During our trip to Japan in the last week of January 2017, my son Clarence booked tickets online for the Robot Show at the Robot Restaurant in Kabukicho – Shinjuku’s red light district, Tokyo. Initially I was not gung ho about the show, thinking that it was for kids. When Clarence told me what the show is like, I was still a bit apprehensive, thinking that it is probably a nefarious place operated by the Japanese yazuka. Moreover the entrance tickets were expensive. The normal entrance ticket costs 8000 yen (about RM312) but as guests of Hotel Mystays, we were given a discounted rate of 6000 yen (RM234). For the seven of us, the total cost of the tickets was 42000 yen (RM1638).
Robot Restaurant, opened in July 2012, is the only entertainment outfit of its kind in the world and an attraction for clientele ranging from world-class celebrities to ordinary folks. Despite its name, Robot Restaurant is more of a glittery show than a place to eat. Anthony Bourdain said it is one of the greatest shows in the world. Fitted out at a cost of ¥10 billion (RM390 million!), Tokyo hasn’t seen anything like this.
Shinjuku is an interesting place. Business by day, party by night. The Robot Restaurant is located in what’s probably best described as the “neon district” of Shinjuku. Around the Robot Restaurant are seedy things with a Japanese twist. You will see young pretty Japanese women giving away free packets of tissue with contact numbers to call if you want their “special service.” Bouncer-like characters hang around on the streets. My son Clarence had earlier warned me about taking photos of such characters as they probably belong to yazuka gangs so I restrained myself from taking photos of these ladies and bouncers.
The Robot Restaurant with its huge brightly-lit signboard is pretty difficult to miss. Outside the restaurant are two chairs with female robots for patrons to take photographs. Staffs dressed in colourful outfits were on the streets trying to lure passersby to attend the show.
As we made our way upstairs to the lounge area to wait for the show to begin, we were dazzled by the brightly-lit colourful passageways leading to the lounge.
The lounge is a very glitzy place, reminding me of a combination of theme park, mardi gras and strip club. We were entertained by a band with some band members dressed in robot suits. The female Japanese lead singer poured so much emotion into her singing.
Patrons were invited to go to the front to try Japanese sake but we did not accept the invitation. As the patrons sipped their sake, a band dressed in kabuki-like costumes performed their repertoire of wild music.
After a wait of about 20 minutes in the lounge, we were herded downstairs through narrow mind-blowing colourful hallways into the basement that surely would have been our graves had there been any sort of fire. The area didn’t seem big enough for a big robot show, but looks were deceptive.
As we waited for the show to start, restaurant staff moved around taking orders for drinks and souvenirs. This happened again during the three or four breaks.
As for the show itself, I don’t really know what to say about it. It involves flashy scantily-clad dancers, potentially seizure-inducing laser light shows, dinosaurs, taiko drums, robots and other oddities.
It started out with a somewhat serious tone, with dancers engaging in what seemed to be ritualistic dancing and drum beating. It then descended into a samba-like atmosphere with wild and fast dancing.
Around this point, the giant chain fence went around the audience. We knew that the show was about to get real but we were caught unprepared for the utter insanity that followed. A battle of epic proportions then took place between the good and the evil with insane scenes of robots battling animals like shark, Kung Fu Panda riding a bull, giant spider, giant bee, giant eagle and dinosaurs.
We were then entertained by a laser and light show with dancers glowing in the dark.
Later, they passed out glow sticks and giant fembots were driven around by some dancers. Robots and other odd characters mingled with the many dancers. It was the culmination of a great show.
I’ll stop with the descriptions now. I would say that the photos speak for themselves. For lack of an articulable summary of the Robot Restaurant’s show, here’s my best description: A wonderfully wild, gaudy and quirky show with non-stop energy, excitement and sensory overload. It’s flat-out awesome. It’s absolutely a ton of fun. It’s not for everyone, and definitely has some sexuality to it. It epitomizes the “bizarre” side of Japan. I highly recommend it, and it’s an absolute must-do for anyone visiting Tokyo who loves fun. Indeed, a trip to Shinjuku would not be complete if you do not visit Robot Restaurant. It’s one of those things that you have to do at least once in your lifetime.
The Youtube video below gives a good idea of how the show is like. I asked my son Leslie to do video recording of the show but the recording did not turn out well as it was too dark. Below is an Youtube video of a Robot Restaurant show. The show we saw was different from the one in the Youtube video but it is a bit similiar. Sit back and enjoy!