Shouting “Tokyo I love you” in the Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku

Admittingly we left the idol show in Akihabara well before its finale but decide to give Tokyo’s nightlife another chance. The last couple of evenings have been spent in restaurants and bars where we celebrated the score of our step counter. We had ventured out to Shinjuku, Tokyo’s red-light district, after the visit to teamLab’s Digital Art Museum for the neon lights and a couple of beers. The advertising is not obviously kinky – at least not if you cannot read or understand Japanese (plus I am from Hamburg). There are plenty of video games, pachinko and karaoke parlours and above all thrones a giant statue of Godzilla.

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Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku, Tokyo

Even here the Robot Restaurant stands out: Imagine designer Ed Hardy doing a shop front based on the wardrobe of Ukrainian Eurovision legend Verka Serduchka – a pinball machine resulting out of this collaboration is what you could imagine the whole building block to look like. Every corner shines and flashes and the venue lives up to its expectations already from the outside. We are back in Shinjuku because our Mount Fuji tour bus dropped us off within walking distance and after a quick bite to eat we decide to do what is probably the flashiest of Tokyo’s attractions, described by their own marketeers as “high-octane”. We find the ticket office, gasp about the ticket prices (higher than all day tickets for DisneyOnSea!), leave bags and thespian reticence in the locker and enter what will be one of the loudest of all nights. Being led to our seats means walking to the end of the long stage as the audience sits on both sides of it like a gameshow surrounding a catwalk – a description not far from the truth.

Even the drink containers are made out of lightbulbs with added flashing lights inside. The audience is a lot more international than at the places we visited so far, and no wonder: Every guide book about Japan mentions the show at the Robot Restaurant and people seem to either love it or hate it.

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Drummers at the Robot Restaurant show in Shinjuku, Tokyo

We are too late to order cocktails or popcorn and follow an introduction on the screen in front of us while the people sitting opposite us follow the screens behind our backs. It is a loose story set in the future about robots overtaking the world and how nature must unite to defeat them, three parts with intervals to buy drinks and merchandise. The stories do not vary too much.

Over life sized papier-mâché dolls enter the stage, lots and lots of drums, more neon lights, black lights, kawaii robots, plush disco balls and tinsel, and shiny uniforms with so much fluffy fake fur that one thinks the toy manufacturer Bandai had sponsored the Love Parade in 1993’s Berlin. It is a carnival of funky madness and yes, we are here for the plastic!

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Laser firework at the Robot Restaurant show in Shinjuku, Tokyo

The heavily wigged dancers and dolly birds ride on dragons, boats and technicoloured war tanks, later it will be giant lizards (one poor lady on stage gets eaten alive) and then the baddies come, heavily geared robots with lots of light hoses around them which brings crazy effects in the dark. Their weapons are lasers of course and we witness spectacular shootings. The other side hits back with Ninja Turtles and Kung Fu Panda lookalikes. Inevitably through the evening we will see references to Alien, the Power Rangers, Conan – they are all here. Ralph Bakshi would love this menagerie.

In the end the rather human party celebrates its win with a parade including a Cadillac, even more glittery costumes and happy J-pop songs (there is singing in most parts and drums everywhere) and the audience receives glow sticks to cheer along.

Afterwards we talk to the couple sitting in front of us – laughing bonds and there was not one single minute when I did not laugh about the plastic fantastic action figure fantasy on stage tonight. We all go to a bar close by and sing karaoke until 3am. Tokyo, I love you!

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