Yes, it’s silly. Yes, it’s outrageous. And yes, it’s super touristy – but the Robot Restaurant is an absolute blast for anyone who appreciates unusual nightlife experiences.
Founded in 2012 as part of Japan’s efforts to recover from the big earthquake, this robot-themed cabaret “restaurant” (we didn’t actually see anyone eating there) attracts hordes of tourists, and even some locals, looking for a fun night out. Hour-long shows run four times each night and begin with a spectacular journey through hallways and a bar area adorned with thousands of colorful bulbs. Even the bathrooms are out of this world!
It is, in a word, a trip. Here are five reasons Robot Restaurant is worth a visit even if you tend to turn up your nose at novelty attractions.
There’s actual talent on the stage. Women shredding on the electrical guitar, men pounding on human-sized drums, singers belting lyrics in Japanese and dancers captivating the audience, just inches from your seat: The musicians and actors at Robot Restaurant have an eccentricity and energy unlike anything we’ve ever witnessed. It’s all impeccably coordinated, too.
It’s a fun way to meet other tourists. We met friends in line, in the bar and at our seats, which made for a fun night out after the show. Most of the people we met were American, but we also heard British accents and various European languages. Everyone was there to have a good time and shared in their disbelief, so it was a great setting in which to meet foreigners who were just as excited to be visiting Tokyo as we were.
The colors and lights are spectacular. In so many ways, Robot Restaurant is a light show. More than 12,000 bulbs in various colors reflect off mirrored, multi-dimensional walls in the entrance, hallways, bar and bathroom. Inside the dark theater, robots, costumes and moving vehicles are lined with LED lights, and laser beams go to battle. Near the finale, the audience is handed light sticks and got to become part of the show.
It’s totally unique to Japan. One walk through Tokyo’s lit-up neighborhoods like Shinjuku, Shibuya and Harajuku, and it’s easy to see why only the country’s capital can pull off a show like this. The creativity, attention to detail and commitment of the Japanese people to entertain is unmatched. The place isn’t cheap to run, either. Rumor has it that the restaurant costs about $10 million to operate.
You have to see it to believe it. We knew Robot Restaurant would be a fun time, but we had no idea we’d leave with our faces hurting from smiling too much. With each new scene, we were amused and awed. It was an experience we’ll never forget.