In our home countries, when you hear themed restaurants, you probably think the likes of TGI Fridays, Planet Hollywood, or Moe’s Family Feedbag? Well, Japan has all of these (well, maybe not Moe’s Family Feedbag, they have America Town instead!) however these aren’t what we’re talking about when we say: Japan has the greatest, craziest and most unique themed restaurant experiences going around! Today we're going to look at a couple of the best and craziest that Tokyo has to offer.
In most of the world, the fad of themed restaurants really took off in the nineties with Planet Hollywood and Hard Rock Cafe leading the charge, then followed by others like the All-Star Sports Café, Rainforest Café, even a short lived supermodel café in New York. Due to the over-saturation of the market and extremely quick decline in popularity, many of these restaurants subsequently ended up shutting down over the years. The idea of sitting around a lot of memorabilia while paying for overpriced punny named food wasn’t a lasting fad.
However in Japan they have some spectacular themed restaurants that put the rest to shame. From prison medical wings, to vampires, Alice in wonderland, Ninjas and so many more, the detail and dedication to the theme right from the entrance to the wait staff and food and drinks is unlike anything you have ever experienced before.
The trend of elaborate themed restaurants in Japan began about ten years ago, with the first restaurant on Japlanning.com's list:
Located in Shibuya, this restaurant is themed to a prison’s medical block. Upon arrival, guests (or, patients) must first select a blood type which triggers the restaurant door opening. Once inside, a nurse will take your party into custody, finding out your sickness and why you’re in prison. You will then be handcuffed and led to your party’s cell. The surrounds are all quite dark and dusty, with blood smeared on the walls, jars of embalmed body parts on shelves, you’ll even walk over a disemboweled body under the floor. Yep, they have gone all out on the theme here.
Once in your cell, the nurse / waitress, who will be scantily dressed, will explain how to order (bang a pipe on your cells bars, just like real prison), and get you some menus. All the food and drinks are medically themed, with drinks coming in a variety of forms - from beakers and syringes, to a maniac's severed head (make sure you say hi to Kevin for us!), and even a blood bag! Your nurse will serve you the drinks and explain all the hilarious back stories to the drink (yes, even drinks need a back story!) We found it entertaining to order mystery drinks for each other, making the arrivals much more entertaining - there was some definite blushing from some of the drinks that came to us! All the food is also medically themed with the chicken coming in a cage, and items like intestines (a huge sausage dish) coming in kidney trays, and also the most bizarre menu item the severed penis, which is just another sausage with some creative carving taken to it. There are also some great group plates called Russian roulettes, where one of the five identical items is packed with wasabi! A great game for your crazy night out.
Once you have become comfortable in your cell and had a couple of drinks, you'll probably feel like you have your head around the whole idea of the restaurant - this is when it gets really interesting! Suddenly, all of the lights will go out, and loud sirens will start wailing (this may also be the point where you start contemplating if your too young to die too!), then you'll start hearing shrieks, and the sound of knives being banged about. Queue strobe lights, and suddenly a mass of prison psychopaths have escaped and running through the restaurant looking for their next victims! Keep close to your loved ones, as they may break into your cell to get a little closer! This mid-meal entertainment is some of the most terrifying fun you will ever have! The most bizarre moment though happens at the end, when the nurses and killers all walk around with massive fake sundaes with Christmas lights all over them, while the soundtrack to Disney’s Main Street electrical parade blares loudly!
Alcatraz ER is an absolute must for anyone in Tokyo looking for a one of a kind dining experience, with surreal theming and hilarious and terrifying antics.
Alcatraz ER is located in Shibuya Tokyo on the second floor of the harvest building, 2-13-5 Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo. To get to Alcatraz ER, jump off the train at JR Shibuya station, and it’s a short 10 minute walk, just up from the crosswalk in amongst love hotel hill.
Official Site - http://alcatraz-er.net/index.html (in Japanese)
Ninja is located in the old area of Tokyo, Asakusa. It’s muted black entrance with a small ninja sign certainly sets up the theme of your dining experience for the night. Once inside the restaurant and you've completed your special Ninja training, your Ninja waiter will take you to your private dining room. The walk to your room includes hidden doorways, navigating dark hallways and sneaking through a secret passage with a drawbridge. After you're seated, you will be given your menu which is on a scroll with a massive range of Ninja inspired dishes (don’t worry, it's not 100% ninja - you will get to see the food you're purchasing). The Ninjas prepare many of the meals at your table with an artistic flair and will keep you entertained throughout the whole experience. All of this takes place with the Ninjas disappearing and reappearing in your dining room right in front of your eyes, just like a true Ninja should be able to.
During the meal service, an in house illusionist visits each table and performs magic tricks to keep everyone entertained between courses. All the staff in the restaurant truly take the theme to heart, and put 100% into their characters - you’ll often see staff snaking around corners, as if trying to go unseen in their quest to assassinate the emperor.
The food can be quite pricey here, however it is all of a great standard, especially their Jiraiya Steak course (starting from 9,999 yen), where they use spectacular wagyu beef that just melts in your mouth - we would return for this alone! Most dishes incorporate a standard of theatrics, with them appearing in a puff of smoke or with dry ice seeping smoke from underneath it, making a very dramatic meal. Another surprise was how spectacular the sushi was, all was extremely fresh and some of the best sushi we had experienced over many journeys.
So, if you have ever had the urge to see how Ninjas work and see them practice their craft of being invisible, Ninja is defiantly a great place for a night out in Tokyo with wonderful food and truly unique entertainment while you dine.
Ninja is locate on the first floor of Asakusa Tokyo Plaza, 2-14-3 Nagata-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo. To get to Ninja, take the train on the Tokyo Metro Marunouchi line, and get off at Akasaka-Mitsuke Station. You'll find it just opposite the Sotobori Street exit.
Official Site - http://www.ninjaakasaka.com/ (in Japanese)
As the name suggests, you can probably guess that this restaurant is all themed around Lewis Caroll's world of Alice in Wonderland. If you have ever wanted to eat inside wonderland, you just need to come to Ginza in Tokyo to have the full experience. As you enter through a storybook, you are thrown into a world of giant teacups and saucers, ornate hedges, and decks of cards as tables and chairs.
The hallways that lead you down to the dining areas are all made to look like you’re walking through book pages! You'll also pass giant clocks, as well as a lot of blue velvet. You really feel like you’re being thrown into Alice’s story. The restaurant has several rooms filled with dining areas and each has a distinct theme from the famous story. You can eat in the middle of the Queen of Hearts' royal courtyard, to a room covered in playing card décor, and a room that looks like it’s for the Queen of Hearts' military. Everything is Alice here, right down to the rabbit tails on the back of the chairs.
Your menu's naturally comes in a storybook, and the food inside continues the Alice theme, where you can order cheshire cat’s tail pizza, drink me mystery meals, and caterpillar pasta to name a few. Each dish is made to look like something from the story, pasta that is pink and purple and in the shape of a cat head with eggs as eyes, pizzas with the toppings organised to look just like a clock, desserts that look like card soldiers, it’s like eating the entire cast of the film, and delicious! Alice’s Fantasy Restaurant definitely feels like it jumped on the popularity of Cosplay Harajuku girls, with all the wait staff dressed in elaborate Alice costumes, and keeping in character the whole time.
Be sure to fall down the rabbit hole while you’re here!
The original Alice’s Fantasy Restaurant is located on the fifth floor of the Taiyo building in Ginza at 8-8-5 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo. To get to Alice’s, take the Metro to Ginza Station, and it’s just a short 10 minute walk from there.
Check their website for other branches in Shinjuku, Ginza, Shibuya, and Ikebukuro, as well as Osaka.
Official Site - http://www.alice-restaurant.com/ (in Japanese)
We have saved the craziest for last. Yes, that’s right, the others seem incredibly normal in comparison to this! Robot Restaurant, located in Shinjuku, Tokyo is an uniquely Japanese restaurant which feels like walking on to the set of some neon soaked Japanese game show! This restaurant cost a mammoth 10 BILLION Yen to deck out, and you are walking into a place filled with dance music, lasers, bright lights and, of course, robots! If you’re looking for visual caffeine, we have your place right here.
This crazy place is in the heart of the Kabukicho area of Shinjuku, and costs 5,000 yen for a two-hour show of crazy Japanese neon robots fighting, and almost cartoon-like Japanese girls cheering and controlling the robots, at times even riding some of them. The fee includes a drink and a Bento box too, however it is pretty average fare, which you could typically get at any convenience store for much cheaper. Make no mistake, if you are going here it’s not for the food -- it’s for the entertainment.
Throughout the two hour show, you are going to see just about everything and anything that you think you would (and wouldn’t) see in a robot showdown. You’re going to witness dinosaur battles, robots fighting, sword fighting dancers and more, with a lighting system that could beat many headlining world tour concerts, all in a 44-seat venue. Picking a highlight is difficult in such a bizarre show - the women warrior performers are up there, along with the animatronic dinosaurs, and the big finish: a world war II bomber plane made out of LED lights that carries dancers around the restaurant.
To put it simply: it’s insane, bright, loud, bizarre, and truly unique to Japan. We came out thinking that this was exactly what we dreamed being in a Japanese game shows audience must be like.
Robot Restaurant is located at 1-7-1 Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo. To get to Robot Restaurant, just take a train to the busiest train station in the world, Shinjuku station, and take the east exit. It’s about a 10 minute walk, not far from the Don Quixote in Shinjuku.
Official Site - http://www.robot-restaurant.com/
When planning your travels in Tokyo planning a visit to one of the many Themed restaurants is a must, for a truly unique dining experience you just won’t find anywhere else. A stop at one of the many theme restaurants in Japan is alway a must on Japlanning's list.