Robot Restaurant

Experience a mix of old and new at the Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku

Text by Marina Hanihara. Photos by Jun Sato

“A great adventure.” This is perhaps the most appropriate way to describe the showbiz extravaganza that takes place in the basement of the bright, luxurious building that houses the Robot Restaurant, a sci-fi cabaret that stands out even among the neon streets of Shinjuku’s Kabuki-cho district.

Here, the glittering lights that reflect off the mirrored walls of the reception area and waiting room invite visitors to experience an adventure like no other. After being guided down the stairs and through the colorful hallway — which is an artistic creation to see in and of itself — you arrive at what seems like a dark, basement in the bowels of the building. Visitors take a seat, popcorn in hand, to wait for the start of the spectacle.

A rather mysterious music plays in the background as a prelude and then it starts — moving stages appearing under the lights from the wings on both sides. Masked performers in costumes inspired by Noh actors, pound traditional Japanese taiko drums. They boom and echo as the audience roars. Female performers, dressed as if they stepped straight out of an anime episode, twirl along to the music. It’s like ancient Japan meets the modern, high-tech, pop and kawaii generation. With a festival-like vibe in the air, the first act closes.

The story revolves around evil forces that lay siege to a peaceful forest where all creatures — faeries included — live together peacefully. In an attempt to save the forest, a great battle between robots begins. If you’re worried about not understanding the story — don’t. The show is in English and can easily be enjoy by anyone, no matter the age. There is no need to be an otaku, either, as many different robots make appearances throughout the story, from futuristic Gundam-style soldiers to cute ponies. There are some huge metallic ‘bots that shoot lasers at each and the finale is stunning showstopper that will most definitely leave you awestruck!

The third act is truly interactive and features robots breakdancing to Michael Jackson hits as well as female dancers dressed in cute American flag outfits who encourage the audience to join in the fun on classic ’70s disco song, “Y.M.C.A.”

It’s a truly memorable performance filled music, live instruments and glittering array of bright lights — and one made all the more special by the spectacular performances of the robots and their energetic chorus line. The Robot Restaurant show in Shinjuku is definitely one you won’t get the chance to see anywhere else in the world.