OFF INTO THE WILD WET YONDER How does this...
Tokyo’s Theme Restaurants Dish Out the Weird and the Wacky
If you’ve been wanting to experience something well beyond the typical eatery or coffee franchise, Tokyo is a place for you. So, whether living here or passing through, the next time you head out for drinks or a meal, why not change things up a bit and explore some of the more unique establishments that Japan has to offer.
Here are five choice picks to get you started:
This is a mashup of prison/haunted house themed restaurant, where patrons must first navigate a creepy haunted house style entry area before reaching the door of the restaurant itself. Once inside, you may even be handcuffed before being led to a mock jail cell by a “sexy cop” (a girl in a vaguely police-like cosplay outfit).
When seated, you can try out some of their novelty drinks—many of which are served in beakers, test tubes or big plastic syringes. Food is generally typical Japanese/Western pub fare, with a bit of a twist, to keep in line with the overall theme of the place. And while you eat or drink, there is usually a performance element put on to scare or merely amuse customers. These shenanigans could be anything from staff members dressed as monsters, shoving their faces or hands into your jail cell, to the lights suddenly going out in the room, followed by screams and other sound effects.
Sounds like a great choice for Halloween… or maybe a fun first date? It can be a popular place so it might be a good idea to make reservations. There are multiple locations around central Tokyo.
33-1 Udagawacho, B2F, Shibuya Grand Tokyo Building, Shibuya, Tokyo
(Shibuya Center-Gai location)
SHOOTING BAR EA
Alcohol and guns: It’s a winning combination!
In a culture where there is an almost complete absence of guns combined with extremely overworked citizens, small wonder that airsoft guns are really popular now in Japan. EA bar (pronounced ‘air’) caters to this hobby by providing a venue for Joe or Jane Q. Punchclock to enjoy some target practice while slamming shots.
EA features a nicely designed bar area, seating for those who want to have a meal, and a view of the nearby shooting range which is separated behind glass walls—probably a good idea for tipsy customers whose aim is off. If cocktails are more your thing, there are varieties of gun-themed mixed drinks to choose from. There is also a complete food menu, and dishes are served with plastic army men on top. They don’t skimp on the details here.
Various gun models decorate the walls and there are firearm menus so you can take your time reading up on and picking out your piece when you are ready to do some shooting. Customers can even bring their own guns if they choose. And yes, you can keep the paper targets too.
EA is a close walk to Tokyo’s Kichijoji station.
Gotenyama 1-5-5, 2F, Sawada Building, Musashino-shi, Tokyo
This list wouldn’t be complete without mention of cosplay cafes and restaurants, which are actually quite numerous in certain areas of Tokyo such as Akihabara. People of all ages (even middle-aged salarymen) can be seen frequenting these establishments, most of which are staffed by hostesses and servers wearing elaborate French maid outfits.
Some cafes are relatively straightforward—you have your meal/drinks, pretty waitresses mingle about, and there is usually a cutesy welcome routine plus a little song and dance while you eat. Maidreamin is such a place. It is actually a franchise, with locations throughout the city, and they aren’t shy about getting customers in the door. Many of the “maids” will be out in busy pedestrian areas handing out flyers for the café.
Like many of these places, there is a cover charge at Maidreamin, usually nominal (US$5–10). A limited variety of food and drinks can be ordered but don’t expect much—this isn’t a place for fine dining. There is usually a brief “show” in the form of more singsong chants, laser lights and even bunny ears provided for willing customers to wear on their heads.
If this isn’t your cup of tea, some maid cafes—such as the model train and anime themed versions—cater to the otaku crowd. The experience is typically interactive—customers can indulge in geek speak with their servers, build models and play games.
Other places even take it a bit further by offering more off-beat role-play scenarios. Want to be scolded and slapped while you have a meal? No problem, there’s a place for that. Tired of cute girls in maid outfits? There’s an alternative to that at a crossdressing café (young men wearing kimono-like outfits, complete with makeup and wigs).
3-16-17, Sotokanda, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Here’s another restaurant entry that just had to be included. After all, what’s more Japanese than ninjas?
This restaurant is well designed in the manner of an old-style Japanese village and fortress. Complete with five fish pools, a small waterfall, wooden walkways and even sounds of crickets to add that finishing touch. Getting to your table usually involves walking through dimly lit halls and perhaps even through a trap door. There is seating available for small or larger groups (reservations are a must for the latter).
As expected, all of the wait staff are dressed as ninjas and they even do a bit of performing at your table. Customers get a taste of this as ninjas sneak up to bring the menus and perform magic tricks. The kitchen offers some well-presented, consistently tasty dishes, offered as set courses which start at ¥7,000 (US$60). Numerous items are also available a la carte. Definitely not cheap, but perhaps worth it for the novelty factor.
While a Japanese ninja themed restaurant might sound like a bit of a tacky 1980s throwback, this one is quite popular. Emphasis is placed on quality presentation and service. Ninja is located in Akasaka, a centrally located business district in Tokyo.
2-14-3 Nagata-chō, 1F, Akasaka Tōkyū Plaza, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
There is nothing modest about this place though. All glitter, glass, neon lights and psychedelic colors. This is the mother of weird, chaotic, acid-trippy, uniquely Japanese techno-tainment… they turn it up to 11 on this show, that’s for sure.
There is a large central stage area, with spectator seating to either side. And on this stage there is the well-choreographed spectacle of bikini-clad dancers driving robots, riding dinosaurs, battling monsters and more. Brilliant, if you ask me! All the while, the music is cranked in time with multi-colored lasers and visuals on the screens.
If through all of this you are actually hungry, bento boxes are available. There are also ample opportunities to order drinks—either at the bar when you first arrive (upstairs) or during breaks throughout the show.
1-7-1 Kabukicho, B2F, Shinjuku, Tokyo
Getting a glimpse of the action is a must:
So there you have it. These five picks only scratch the surface—weird and quirky is in ample supply in Japan and that’s (usually) a good thing. It would be a shame not to experience at least some of it up close so get out there and see what you can find!
Are there any places that you feel must absolutely be added to our list? Let us know in the comments below.