TOKYO: Robots & Ninjas

If you’re a fan of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown, then you’ve probably caught a glimpse of what he calls the greatest show in the history of entertainment- The Robot Restaurant. Located in Kabuchiko, Shinjuku’s red light district, the huge neon-lit signs are hard to miss. After buying a ticket, you’ll be led down several flights of stairs into a basement. The walls are decorated with loud prints and flashy diamonds. Once underground, the audience is seated into three elevated rows, and encouraged to buy Robot Restaurant merchandise, popcorn and drinks. Despite its name, it isn’t quite a restaurant as it is a performance, and we were about to find out why.

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A parade of girls in colorful costumes and boys in crazy wigs marched in, banging their glowing drumsets, slinging their guitars mid-air while chanting “ha!” All this while they’re moving on floats, gliding across the room to set the energy high. The stage is glittered with girls in sailormoon outfits and rainbow wigs dancing, ninjas brandishing their katanas, and masked men in shining armour with horns on their heads.

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The craziness had just commenced, and there was a lot more to be had. Suddenly, tribal dancers filled the scene to establish the sacred forest. Then, this huge metal tank of a robot thunders in and says something like, “This place is so peaceful, I want to trash it!!” while his droid minions stomp around with a hammer. Alas, a kungfu panda riding his cow barges in and attacks the robots, who fall to the ground but remain undefeated.

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So this white, fierce falcon swoops in and his beak emits fire through which one of the droids die. This goes on when more and more fancy forest creatures fight the grungy, mean robot machines. There’s a perky spider girl trapping the enemy into her web, and a mermaid squiggling her tail atop a shark that eventually eats one droid.

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The highlight was when the queen of the robot empire, scantily clad in her corset, fish net stockings and cape, arrives with her badass gattling gun. She cackles, claiming the forest as hers, until this huge red-eyed dinosaur eats the queen and carries her away.

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The entire show is such a spectacle! Though it may not make sense to some, it lets you in on Japan’s wild quirks and characters.

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We killed time before the next attraction by shopping at Don Quijote, a popular discount chain that carries all your pasalubong needs: from different flavors of Kitkat to packets of face masks and stuffed toys. Their adult section has a bunch of bodysuits for cosplaying, like a school girl or maid outfit for men. We wanted to bring some home for halloween, but worried about the size.

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Hello, Hachicko 🙂

Then it was time. Our last dinner in Tokyo was nothing short of special. We walked into the Ninja Cafe, which was not quite a cafe as it is a themed-restaurant, and we were greeted by a lady in black who asked for our names. She clapped her hands twice, and out came a ninja who told us that we had to undergo training. We entered the wooden door and he led us through some caves. He told us to act swiftly because the enemy is fast approaching. We let out a loud clap and lo and behold, a wooden plank fell beneath us to serve as our bridge in order to run away. Before we knew it, we were back at the door where we started and had completed our ninja training.

Another ninja brought us to a nicely hidden underground area to indulge in our tasting course. We started with shuriken-shaped breadsticks to be dipped in duck pate.

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Everything from the tomato-based angel hair pasta, to the stone-boiled soup was delicous! Josh, who’s not even a shrimp-eater, loved their sushi. While he had the sweet and sour pork specialty which was covered in black to go with the ninja theme, I enjoyed my salmon with sour cream which was thoroughly tasty from inside out.

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While waiting for dessert, we were introduced to the ninja master who had a trick up his sleeve. First he asked Josh to choose from his deck of cards and write a message for me. He laid the card on the table while reshuffling the deck on hand and then told me to pull out my own card and do the same. I wrote my message and the ninja returned both cards in the deck. After shuffling, he drew one card which had both our messages on it- with the exact penmanship and even the marker smudge!

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I’ve been keeping the card in my wallet since that night, as a constant reminder that we will be back in Japan sooner than later. Whether it’s a second round of Tokyo, a trip to the more laidback Osaka, or an experience of Ancient Japan in Kyoto, we’ll be back real soon for Japan has captured our hearts.

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