When one thinks of Japan, one might immediately think of fantastical and unbelievable things. What's more fantastical than a robot? Japan is home of the robots. Whether you're thinking of Honda's Asimo - the helpful, soccer playing robot or Softbank's Pepper - a robot capable of recognizing human emotions. Japan is on the frontier of robotics, and perhaps the most beautiful example so far lives in Shinjuku - a ward in Tokyo, Japan. Amidst the bustling metropolis of Tokyo, there is a little underground room where robots and dancers bring magic to life.
Robot Restaurant (ロボットレズトラン) can be found just a short walk from the station. A stroll down a narrow pedestrian filled street alerts you to unusual products and arcades. Then you can't help but notice the very unusually coloured letters written in English and Katakana, "Robot Restaurant". There's a small entrance on the street and there are men in black armed with clipboards.
I was a little nervous at first, I always get a little nervous before a reservation - as though something is about to go horribly wrong. I went up to him and told him the name. We had to wait in line to confirm. Luckily, we were some of the first people for that show.
Waiting in line revealed a lot of tourists. Not surprisingly, some white people. When the time finally came, the velvet rope was moved and we purchased drink tickets. No one deals with any cash inside the restaurant - only tickets. Then we were informed that we had to go across the street to wait in the lounge on the something-th floor. We made a u-turn and walked out, following a staff member leading the way.
We walked into a shiny, mirror covered corridor and waited for our turn on the elevator up. The elevator was small and could only take a couple of people at a time. When it was our turn, we got in with a few other tourists and attempted to take as many people as possible. The elevator buttons wouldn't light up. Some people stepped off - no luck. A few more - there was a moment of uncertainty, but the buttons lit up and we went up to the lounge. The elevator itself was outfitted in decorative convex pexiglass bubbles. So far, things were seeming abstract.
Then we arrived, and oh, did we arrive. I was instantly agape. Everything was a beautiful hot mess of glass, gold and swirls. It was so over the top, it was brilliant. The walls were lined with flatscreens playing odd video footage of robots and warrior women, while the provided chairs nestled between rows of glass tables were giant golden snail shells, capable of turning 360. To top this amazing lounge off (besides the alcohol) was a band of musicians dressed like robots. So great!
We ventured underground to our destination and looked at our tickets. There are 3 rows of seats on either side of the room, and the seats are packed in tight. I felt very lucky to be in the first row and right in the middle. What great seats! Soon enough, the show began. They informed us of all the safety precautions - largely that we couldn't leave our seats until the intermission, and we needed to actively duck out of the way sometimes. I really liked that part. Audience participation at its finest. Look out for your own damn safety!
The lights dimmed to black, and two giant self moving stands of taiko drummers rolled out. As if in a duel, the teams of drummers began beating the skins intensely, filling the air with beautiful vibrations that hummed through my heart.
After the amazing drumming performances, pieces of a giant palanquin maneuvered out. Dancers climbed aboard and the magical contraption unfolded to transform into one giant stage. The dancers were mere inches away, and their beautifully synchronized routine was enthralling. I was completely in love with it all.
What next? Well, they took a moment during intermission to place heavy poles and after everyone returned to their seats, they added chains in front of the audience. We mused that it may have been placed to protect us from harm. Either way, it had the intended affect of creating an atmosphere for a story to unfold. The next thing I knew, they told us of a planet and its citizens at one with nature and in complete harmony...until the robot empire invades and disrupts their peace! So the people of the peaceful planet work together with nature to defeat the robot queen (think Rita Repulsa meets Queen Beryl). It's not long before dinosaurs team up with attractive women to beat back the evil robots.
Oh, and at the end they had a giant snake and spinning robot move around the room to a touching song. Then a pretend robot fight that appeared something akin to Rock 'em, Sock 'em robots. Yep.
After it was finished, I felt completely satisfied and more than that, I wished I had booked it every night. Shinjuku's Robot Restaurant was by far one of the greatest experiences I had in Japan. If I had to recommend for anyone to see just one thing in Tokyo, it would be the Robot Restaurant. No joke! I know it may seem ridiculous but it was unbelievable! Certainly underrated. So if you're in Japan, or if you're planning a trip to Japan - go online and find tickets to the Robot Restaurant. There are a couple of travel places that sell them - so you can purchase them in English. Go, enjoy and savour the experience for the rest of your life.
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