So there’s some weird stuff that goes on in Tokyo. There are suspicious looking vending machines selling ladies underwear, hotels where you sleep in a capsule and let’s not forget the entire Shinjuku district.
But the weirdness is what makes Tokyo great. You can have a mundane experience like any other major city, hit the tourist spots and maybe some Michelin starred restaurants or an izakaya or 2. OR, you can embrace the weird and wonderful and experience the unique cultural treats on offer, no matter how foreign they may seem.
One of the more famous quirks Tokyo provides are themed restaurants and cafes. Chances are you’ve heard of some of them or seen them on social media, but we’ve put together a list of 15 of the more popular – and bizarre – eateries with a curious theme.
If you can do the robot this is the place for you!
Robot dancers that is! They take the stage beside monsters and animals and boring old human performers while lasers, frenetic music and flashing neon lights electrify the room. So not the place for a quiet nosh but maybe a great spot for a date if you’re into anime/science fiction.
Uobei: High-Speed Sushi
Japan has the bullet train, and now they have bullet sushi! Unlike your boring sushi train where dishes parade around the restaurant on a slow moving conveyor belt, Uobei serve their sushi down a high-speed chute!
While this can be a little unsettling at first, it’s a great chance to test your reflexes and will certainly keep you off your phone during dinner! Uobei also uses multi-lingual touch screens so you’ll at least be getting the right order fired at you.
Soineya: Cuddle Cafes
Soineya translates to “sleep together shop”. So this is one for the more touchy-feely people out there. The idea is a cafe where you can enjoy a platonic relationship with one of the cafe’s girls. This could mean cuddling, napping together or laying in her arms for 20 minutes or up to 10 hours.
It seems a bit creepy – look, maybe it is – but it’s Aimed at single men and is an attempt to battle the modern phenomenon of hikikomori. In Japan, hikikomori – translated as “pulling inward, being confined” – or “acute social withdrawal”, are reclusive adolescents or adults who withdraw from social life, often seeking extreme degrees of isolation and confinement. Maybe 30 minutes of cuddles can bring some hikikomori back into the world.
I promise this isn’t a trap. This particular restaurant is coloured blood-red and full of creepy décor. Expect coffins and blood-smeared mirrors and bats. The staff are dressed and speak like Dracula – Japanese Dracula! – and serve modern Izakaya cuisine with blood-themed cocktails. If your keen for a modern Vampiric experience, consider staying at a capsule hotel. It’s kind of like sleeping in a coffin.
Another curious café that might step into slightly creepy territory, maid cafes have now become an established part of Tokyo’s culinary scene. Since the first one opened in 2001, these quirky establishments have started popping up all over the city. The “servers”, dressed in – you guessed it – maids outfits, treat you as their master, roleplaying as schoolgirls, swimmers and sometimes little sisters. Yeah.
Look I’m not going to defend them. They’re a thing and tourists go there. What I will say is the Japanese cultural relationship with these elements are very different from our western views, so go with an open mind.
Now we’re talking! Hedgehogs are cute. Full stop. The end. So why not go grab a drink and a meal and spend the afternoon cuddling one. You’re allowed to pick out your favourite hedgehog and hang out with them for as long as you want. The only problem is you can’t take them home with you. Hog-napping is generally frowned upon in Japan.
Embrace your inner cat person! Although they’re a novelty for tourists, cat cafes are actually a staple in the Tokyo dining scene. Japan has more cat cafes than any other country in the world and Tokyo is home to about 39 of them. Duck into one of these cafes, and you’ll be able to eat, drink and lounge while playing with the cute and cuddly felines. It’s stepped down from the hedgehog café but you’re still getting some great cuddle time.
Alice in Wonderland Cafes
Ever wanted to actually have tea with the Mad Hatter? Well, now you can. Inspired Lewis Carrol’s timeless tale, the cafes are full of fantasy-fuelled decor including chaise lounges, masquerade mirrors, giant books and chandeliers. There are even giant teacups and Cheshire cats.
Ninja Akasaka Ninja Cafe
Get transported back to the time of the Shogun at one of Tokyo’s Ninja cafes. Expect Japanese castle-style decor, ninja guides, katanas, throwing stars adorning the walls, and ninja waiters who sneak up on you. So keep your wits about you, especially when you’re taking a sip of your drink!
One for the Thomas the tank engine fans out there, or those who read Harry Potter for the train content. Niagara opened one year after the bullet train’s maiden voyage and has been home to the train-obsessed ever since. Here you pick your meal at a ticket vending machine, sit in old train carriage seats and have your meal delivered via a model railway. Pretty great really.
Another animal café – are you noticing a theme here? Owls may seem a little standoffish, but here you can pat, take photos with and even eat with your favourite feathered friend. Not ideal for families with kids under 3, but definitely worth a visit otherwise.
Kawaii Monster Cafe
Imagine a restaurant with a mushroom disco, a giant bunny drinking milk like a baby, an enormous jellyfish over its bar and macaroons on the walls. Yeah, we don’t’ get it either, but it exists. The servers appear just as crazy, dressed as candy-toting avatars with fairy floss hair. It’s like walking into a world of snapchat filters. For those who were hoping for actual monsters, or kaiju, sadly you’re out of luck. The name itself refers to the girls – the Kawaii (cute) Monsters – who are more like sexy cartoon characters than Godzilla.
Sakuragaoka Goat Cafe
This artsy cafe in the middle of Shibuya definitely fits in with the neighbourhood. Its most recognisable residents are two utterly adorable goats called Sakura and Chocolate. Best buddies for life, the friendly goats are always eager for a pat. And, if you need to stretch your legs, you can even take them for a walk! You will need to book ahead for the privilege, however.
Zauo Shinjuku: Fishing Restaurant
This is exactly what you think it is. The “fishing restaurant” has a massive aquarium in the middle, replete with a wooden ship. After you’ve been seated, it’s time to cast a line out and catch your dinner. But it’s tougher than it looks. As with all things worth doing though, patience is the key, and once you reel one in the talented chefs will prepare your catch to your liking.
Yokohama Subtropical Teahouse Reptiles Cafe
Another animal café with more of a scaly feel. You’ll find lizards, snakes and even giant tortoises! While the smaller varietals are stuck in glass cages, the majestic tortoises can be seen roaming around the cafe. Cuddle sessions take place regularly throughout the day, but if you’re more hands-off when it comes to reptiles you can simply observe from your table.