors, saturated colors, illuminated art and sparkling ornamentation. It’s baroque and otherworldly. A robo guitarist plays some sweet riffs on stage, while guests mingle and dine on junk food.
Our anticipation grows as show time nears. Eventually, we’re escorted to the stairs to make our way down to the underground lair where the main event will be held. The lair is deep, way down under the surface of Earth or whatever planet we’re on now. I feel a bit apprehensive, like I’m being led to uncover some dark secret of the universe.
At the bottom, the altering of our state of consciousness is complete. The stage area is dark and smaller than expected, and the audience sits on either side of it, snacking and drinking. Nick and I pound a few beers and chit chat with neighboring guests. Behind the seating, enormous screens show hallucinatory animations that ostensibly tie into the show’s storyline.
Once the spectacle begins, we are absolutely floored. It’s an opera of sorts and an absolutely astonishing achievement of mythical proportion. Huge mechanical beasts, real musical instruments, acrobatic dancers, fog, flames, oppai, zebras ridden by horse-masked glam cowboys – all nearly within arm’s reach. Also, a dinosaur eats the main villain. At no point did I have any idea what the story was about, but I doubt that made any difference at all.
It was truly an evening to remember, one I can wholeheartedly recommend to anyone who isn’t prone to reflex seizures. Please go to Robot Restaurant next time you’re in Tokyo.