Tokyo Takeover: Robot Restaurant (Only in Japan or Over Rated Tourist Trap?)

Depending on the reviews you read, the Robot Restaurant is either a restaurant that puts on a pretty good dinner show, a burlesque show with questionable bento boxes, ninety minutes of "only in Japan" flashing lights, sparkles and insanity or a complete waste of money and time.

Me? I'm team "only in Japan" insanity.

Is it over the top? Is it totally cheeseball? Is it borderline too expensive? Absolutely. But like all "tourist attractions" it's a good time if you let it be.

If you're looking for something traditional (please, lets not even talk about the myth of "authentic") than probably something with robot in the title already isn't for you. Spend your money on Kabuki instead. But if you're looking for taiko drummers wearing rainbow wigs and maybe some dinosaur fights, read on.

Yeah, I'm setting the scene with pictures of the bar bathroom because I want you to know exactly the kind of situation you're getting yourself into.

First off, if you've used google maps and ended up in front of a place that says "this is not robot restaurant" don't worry, you're doing good. Turn around and on the opposite side of the street you should see the box office where you can purchase tickets or show up with your confirmation email and get your tickets. Robot Restaurant is in the building google maps thinks it is, the entrance just happens to be around the corner.

Be prepared for immediate and overwhelming sensory overload. The staircases and hallways have brightly colored back lit butterfly wallpaper, the philosophy behind the bar decor seems to have been "GIVE ME ALL YOUR SHINY THINGS. NO I DON'T THINK YOU UNDERSTAND ALLLLLL YOUR SHINY THINGS" and even though arriving early to watch the live music pre-performance in the bar is strongly encouraged, there isn't actually enough seating for everyone to do that so you're gonna be crowded.

I recommend drinking 1 to 6 Sapporos beforehand.

Soon you will be ushered downstairs to find your assigned seat. This is also when bento boxes are handed out if you ordered one. Most of the reviews I've read of the bento boxes range from "not great" to "the worst thing ever" so we had a quick ramen dinner before we got there. Before the show starts you can line up to buy more beer and popcorn. I bought us extra beers so I wouldn't have to stand in the line again between acts. I have zero regrets about that decision.

Once the lights dim, important safety announcements are made. Flashing lights, moving robot parts, etc etc. Make a dodge. We also had to practice ducking in case some of the larger set pieces came near us while making their way down the narrow performance space. This proved to be particularly relevant to me and Lara since we had front row seats at the end of the row where pieces moved onto the set. A lot of dodge making.

The first act has floats with light up taiko drums, scantily clad fan and parasol dancers (though I would still say people that describe the show as burlesque are being generous) and an electric guitar player in an insane wig that makes it all feel a little Mad Max: Fury Road. There is theoretically some sort of plot to each act but I had no idea what it was and it didn't really matter.

At this point we have yet to see any robots but honestly, who cares?

The second act is the battle of the animatronic dinosaurs. Now not only do we have robots but we have dinosaur robots which is basically more than anyone could ever ask for. I think these dinosaurs are fighting the battle between a princess and an evil witch but I could be 100% wrong. The battle ends with a puff of smoke and good prevailing (I think?).

After the dinosaur battle is a bathroom and beer break. There are more men's bathrooms than women's bathrooms since most of the audience members are male. I barely made it back to my seat in time (you will have to stand to the side if you don't make it back in time) where I was given a sparkly glow stick with which to practice waving back and forth. It's still unclear to me when we were supposed to use the glow stick after that since there didn't seem to be any more synchronized waving but let's just go ahead and add it to the list of things that make this experience both bizarre and fantastic.

"Hey, that also doesn't look like robots?!"

You're correct, it's not robots. It's not even robotic floats. They're also not doing The Robot. It's b-boys doing some really cool dancing with either hand held lights or some sort of light up palms in their suits.

Next the announcer comes out and starts introducing each of the women performers who do a little dance before the grand finale which is where things really just devolve into chaotic insanity. There's men dressed as robots, there's a pony, there's some singers and drummers and a lot of dudes in creepy horse head and you know what? It's probably better if I just show you.

In the end, everyone circles around for high fives and waves and you walk back out through the light up hallways and wonder what the hell just happened in the best way possible.

I've read that most hotel concierges can get buy one get one tickets. We stayed in an air bnb this trip but I was able to find discount tickets through govoyagin (not an affiliate link, just a way to make the show seem more reasonable).

Robot Restaurant is located at Japan, 〒160-0021 Tokyo, Shinjuku, Kabukicho, 1 Chome−7−1, 新宿ロボットビルB2.

Tokyo Takeover: Sushi Three Ways

Edogin 4-5-1 Tsukiji, Chuo-ku

Edogin, right outside the Tsukiji Fish Market, is where we had our first dinner in Tokyo. It was chosen primarily for it's proximity to our hotel in Shibuya as well as its moderate price. The restaurant itself is pretty bare bones and, honestly, smells a bit like fish market when you first enter but don't let that dissuade you. Most of the staff seemed to have pretty limited English but there's plenty of English on the menu and pictures at which you can point. Despite our total lack of Japanese, the staff was very friendly and enthusiastic and gave us glasses of Sake as "service".

Dan ordered the Chirashi and I ordered a Tekkadon bowl. We also were given a cold soup side dish. The broth was incredibly savory with a lot of wilted leeks but I have no idea what the cold, fluffy pink ball was. The texture was a little bit too weird for me, and I gave it to Dan to finish. We were both extremely happy with our meals. Dan's Chirashi was incredibly generous and varied and he describes his mood afterwards as being "high on fishes". He didn't let me sample much from his bowl but I remember the yellowtail being especially delicious and the rich, salty roe to die for. My tuna was also beautifully tender and flavorful and seemed to be so freshly dyed, it was staining the warm, perfectly seasoned rice. It was a great first dinner in Japan. I definitely recommend Edogin if you're staying in Shimbashi or if you're looking for fish market quality but aren't interested in fish market breakfast. The only reason we only went there once was because there were so many other places in Tokyo we wanted to try.

Uobei Sushi 2-29-11 Dogenzaka, Shibuya

Uobei Sushi (or as we like to call it in our house, "Robot Sushi") was what happened a few days after Edogin when Dan asked "Where can we go where I can just keep ordering sushi until I explode?". Our Lonely Planet guide didn't have much to offer in the way of conveyer belt sushi places, so we both started searching on our phone and came across different articles mentioning Uobei. Most of the sushi at Uobei works out to being one dollar a piece (with a few specials that cost two dollars and rolls that work out to less) so this was exactly the place for Dan to order endlessly AND was way higher on novelty than your average conveyer belt place.

There was quite a line when we got to Uobei but it moved pretty quickly. When you get to the front of the line you'll get a small clipboard for each person with your station number on it. Once you find your seats, you'll see a small touch screen above you (which can be switched to English!) from which you can order up to three plates at a time. The plates arrive on a tray that will stop in front of you on one of the three tracks, you take your plates off, push a button that indicates the plates have been removed and the tiny robot goes whizzing back to the kitchen. Some plates definitely take longer than others, so they won't necessarily arrive three at a time, or in the sequence you ordered them. Most of the options are pretty standard but there are few fancier specials, including the "lean meat with foie gras" that I ordered. It was one of the most unfamiliar flavor combinations I've ever had but surprisingly delicious. Some of the fish, like salmon, have options at a few different price points and while even the cheapest is pretty enjoyable, you definitely get what you pay for.

Along with sushi, you can also order beer, miso soup and various sides from the computer (they even had my beloved fries smothered in mentaiko mayonnaise). There's cups, green tea powder and a hot water spout at each station as well as endless tiny packets of wasabi, soy sauce and plenty of pickled ginger. If you get a little over-zealous with the ordering, they even have to go boxes above every seat. When you've eaten sushi until you're ready to burst, bring your clipboards back up to the register and they'll scan them for you. I think even with ordering beer and some of the special plates we spent less than thirty five dollars total and left too stuffed to move.

Sushi-Bun 5-2-1-#8 tsukiji, chuo-ku

The place we went to for our fish market breakfast didn't allow pictures, so here's a business card instead. We weren't committed to get up for the tuna auction on our last morning in Tokyo but we did get to the fish market a little after 7:00 a.m. I'm not sure if it was because it was Golden Week or if we came too late, but most of the well known places already had lines way longer than we were willing to wait in. We basically made our decision by choosing a place that looked popular but not so popular we wouldn't make it back to the hotel in time to get to our early afternoon flight. Sushi-Bun has you choose one of the menu options while you're still waiting in line and we both went with the most basic set of eight pieces which I think was around $30 each. They were doing seatings every thirty minutes, which is fine, it shouldn't take you that long to eat eight pieces of nigiri but the interior was quite small and I was cramped in the corner. I couldn't tell you everything that we ate but it was all very fresh and I enjoyed watching the chefs work behind the counter. The selection that morning had a few more chewy things than was really appealing to me for breakfast (I generally avoid squid, octopus or anything similarly textured) and even Dan felt similarly. While I think fish market breakfast is an experience to be had, the quality and value of our meal at Edogin, right outside the market, seemed much better. Maybe we should've gotten in one of the mile long lines.