Japan was always one of those countries that whenever someone I knew had returned would tell me that “above all the people I know, you will LOVE Japan”. I have recently returned from a holiday there and can confirm everyone was right, and Japan now sits as my number one favourite country to visit. Why? Well amongst the generous and helpful people, the amazing culture and landscape EVERYTHING IS THEMED!
Like everything. Even traffic cones (when I was in Mt. Fuji they were blue with white tops to make them look like little mountains).
So I thought I’d combine two loves of mine today, themes and food to bring you my Top 5 themed restaurants to visit when in Japan:
1. Robot Restaurant, Shinjuku, Tokyo
Address: 1-7-1 Kabukicho Shinjuku Shinjuku-ku Tokyo
Okay, I’ll admit it, this one is more show than restaurant, but as restaurant is in the title I’m claiming it. You can purchase meals here with the show, or just a show tickets. Please also note that the caramel popcorn you can buy during the show is DELICIOUS. Please also note that you will never see anything like this in your whole life. It’s as if a whole bunch of really creative artists and engineers got together and got really high and then asked themselves: ‘What is something crazy weird that we could do that would be awesome and random?’ OR ate a WHOLE BUNCH OF CHEESE and then went to sleep and re-created their nightmares/dreams.
The show is made up of 5 sections that don’t relate to one another at all, and don’t really have a lot of plot to explain – or that you can explain – so here it is in pictures:
Drumming and dance battle-mania
Silver sequin horse diva’s singing ‘Telephone’
Highly recommend that you book your tickets online so that you can lock in your spot as well as get a discount!
2. Ninja Restaurant, Kyoto
Address: 602-8042 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, Nakagyo Ward, Nakanocho (Shinkyogokudori)
This place is fun. It’s marketed as a restaurant and labyrinth and really plays on the fun of ‘ninja magic’. When we went here we just ate at the regular restaurant, not the dinner theatre or the shabu-shabu (all you can eat), but fear not, you get a ninja magic show with your dinner that is fun regardless of how you feel about magic.
The restaurant is made up of winding tunnels that lead to your cave-esque section where your table is. Just be sure to wait for them to walk you out of the restaurant as well as a couple of friends who tried to leave without being escorted and they got lost for about 15 minutes.
Of all the themed restaurants that we visited, this one had the best food. First up you get to have complimentary black sesame ninja star crackers, but with the mains, some dishes have extra theatre – such as this sashimi plate served on a tray of dry ice to have smoke waft over your table:
Not to mention the meat kebab that was served on a ‘samurai sword’ that you then get to have a photo op with:
I’d recommend booking at this one too, as it’s quite popular for its deco, ninja magic show and good food. Just note that there is a cover charge to eating here, as there is with all of the themed restaurants in Japan – from memory it was about $5-10 AUD, so nothing really.
3. The Lockup, Shibuya, Tokyo
Address: 33-1 Udagawacho, B2F Shibuya Grand Tokyo Bldg., Shibuya, Tokyo
The Lockup is a jail themed restaurant and bar. When you first arrive the police-costumed staff handcuff you and take you to your seats where you can order all the fun and jail/murder/criminal themed drinks and food.
We only ordered dessert here, but based on that alone, the food was pretty good. HIGHLY recommend the Honey Butter Bread:
The real star here though is the drinks. They all come in a fun glass or beaker or with a syringe, that kind of thing. So theming taken to the extreme. Here are a couple of photos of the menu to give you an idea:
But that’s not all, while you’re here you will get to witness a ‘jail break’ where a whole bunch of staff dressed as different types of criminals from your nightmare – clowns, masked little red riding hoods etc. – run around and scare you will fake guns and jumping out at you. All to the constant ring of alarm bells and black lights.
This place was pretty fun, so even if you aren’t looking for a meal, you should def head here for the drinks and show, oh, and eyeballs:
4. Alice’s Fantasy Restaurant, Osaka (also in Tokyo)
Address: 1-8-1, Shibata, Kita-Ku, Osaka-shi, Osaka
Alice’s Fantasy Restaurant is an Alice in Wonderland themed restaurant. Alice in Wonderland is really popular in Japan so the parent company Diamond Dining have a couple of these Alice themed restaurants and café’s all over Japan. I went to the one in Osaka which had a ‘through the looking glass’ theme.
Upon arrival you are taken through giant storybook doors through to the main restaurant. Once seated you are brought drink and a drink me ticket. The restaurant has a giant chandelier above the dining area and the staff are of course all in costume.
Complete disclosure, the food here is only ok, but the cocktails are delicious. Just make sure to order something that is themed and comes in a shape, as that’s the real fun you’ll get to have here. I ordered the pasta because it came in the shape of the Cheshire cat:
And got the parfait for dessert because of the same reasoning:
Once again you are charged cover for entry, but the food isn’t super expensive, the pasta was about $10-15 Australian dollars, so if you have an Alice obsession this is the place for you. Plus they even give you some strawberry tea as a parting gift!
EXTRA: If you really love Alice in Wonderland, we discovered an entire shop dedicated to the theme while exploring Osaka:
Alice on Wednesdays, Osaka
Address: 2-12-25 Nishi-shimsaibashi, Chuo-ku | Asahi Plaza Shimsaibashi 1F, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture
It is an entire shop dedicated to Alice in Wonderland themed jewellery and sweets. It’s worth the visit if not only for the entry through a tiny door leading to a storybook entrance with a hidden message:
5. Alcatraz ER, Shibuya, Tokyo
Address: 2-13-5 Dogenzaka | Harvest Bldg 2F, Shibuya 150-0043, Tokyo Prefecture
Last but not least on the list is Alcatraz ER in Tokyo. Alcatraz E.R. is an asylum themed restaurant. First things first (I’m the realest) the elevator to the second level that this restaurant is on will not operate to that level until the restaurant is officially open. So if you get here early and can’t go up, wait and try again later.
The restaurant is set-up to be the setting of a super creepy and fucked up asylum. You are seated in a cell and your waiter/waitress is a doctor who will claim everything is roofied…or at least ours did anyway. You are also given a metal rod to bang onto the cell frame, calling out DOCTOR in order to get the staff’s attention.
Just like The Lock-up, all the drinks and food that are themed come in a VERY fun plate or container. I took a couple of pictures of the more fun-themed items from the menu:
…And no, I didn’t order the roast pussy or the sperm shaped drink. It was too much, even for my theming standards.
The food here was again, ok, not bad, just not blow your socks off excellent. This place would be really fun if you get here a bit tipsy and have a big group so that you can order all the weird stuff and make a fun night of it.
A nice little touch at the end is when your receipt is given to you with a medical slip and some medicine (mints)
Bonus: Owl Café, Osaka
Address: 1-10-13 Tenjinbashi, Kita Ward, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture
Ok, so this is a café and everything isn’t themed to be an owl or an owl reference, but you GET TO HOLD OWLS. That is enough of a pull here to include it as an awesome bonus to this list.
The way the café works is that you must purchase a drink (1000 yen) on entry and then that grants you an hour in there. After listening to a very long speech about the do and don’ts of how to behave and touch the owls in Japanese (don’t worry there is an English cheat sheet that you can read) you get to hold all the owls out to play for that day/session. Depending on the size, the owl can be placed on your head:
On your shoulder:
Or on your arm:
This is a MUST if you are travelling to Osaka. I mean, who cares about a cat café when you can hang with some owls. If you wanna head here, be sure to be prepared to wait, depending on the time you arrive and put your name down, you may get a spot in the next hour session or have to come back later.