The main event for my third night in Tokyo was a show at the Tokyo Robot Restaurant. Located about a quarter mile northeast of Shinjuku Station, the Robot Restaurant is probably one of the most popular tourist spots in Tokyo and its massive, eccentric exterior lets you know that you’re in for an experience you’ll never forget (or understand). Reservations are required to attend the shows held inside and you pick up your ticket from the office across the street from the Robot Restaurant. I showed up about 45 minutes early—which is what the Robot Restaurant website had said to do—and after grabbing my ticket I went inside.
Once inside the building I went down a colorful hallway to a large room where all the other show attendees were gathered. This area serves as a waiting room and you can buy drinks and snacks from the bar. A couple of the Robot Restaurant staff played some music and kept everyone entertained while we waited for the main show to begin.
Soon enough it was time to head down to the basement where the main performance would be held. Just like the rest of the building, the stairwell made me feel like I was on some sort of hallucinogenic drug. The basement where the show would take place is a large room with three rows of chairs on either side. I was in the back row, and this would end up being a good thing. While the people up front have an unobstructed view in front of them, they are so close to the action that I suspect they had a hard time seeing the full picture of what was going on during the show. An Australian guy sat in the seat next to me and we struck up a conversion. He was at the start of a two-week trip around Japan, whereas I was near the end of my own journey across the country. I gave him some tips for the places that he would be visiting and hopefully he was able to use them to have a better vacation in Japan.
The show got started a while after everyone was seated and I am nearly at a loss for words to describe it. What I’ve told other people is that it’s probably the closest you can come to experiencing an acid trip without actually taking LSD. There were three segments to the show, with a brief intermission between each one, and it didn’t make sense but I absolutely loved it. The first segment was an epic drum battle between opposing red and blue fantasy warriors, the second segment was machines fighting mythical creatures, and the third segment was Michael Jackson meets the ocean. Mixed in with these were a couple mini-performances of dancing neon dudes with lasers. I have never been so simultaneously confused and happy at the same time. I can only imagine that the meetings where these shows are planned start with all the Robot Restaurant staff eating magic mushrooms before they brainstorm the performances. From reading other peoples’ accounts of the Robot Restaurant it seems like they change-up the shows from time to time, so if you visit it in the future you might see performances that are completely different from the ones I saw.
When it was all over and everyone started to leave I felt like I had just woken up from the craziest dream and desperately wanted to experience it again. Yes, the Robot Restaurant is very touristy, but it’s undeniably fun and I’d recommend it to anyone visiting Tokyo. Sadly, it looks like the Robot Restaurant is currently closed due to COVID and there’s no word on when or if it will reopen. I really hope this place isn’t permanently shut down. If it never reopens I’ll be sad, but at the very least I was able to experience it one time in my life.