Japan’s Robot Restaurant Is a Surreal Stroke of Genius and Insanity

Take every over-the-top cartoonish image you have of Japanese pop culture and combine them all into an hour-long explosion of color, sound and energy, and you’ll begin to get an idea of what Tokyo’s Robot Restaurant is like.

Wandering around the narrow streets of Shinjuku’s Kabuki-cho, one of Tokyo’s most lively entertainment (and red) districts, you might come upon an area of especially bright neon lights flashing to the rhythm of upbeat electronic music (chanting the words “Robotto, Robotto, Re-su-to-ran” over and over again), with two giant humanoid robot thrones where the throngs of gaping onlookers can snap a shot. The outside of Tokyo’s Robot Restaurant is just a small sample of the craziness that goes on inside.

The show consists of several set-piece presentations, each of increasing intensity, that showcase the performers’ vibrant costumes and acrobatic prowess, as well as a parade of mascots, bikini-clad women and quirky characters, and, of course, robots. The music is loud and pulsating (sometimes including some really impressive live drumming and choreography), and the lights flash relentlessly. You’ll see pandas battling cyborgs, robots dancing to funky beats, and evil sorceresses devoured by automated dinosaurs. At one point, neon glow-sticks will be handed out so you too can join in on the madness.

The show offers little in terms of a story-line, but that’s fine, because that’s not what this place is about. You can also purchase drinks, snacks and souvenirs at the intervals, but that’s not what it’s about either. It’s about excitement and over-the-top pageantry, and that’s exactly what it delivers. It is an over-the-top cabaret-musical-robot crossover on steroids, and a one-of-a-kind surreal experience we’re sure you can’t find anywhere else in the world.