Being a huge fan of science fiction, I have always been fascinated by the world of future tech: nanotechnology, faster than light travel and, of course, robotics.  Last night, I was afforded the chance to explore the latter at one of Tokyo’s hottest night spots, the Robot Restaurant, a place where science and spectacle converge in a flashy, sonorous, dizzying – and informative – display.

Located in the hear of Tokyo’s Shinjuku neighborhood, the restaurant was opened a couple of years ago at a cost of an astounding $10+ million and has been packing them in ever since.  The price of admission (about $50 per person) gets you an unremarkable dinner (we ate before we came) and a seat at THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH!

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The streets of Shinjuku
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Right down this side street…

As we walked along in search of our destination, this caught my eye –

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We already had plans for the night but, being a military buff, I thought this would be an equally educational opportunity for some other time. But I was surprised to discover that said Tank Girls make up part of one of the acts I’d be watching that night.  Robotics AND military history!  I actually felt myself getting smarter!

We purchased our reserved tickets (There are a couple of shows each night so make sure to book in advance), selected our meals (you have a choice between meat or fish), then walked across the street and into…well…let me show you…

Once downstairs, we were ushered into the showroom and over to our assigned seats.  With ten minutes to go before the commencement of the festivities, we were free to walk around, check out some of massive props on display, and grab a drink.  The crowd was, perhaps not so surprisingly, mainly made up of foreigners, ranging in age from tiny kids to grandmothers.

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My bartender, Neko-chan.
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Unfortunately, these massive set pieces.
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Dinner.  I can say with certain confidence that of the $10 + million spent on the Robot Restaurant, very little of it went to food costs.

The audience settled into the seats flanking the stage area and we were instructed to remain seated during the show as there was a danger of being clipped by moving set pieces.  Also, I imagine that every so often one of these robots gains sentience and runs amok, necessitating prompt action by trained professionals who don’t need innocent bystanders getting in the way.  Photography is permitted, but big cameras (?) are frowned upon.  Also frowned upon = touching the robots or dancers.  🙁

The show kicked off with an impressive choreographed taiko performance involving two groups of women on two moving stages, massive wadaiko drums, a moving omikoshi and its dancing bearers, a slew of oni (Japanese demons), colorful costumes, flashing lights, blaring music, smoke.  Here’s a taste:

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Omikoshi and bearers

Following a five minute intermission, it was time to start the next act – which ended up being my favorite.  And, speaking of favorites, as much as I loved the headlining robots – especially the goofy dancing samurai-bot – I ranked this performer as my #1 draw:

Another five minute intermission and then we moved onto the third act which was weird and my least favorite, but no less entertaining.  This one actually told a story and involved a fearsome black samurai and his two underlings who looked like rock ’em sock ’em robots dancing around and talking trash.  They are confronted by a panda and his two tiger buddies.  The robots kick the crap out of the panda but are in turn beaten up by the tigers who end up getting their asses kicked by black samurai.  Enter a warrior woman armed with Thor’s hammer and Captain America’s shield.  She takes on the robots.  And loses.  She retreats, but another champion steps into the fray: a woman riding a dinosaur wielding a giant iron ball on a chain.  She battles black samurai and is forced to retreat.  At which point this giant spider woman makes a grand entrance, battles the black samurai, and captures him with her webbing before dragging him back to her lair. Hurray!  The day is saved!

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Panda makes his grand entrance.

Another five minute intermission.  We are all handed glow wands and instructed on what to do.  Alas, all the instructions were in Japanese – but I got the gist.

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Signaling flight #302 in for a landing.

And the show goes on with another wild performance, this one involving roller-skating robots and warrior women.  Also, towering robots programmed to serve humanity.  And dance!

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Robot hearts you!

A break in the action affords us the opportunity for a photo op:

1A goodbye to the robots…

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Sayanora, robo-san

And then it was time for the capper, a performance highlighted by more costume clad women, loud music, laser lights, and a technicolor tank…

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Wow.  What a production!    I was impressed – not just by the scope and scale of the production, but the talented performers as well.

On my way out, I bought a souvenir Robot Danger Dance & Mechanic Crew t-shirt.  The fellow at the counter informed me that they had received some mighty impressive guests from overseas  in recent months (Anthony Bourdain, JJ Abrams, The Walking Dead’s Norman Reedus) and suggested I check out the website as the performances were always changing.  A return visit is a must!

Highly recommended.  If you’re in Tokyo, not to be missed!

Japan Robot Restaurant – ロボットレストラン

http://www.tokyoweekender.com/2013/07/robot-restaurant/

27 thoughts on “November 14, 2013: Tokyo Day #9 Part Two! Studying robotics in Shinjuku!

  1. Nice bongos.

    What a fascinating place, and I would love to go! Although I think I would fall down those entry stairs from sheer disorientation.

  2. Wow, it’s like Vegas on crack – but awesome because robots.

    Except the clown cylon. I could do without that image. 😉

  3. About 17 seconds into the video, those things remind me of the motorcycle things in the Gantz manga. It wouldn’t surprise me if they took inspiration with some of their robot designs from random popular anime/manga.

    I do agree with everyone else, the show looks amazing. 🙂

  4. My IPad is not being very cooperative. Sucks to wake up at 3:30 in the morning and not be able to go back to sleep. The video was not playing on here so I will have to see them on my computer once Patrick gets up. If I go in there he will wake up. He has become such a light sleeper.

    Did you ever see the last part of Battlestar Galctica where Ron Moore links the humans and human-like Cylons that wind up on Earth together to present-day technology and robots and trying to make the connection that “all of this has happened before and all this will happen again?”. And it mostly focused on the human-like robots in Japan. Cool ending if you ask me.

    @deni. Good luck with Cody’s snipping day. Hope the procedure goes well.

  5. Dang it, I’m going back to Japan. This involves picking winning Powerball numbers, so stay tuned.

  6. Oh Joe, What did they put in your sake,,, this is stuff of wild dreams, only yours comes with pictures and video. How cool. I bet Ivon will be a little pissed not to have discovered this on his last visit. Hope you have recovered and are ready for more adventures. Thanks for sharing these.

  7. Oh, wow…never have two people been on such opposite ends of the musical entertainment spectrum as you and I, Joe. Me? While I do have some dubious tastes in my music (Tool, Korn, MM, NIN, Zombie, Pantera…blah, blah, blah), when it comes to live performances I am – by far – more of a laid back blues-lounge-y sort. Dim lights, soulful tunes, and a glass of something that goes down warm and mellowing. Ya know – intimate.

    Of course, I have been known to enjoy the occasional bawdy Wench n’ Pyrate Ren Faire sing-a-long, and who doesn’t?! I mean…pirates…and wenches…singing about wankers and tankards! You gotta love it! But this gig? Oof. The music too poppish for me, the over-sexualization of the performers a big turn off, and the colors are so overwhelming I think I’d have a seizure between the flashing Lite-brites and the profuse splatterings of Crayola vomit. 😛

    Still, it looks like a hellava good time…for, ya know…a Canadian. 😉

    Joking aside, thank you for sharing something you love, even if it is scantily clad women who know how to bea….errrmmm…I better just stop RIGHT there. 😛

    As for me, my tastes in ‘like’ performances would be more along these lines:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8zSa6Zz2Zrs

    You go to something like that and I’ll turn greener than the Chicago River on Saint Patty’s day. :mrgreen:

    Continue to enjoy! I know I am from where I’m sittingt… diligently taking notes…carefully developing a rakish, club-crawling lothario for my next book…

    You keep this up and it’ll be all smoooooth sailing for me from here on out!

    😀

    das

  8. I agree with JeffW sensory overload! Fifty dollars per person?!!! It wouldn’t be for me but I’m glad you’re having fun.

    My pace would be the food. I would love to try all the noodle shops and dessert places. What about tea? Have you tried any good teas?

  9. Japan was never on my top 10 list of places to visit. You have changed that!

    Okay so strange food suggestion for the future. Daughter was on tumbler and found a link to folks who are working on 3D printing of meat from stem cells. We all know they are working on tissue and organs.. but these people want to print HUMAN MEAT for food. WTF? So… would you try it?

  10. Joe that was awesome! I think my favorite part was the walk down those stairs. Anytime you have lots of drums – it’s a good time. I would love to go there.

  11. That is awesome!! thanks you so much for sharing. If I can ever make it over I will have to check this out. If for nothing else then to walk down that halway. Spectacular.

  12. I started posting my thoughts about the videos, and then I had to pause, and then had to reboot my computer, thus losing said comments, so let’s try this again:

    Video #1: Whoa. Serious VERTIGO. I would have fallen down the stairs but it would be a very psychedelic trip.

    Let’s not lose this again, so I’ll post each.

  13. Video #2 Many girls drumming: They remind me of the Rockettes but on drums.

    Video #3: One girl drumming/turning in a circle: It’s bad enough the woman has to stand while playing the drums but she has to be on a platform going in a circle pretty fast? Geez!

  14. Video 4: Transformers on parade?

    Video 5: Those robots look like a cross of the mechs in Falling Skies, Transformers, and the one at the end began to look like the mech in Mass Effect 3 (the front side) on on this one’s backside.

  15. Wow. That is some crazy, fucked-up shit going down right there. $50 a pop? Well, maybe the stairs alone are worth $15…

  16. This is the stuff fantasies are made of and you got to experience it live. I would have loved to be there! Those robots are incredible.

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