During our recent trip to Tokyo Ms B & I visited the famous Robot Restaurant, one of the city’s top tourist attractions since it was founded in 2012. Initially it was not aimed at robot-focused tourists but at local businessmen with a penchant for the fairer sex. Within days after opening it made headlines around the world and started an outright frenzy.
It’s difficult to describe this eclectic, crazy celebration of childish wonder, intergalactic war, and madness. If you’re looking for a sophisticated art performance or a high-budget Broadway show, then you’re bound to be disappointed. Despite the fact that the performers’ routine is very impressive, well-rehearsed, and finely tuned, and despite the fact that much of the technology, I’m sure, didn’t come cheap, there is still at times a vibe of rogue, low-budget, anarchic street performance.
That’s one of the reasons why the show is so much fun to watch! Some of the robots are in essence remote-controlled vehicles. In some cases there are cords connecting the remote control to the vehicle, some are driver-operated, some are people inside costumes.
But first things first: shows get booked out quickly sometimes, so you should always book a few days in advance. They have a dress code which bans fantasy costumes and they don’t allow intoxicated visitors into the show.
You have to pick up your pre-booked ticket at the ticket office across the street from the restaurant at least 30 minutes before the start of the show. We’d recommend showing up 45 to 60 minutes early, to keep it all relaxed.
There can be long queues at various stages of the process, including at the ticket office, then when you queue for the elevator to the top floor café of the three-storey building, then when you walk down the stairs to the ground floor.
That’s where the show takes place in an arena that has seating on both long sides, an entrance on the one short side for the robots, and one on the opposite side for humans.
It’s impossible to step out of the elevator and into the café and not go wow. There’s glitter, mirrors, video screens, and over-the-top decorations everywhere. A band is playing on a podium on the far end next to the bar. You’ve got a couple of food stalls selling the usual grub. If time permits, get yourself a drink. Obviously, don’t buy any food. Not in the upstairs café nor in the ground-floor restaurant/arena. Tokyo has perhaps the best food-scene in the world, it would be shameful to eat third-rate fast food here.
The 75-minute show is split into three or four segments, with breaks of varying length between them (the first one more than fifteen minutes going down to less than ten minutes for the last break).
At times the whole arena floor is filled to the brim with ‘robots’ with no more than a couple of inches between each of them and them and the little wooden, one-metre tall fence separating the seating area from the floor.
Some parts of the robots even reach into the seating area and you have to move your head away in order not to be touched. An exercise before the show trains the audience in the art of avoiding robot arms.
The robots move slowly, staff are watching everything closely, and while in hindsight we’d probably prefer to be seated one or two rows away from the action, we didn’t feel unsafe during the show.
The show itself is hard to describe. There is some plot behind the show which is being explained in a few sentences here and there from an audio tape, but the music is loud and there is so much happening, the plot doesn’t matter.
You’ve got robots with massive multi-barrel machine guns, lots of lasers, a giant dragon, an enormous snake, and lots of skimpily dressed, young, female dancers (I didn’t take many photos of them, because Ms B probably would have disapproved).
We highly recommend you do not buy your tickets through the official venue’s website, but at one of the many major, accredited online ticket sales websites, who always offer substantial discounts.
The official price is JPY 8,000 (GBP 55 or USD 72) and would still be great value in our minds.