Robot Restaurant in Tokyo: A Misadventure

Robot Restaurant, Tokyo, Japan


The Robot Restaurant Dream

Flashing lights, lasers, dancers dressed in bright colours, giant robots, a story that is completely nonsensical…the show at Robot Restaurant was everything I expected of Japan and jam-packed with my favourite things.  Truth be told, when I saw a clip on you-tube, I was more fascinated with all the shiny objects on stage than a crow is with a piece of tinfoil.  I didn’t know what else I wanted to do while in Japan, but one thing was for sure – I was going to Robot Restaurant.

This was the show I had been looking forward to my whole life.  I carefully selected a date and time that fit with our itinerary, printed out the tickets (just to be safe), and spent the next month dreaming of all the wonders – and possible epileptic fit – that my brain would be subjected to.

The day of the show, we passed a lovely afternoon in Kamakura.  We ate sweet potato ice cream and shared our gluten-free yakisoba with a hawk (the hawk actually stole it out of Laura’s hands just as she was about to put it in her mouth.  Come to think of it, I don’t think there’s a place in the world where a wild animal hasn’t stolen food from me).  After a relaxing time watching the surfers at Kamakura beach, we headed back to Tokyo for the show.


Robot Restaurant, Tokyo, Japan



The Robot Restaurant Reality

Robot Restaurant is located a short five-minute walk from Shinjuku Station – provided you exit this very large train station at the right place.  We did not.  That was ok though as we had plenty of time before we had to be at the ‘theatre’ (which, according to some reviews, was little more than a tiny, dank basement room with some seats around the edges).  We did a little shopping, ate a rice ball, and downed a cider on the street so we wouldn’t have to pay for drinks at the show.

Now, it should be noted that we were well past the point of exhaustion on this trip.  Every day was a struggle to get out of bed and do anything.  For my part, I suffer from chronic fatigue, depression and, on this trip, a sprained ankle.  Laura, in addition, likes to do this thing she calls ‘relaxing’ when she’s on vacation.  We were spent, but determined to make the most of our remaining time in Japan – and completely stoked for the spectacle we were about to witness.

Japan Rail Pass link

Robot Restaurant is the easiest thing to find in busy Shinjuku.  They have signs posted along the way to keep you moving in the right direction and giant, brightly-coloured signs spelling out their name – which you can see from blocks away – at the restaurant itself.  Robot Restaurant takes up so much space that the strip club beside them has a sign on their door warning dazed travellers that this is not the door they are looking for.  In fact, there are so many strip clubs on this street, you may begin to wonder if the show at Robot Restaurant is anything more than scantily clad women dancing for your entertainment.

I excitedly showed the young woman at the door our (expensive) tickets and waited while she looked for our names on the reservation list.  She scanned the first page of names, the second, and the third – we weren’t on there.  She double-checked the spelling of our names and ran through the list again – still nothing.  She took another look at our confirmation and looked at me somewhat hesitantly. “These tickets are for last month,” she said.  To her defense, she did try to ask her manager if we could change the tickets, but he could not have cared less.  Still in shock, we were pushed back into the street by the many other customers who needed tending to.


Robot Restaurant, Tokyo, Japan
Photo credit: Josh Holmes

I had zero emotional resources left with which to deal with any disappointment, much less an expensive mistake that was completely my fault.  I don’t know much about the culture of public displays of emotion in Japan, but I can say that I was the only person that evening to be standing in a street filled with a never-ending sea of people, crying as if my cat had just died.  Tears were falling faster than Laura could catch them.  I turned around in circles searching – to no avail – for a few feet of space without people.  My senses became overloaded with the noises of the city.  The sounds of touts calling for customers and giant electronic advertisements was too much.  The coloured lights which I usually love started giving me a headache.  Suddenly, I understood why people in Japan would pay to use a love hotel just so they could sit alone on a couch and play video games.  At that moment, I would have paid any amount of money for two minutes of privacy.  And Laura would have likewise paid any amount to get her emotional wreck of a wife off the streets of Tokyo.

And that’s how we ended up in a karaoke bar downing our obligatory alcoholic drink and singing The Greatest Love of All at the top of our lungs.

Surprisingly, I recovered from this massive loss pretty quickly.  Mostly because we had neither the time nor the money to make a second attempt.  Sure, Robot Restaurant may be kitschy fun, but sometimes it’s best if you focus on the negative reviews on TripAdvisor.  That way, you know that all you’re really missing is a cheaply produced show with more intermission than performance, broken robots, and overt attempts to sell overpriced drinks.  At least, that’s what I try to tell myself.


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Robot Restaurant, Tokyo, Japan

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16 Replies to “Robot Restaurant in Tokyo: A Misadventure”

  1. You wrote that really well… leading me right up with you to your very sad ending. I certainly feel for you.

  2. Now I have a reason to go back:)

  3. wonderfully written, dear jen.
    my heart goes out to you both.
    re-book and see those dinosaurs! (and scantily clad
    girls). 😉

  4. I laughed all the way through this. Certainly, you write with great panache and you certainly summarized the impossibility of privacy in Tokyo. And while I haven’t actually been to the Robot Restaurant, my girlfriend has and she seemed to largely echo your views. That being said, I really hope I can make it sometime

  5. What a miss fortune!! This is hard to handle in any given circumstance but on the road, overexhausted, I would ball my eyes out too. I hope there is some sort of form to redo it properly in the future. Or not, as I think it will be a disappointment., Hopefully you’ll find something new to be excited about and do it the right way.

  6. Oh! that was terrible standing at the doors of the museum and realizing you miss booked the tickets. We would have felt the same emotions but glad that you guys overcame it quickly and managed to have a great time.

  7. Aww I feel for you… but I don’t think you missed out on much seeing as it’s a tourist trap and I’m sure you guys had a blast at karaoke! You can make that money back- at least you have a great story to tell 🙂 Plus, there’s always next time, right?

  8. Oh no! I am so sorry to hear that you missed out on it. But it is easy to make mistakes such as these. I totally would have balled my eyes out too if I were in your situation. But it does sound like you had a great day exploring – all the food you ate such as the sweet potato ice cream sounded delicious!

  9. Oh yes, you can depend on Japan to come up with something uniquely theirs. I think I’ve seen this restaurant featured in a travel show. I didn’t get to visit this in Tokyo but it’s something to consider for future travels!

  10. This is an interesting review of the Robot restaurant in Tokyo. I think I’d still like to visit there once though to take instagram photos! I can imagine how difficult it is taking the right exit from the station, it’s huge with so many people.

    1. I still think it would be worth a visit once, too. It would make for great photos!

  11. I laughed when I read, ‘ I don’t think there’s a place in the world where a wild animal hasn’t stolen food from me.’ How was this even possible?
    You will have another chance someday to visit the Robot Restaurant. I have read a mix of positive and negative reviews about this place. This embodies the Japanese culture. It is wacky, weird, and wild. It will feel like entering an anime restaurant but I’d still want to visit if I would have a chance.

    1. I like to eat outside and monkeys are sneaky:)

  12. First of all, what a cool and wild place. And secondly, OMG, Greatest Love of All is the best karaoke song ever. I did it at a KTV in China and it was a hit!

  13. You can’t go wrong with Whitney Houston – it’s deep stuff:)

  14. Japan is such a fascinating country. I have never been there and therefore I am so attracted by Japan’s attractions, especially its quirks such as this place.

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