Have you ever wondered what it would be like to do a bunch of psychedelic drugs in the year 2200? Well, wonder no more because the Robot Restaurant here in Tokyo is here to show you! The "restaurant" isn't really a restaurant at all. What it is, is a futuristic, energetic, vibrant, exciting, surprising and overall insane display modern, Japanese cabaret.
Tickets and Prices
The show has become immensely popular over the years, and although you can sometimes get discounted tickets last minute outside the theatre, we opted to buy our tickets online in advance. This is the best way to ensure you don’t miss out! There are usually four shows a day. The first performance is at 4:00pm (doors open 3:00pm), the second performance is at 5:55pm (doors open 5:00pm), the third performance is at 7:50pm (doors open 7:00pm) and the fourth performance is at 9:45pm (doors open 9:00pm). The early performance is the cheapest option, the rest are all the same price. Although the early show might not be a raucous as the later ones, I would argue that it's still the same show and if you're looking to save a bit of money and free up your evening this is the one to pick!
There are several ways to buy your tickets from the show. One is through the official website, the other is through a myriad of discounted ticket sights. The most reliable I've found is govoyagin.com! They off 20%-30% off the listed ticket price on the official website depending when you book. And Voyagin customers receive a free souvenir bottle-opener! Prices are 5,248 yen ($48 USD) for the early show and 6,300 yen ($58 USD) for the other showtimes. Children under the age of 3 can enter free of charge. Children over the age of 3 must purchase a general admission ticket (same price as adults). Along with your general admission, you have the option of purchasing a seat upgrade for 1000 yen. This guarantees you a seat in the 2nd and 3rd row right in the centre. There are only three rows in the theatre and honestly, everything moves around throughout the show so I wouldn't be concerned at all about where you're seated. There is also a discount off popcorn and the bento box dinner. The food in the Robot Restaurant is far from anything I'd want to spend my money on so I would pass on this and save your yen for a drink at the bar before the show begins (more on that later!)
The Robot Restaurant is a five minute walk from JR Shinjuku Station East Exit. To get to the JR Station East take the Chuo Line direct to Shinjuku Station. Shinjuku station is one of the busiest stations in the city, if not the world, so take your time to study the exit signs and find te East Exit. Taking the wrong exit might mean 30-minute detour to find your way to where you wanted to go. From the exit, head north along Kabukichō and you can't miss the restaurant as it's glowing neon lights and outdoor display robots attract a crowd 24 hours a day.
If you didn't purchase your ticket at the ticket counter in Shinjuku you need to bring your ticket confirmation, either from the official website or voyagin to the ticket counter across from the Roboto Restaurant entrance. Here you'll exchange your voucher for an actual printed ticket with your seat number assignment. Once you have your ticket, you can head across the street and enter the theatre. The lounge opens an hour before showtime where you can sit, have a drink and relax while you wait for your show to begin. GET HERE EARLY! The bar area is one of the best parts of the experience! You are lead into the lounge through a giant set of golden doors and walk thru a light-encrusted hallway. It's like entering a psychedelic dreamland and truly begins the adventure of being transported into another world.
As soon as you walk in the door, your brain may feel like it can't even consume all the information being fed to it. There are patterns, colours, sparkles, jewels, gold and more covering the space from floor to ceilings. The building itself is reported to have cost over $10-million, and you can see why in this spectacle of a room. Gold shell swivel chairs surrounding the bar and stage area, crystal chandeliers hang from the ceiling and the wall-to-wall mirrors, make it feel like the chamber is infinite.
Even the bathroom is adorned with the most intricate paintings set behind glass, backlight with rainbow LED lights. The carpet is a floral oriental rug design but is made from plexiglass and light from below to give it a brighter effect. There is a small bar towards the back of the room where you can order fancy alcoholic drinks and even non-alcoholic beers. Their sparkling sake is one of my favourite choices.
The Lounge Act
About a half and hour before you have to head into the theatre, you are treated to a musical lounge act by a man dressed in a silver robot costume. He alone comes out on stage to play one of a few instruments waiting for him. You'd expect him to play some loud, thumping dance music based on his look, but instead, he serenades you with 80's pop ballads and Japan's favourite - Michael Jackson. I loved this part and could have listened to this emotionless robot play us memorable songs all evenings.
Tips Before the Show
When it's finally time to descend into the basement to watch the show you are allowed to gather up any drinks you'd purchased and bring them down with you. This is also the best time to use the bathroom since the one in the lounge is much better than the one in the basement. Which yes, is where you're going.
You descend floor and after floor, feeling like you're never going to get to the bottom. Luckily, each staircase is decorated with the same fanciful (and sometimes scary) decor as the rest of the place and makes even this walk a gallery tour in itself.
Once you get to the bottom, you find search to find your assigned spots and take a seat in the tiny, desk-like seats. You also have a few minutes to purchase some more refreshments or light snacks from the giant robotic snack cart. They had a variety of exotic popcorn flavours to try and were the best treats on offer.
The Show Experience
Once everyone is seated the show begins....with a literal bang! Taiko drummers are wheeled out on stage, atop a moving robotic platform to perform a traditional Japanese drum song in unison with some modern music which played the background. The power these drummers made with their movements was so intense, and the room felt like it was shaking with their energy.
As they moved around the stage, their drum bases would periodically light up with neon lights. The robotic platform was covered in bright Japanese shapes and figures, which all also lit up from within and moved to the time of the music.
In addition to the drummers, a few lone guitarists on separate robotic platforms running around the stage. Each of them is playing along on their guitars, all the while wearing Japanese Oni masks, which are meant to be representations of demons or ogres. It's quite the site to see, a terrifying monster, playing (very well at that) some killer guitar riffs.
After their performance, a set of ribbon dancers came onstage. Swirling their brightly coloured sheets of satin in mesmerizing motions, all the while light up by the bright stage lights. After the dancers finish (they are just there to entertain you while the next set of robots gets ready to come onstage) large bars with chains were set up in front of the audience...this is when the battle was about to being.
This second act was something out of a sci-fi movie. The concept was a Jungle-like world was invaded by robotic monsters, and the animals had to fight back to survive. Honestly, the plot doesn't matter very much, but it's entertaining to see them trying to make sense of what really is a nonsensical show.
Two sets of monsters vs. animals would face off, being controlled by their bikini clad female commanders. They shot fire, where hit with explosions and it was all finished when the giant shark came onstage and each one of the robots leaders.
It sounds insane, and that's most likely because it is. There really is no use explaining these scenes, but take a look at the video to see for yourself.
Because it was Halloween the last act was appropriately called Happy Halloween. This act started out with scary, monster-costumed dancers coming on stage to scare the audience. But, soon enough, the monsters transformed into Kawaii clad attractive women dressed as cupcakes, mermaids and other "happy" Halloween costumes. It was a very cute take on the subject matter which felt entirely appropriate in this atmosphere.
Dancers ran about the stage in the most fanciful and psychedelic costumes.
This part of the show didn't really contain too many "robots", but it was so much fun no one seemed to mind very much.
Although, the Halloween dance looked like the finale we were in for one last surprise. Glowsticks! We were each handed a glowing stick which changed colour by staff members which we would way and move to the music and as for as cheer on your favourite robot during their last hurrah!
During the last scenes, more and more robots come on stage mixed with dancers, drummers and musicians. There was no rhyme or reason to these machines, they each seemed stranger than the last. Like a line up of discarded creations made by a mad scientist. There was drum playing robo-cats, live women sitting inside giant robotic fembots which tramped around the stage, a robot with a massive armature which flung around a girl playing the guitar and robots who looked like old prototypes for an episode of Doctor Who! They shot smoke from their eyes, hands and feet as lasers danced all over the floor. My favourite robot had to be the toy horses covered in light ropes. They would rise up on their back legs and almost hurl their riders off in their quick, jerky moments.
We had been in Japan for a few days, but it wasn't until the end of this show, when we looked at each other, that we said: "now, I feel like I'm in Japan!" There is no question in my mind if you should come and see this show. You NEED to see this show. And if you do, please tell me about it. The whole thing was so crazy sometimes I think I dreamed it all up....