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

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/