Robot frenzy

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16 days in japan series

We’d first heard about the iconic Robot Restaurant on Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown when he visited Japan for the nth time in his life, and as he was amazed, so were we. This was the place for a celebratory evening.

After seeing the video above, especially with the trance soundtrack, we were apprehensive about the quality of the show. The reality is that the music couldn’t be further from reality — it’s unfair, actually — and the show is produced, choreographed, planned, and timed to perfection. It doesn’t necessarily have a storyline but boy is it mind-blowingly great!

The show is held in a building in Kabukicho, an area known for some Yakuza activity, and the only place we kinda, sorta, maybe felt that something could happen. That is not to say it’s unsafe, but there’s a different energy in this neighbourhood, and it becomes even more palpable at night. Some establishments even prohibit inked people from getting in; you either cover yourself, or head next door.

An hour before the show we arrive. There’s already people waiting in line and someone asks us for the reservation number which we’ve booked the previous day. We’re way too excited and we start to build some anticipation up gazing at all the blinking lights, neon colored LEDs, mirrored curved tiles that keep repeating the patterns around us infinitely. Meanwhile, a robot steps up to the outside stage with a guitar in his hands, plugs it in and starts shredding. Everyone’s elated!

The guy at the door tells us we can pay and head to the elevator. He speaks English and is also the show’s intro MC, we later realize. We’d opted for the meal package, so they hand us two meal cards and send us our way.

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After erroneously going downstairs, already confused by all the lights and sounds in a near seizure state, in hopes we could trade the meal cards and seeing some dancers already waiting backstage on the stairwell, he finally get in the elevator to the top floor.

A waitress greets us and points to a table, gives us a couple of drinks and food menus. After ordering something, we notice a toy dinosaur on the table along with some instructions. Turns out it’s a robot dinosaur alright, with touch, light and sound sensors, and he reacts to almost anything you can imagine.

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After watching a great pre-show upstairs with fantastic jazz music — which we didn’t know existed, but truly amazing — the entire group is taken downstairs, to basement level 2, where the “real” show will take place…

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…and for that you’ll have to experience it for yourself. There’s absolutely nothing I can say that will do it justice. Just know that it’s every little bit as crazy, bizarre, and fun as it sounds. A truly unique, once in a life experience, that couldn’t be recreated anywhere else in the world except for Tokyo, Japan.

Now, as Bourdain put it best, prepare yourself for the greatest show in the history of entertainment.

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Moi

The final shot

Hi there, welcome to my blog! I'm Filipe Varela, a designer at Automattic, and am passionate about photography and video. In this site I post photos from my journeys and daily ramblings — in sum, a slice of life. Browse through the archive or check the homepage for the latest posts.

  • Nin

    I love reading your posts about Japan, as I am heading there for the first time next month. I do have a question. Seeing that your longest stay was 19 days, did the two of you get the Japanese Encephalitis vaccine. It’s just so pricey, but I am going in May and I hear mosquitoes are quite frequent over there. Thank you!

    • We did not, but I can tell you we got bit pretty often. No major consequences that we can tell, just a bit of discomfort/itchiness. We got a mosquito spray at one of the convenience stores and that works pretty well too.

      Thank you for reading! Enjoy Japan!! :)

  • WOWOW! This one is going straight to the must-se list for Japan. I did have to read the thing with my shades on, and will probably need a stronger pair for the actual show, but it looks amazing! You guys sure know how to pick them!

    • Absolute. Must. See.

      It’s Japan overload in its most magical form. What I imagine some psychedelics to feel like.

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