Update: It appears that the Robot Restaurant may have permanently closed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. We will stay tuned to see if it re-opens.
The world-famous Robot Show, which is held in the basement of the Robot Restaurant, offers a very different experience than Japanese tourist pastimes like shopping or visiting museums and temples.
The convoluted arch of the show leads up to a final battle between robot armies, but the Robot Show is not about storytelling – it’s about performers, props, and yes – robots. Performers sing, dance, drum, ride robots – even pole dance – in an elaborate production. Many performers dress as robots, and there are plenty of actual robots, which are WiFi-controlled. In fact, the audience is reminded several times to turn off the WiFi on their phones to not interfere with the production.
Don’t expect a leisurely experience. The Robot Show is INSANE. It’s loud, with lasers piercing the smoky air emanating from fake artillery, and pop music blaring at ear-splitting levels. Lights, colors, and costumes are seemingly ablaze. Actors, robots, props, and costumes twirl inches from the crowd. It is a stimulating burst of 360-degree entertainment. It’s like Blue Man Group got stuck inside a Rainbow Brite episode.
If all of that is a bit much for you, then you at least get a reprieve at the 30- and 60-minute marks of the 90-minute show. You can take a break, buy a snack or drink, or even leave if you feel a bit too crammed in and overwhelmed (this is not a show for someone claustrophobic or sensitive to loud noise!).
The show may seem chaotic in a snapshot, but there is a delicate choreography to it. You are in Japan, after all. Massive props glide through tight spaces, and elements of traditional Japanese taiko drumming, samurai culture, and storytelling are incorporated. And the performers are world-class with their talents and precision.
Anthony Bourdain, king of holes-in-the-wall, loved the well-known Robot Show so much that he once championed it on his TV show, Parts Unknown. Over the years, it has become one of Tokyo’s main tourist attractions, for better or for worse. It is now a bit more family-friendly than the risqué portrayal from Bourdain, and caters to an English-speaking audience.
The restaurant is located in the shimmering Shinjuku district, the quintessential Tokyo neighborhood. Shinjuku has lots of nightlife and is interesting to explore before or after the show.
So, is the Robot Show worth the price of admission, which can range from around $50-$100 USD? We say “yes,” but only once, just for the spectacle of it all. It’s a fun part of a night out in Shinjuku and unlike any other show that you’ll ever see.
Some tips if you go:
- Amongst many other attractions, the Godzilla head on top of the Toho Building is a short walk from the Robot Restaurant.
- Don’t bother purchasing any of the dinner-and-a-show packages; they aren’t worth it. For the same price or less, there are countless better food and drink options in the Robot Restaurant’s vicinity.
- To watch the show, guests descend into a dark, cramped basement. Aisles and seats are very tightly packed in. The tight space, combined with the smoke and loud noises, can make some viewers quite uncomfortable.
- Normally, there are three shows daily, but performances have temporarily been suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Check the restaurant website for updates.
- JapanBall can help make reservations for tour guests.
For more cool things from Japan, check out JapanBall’s Articles and Features section!