Hours: 5:30PM-11:00PM, closed Sundays. (3 to 4 shows depending on the day. Reservation required.)
¥350 for canned beer.
Age: 25+ (No drunk college kids busting the equipment, thank you.)
Address: 1-7-1 Kabukicho, Shinjuku. (Map.)
Japanese level: So long as you can make the reservations, you're golden.
Robot Restaurant is anything but. There’s no mechanized waitstaff, much less anything to serve assuming there was a menu. Rather, customers are treated to an iridescent stage show put on by bikini girls celebrating the cultural quirks that make Japan the great nation that it is. Ready for right-wing propaganda, World War II fetishism, and innocent idols all under one roof? BANZAI!
The evening begins with a suspiciously militaristic salvo of battle cries reinforced by Taiko war drums. All those red-and-white national flag inspired scanties will pump that hot-blood straight into your throbbing Samurai spirit. Seeing them twirl traditional naganita polearms and flags emblazoned with "Woman Warrior" is enough to make you become a constitutional revisionist just to see how these ladies would fare in combat.
While chatting up a girl with a full back tattoo, beach-grown tan and rockin' 'bod may be proper bro etiquette in your home country, in Japan it's the fast track to the bottom of Tokyo Bay sporting a new pair of cement shoes, capiche?
The follow-up brass band fell right into step with Japan's panache for doing Americana better than America. Don't expect Hooters Girls to break out such regimented rhythm. Even the waitresses at the Biohazard Cafe perform like zombies by comparison. Say what you will about the cheesecake—these are professional performers with the chops to rumble.
And rumble they do, riding double on a fat hog. Who needs a fog machine when you have a diesel engine? These fun-loving biker gals are a callback to ultra-tough speed tribes like The Ladies that terrorized the countryside through the mid 90's.
The restaurant's namesake finally takes to the runway. It takes two girls to pilot the robot—one to control the pneumatic breasts, and another to wave to the crowd. Surprisingly, the Guntank in a wig is not the most interesting piece of hardware in the robot carnival.
No, that honor goes to this morale-boosting troop transport. The tank's electricolor dreamcoating renders it useless in combat, but man, imagine the sense of power you'd get straddling the canon.
As the big machines taxi lazily across the main strip, an LED-embossed merry-go-round ferries, well, pole-dancing fairies around the peripheral of the room.
If the fluorescent Panzer wasn't enough, the girls bring out a World War II bomber for one last run, thus bookending the militant undertones of the evening. Dig the pink leopard print aviator caps!
Once all the gear was returned safely to the holding cages, the dancers worked the crowd as only an cabaret unit could, skipping down the line in an impromptu high-five session. Giant robots, glow sticks, and a bit of harmless skinship—an otaku dream fulfilled.
From the hyper eurobeat soundtrack to the opulent 10 billion yen startup cost, Robot Restaurant feels like it slipped through a wormhole straight from the bubble economy, a period where Japan had the cash and libido to fuel such spectacular decadence. In a way the bubble never popped in Kabukicho—the unique needs of its nightlife prop up an independent micro-economy. The champagne fountains may have dried up, but step into this time machine and you can pretend to party like it's 1989.
Food: N/A (The box lunch is an afterthought.)
Service: 5/5 (Dude, did you see that? She was totally smiling right at me!)
Ambiance: 5/5 (A cool date destination despite appearances.)
Maximum Overdrive: 2/5 (Minimal contribution to robot uprising.)
Complete photo set on flickr.