Tokyo is an exciting city where trends are set. The city is known for crazy fun cool themed restaurants. “Everyone’s has got to eat, so better make it fun” they must have thought?! Typical Japanese humor – the crazier the better!
Themed restaurants are something you have to experience when you are in Tokyo. Not so much for of the special food really – just go for the show and the experience. Where else can you eat surrounded by vampires, robots or a fairytale?! Exactly. Only in Tokyo!
Several people told me that the Robot Restaurant was one of the highlights of their Japan trip. Others call it a tourist trap. For sure it will be an overwhelming experience that will address all of your senses to the max. Please take my advice and book at least a week in advance (without food option) since this event is often sold out days ahead, as I learned the hard way. Metro: Seibu Shinjuku or Shinjuku.
Alice in Wonderland
Alice’s Fantasy Restaurants are based on Alice in Wonderland. This themed restaurant has become so popular, it has now 6 locations including 4 in Tokyo:
- Alice in a labyrinth in Ginza
- Alice in fantasy book in Shjinjuku
- Alice in magical land in Nishi-Shinjuku
- Alice in an old castle in Ikebukuro
Pick the location of your choice, walk into the big doors, hold the menu as a big book, and watch the waitress act like Alice! On the menu you will find mostly sweet things: tea, milkshakes, cakes and fruit, sometimes decorated within the theme.
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More themed restaurants
Other fun themed restaurants in Tokyo include:
- Ninja Akasaka Metro: Akasaka-mitsuke Station (Marunouchi line).
- Vampire Cafe Located on the 7th floor, open for dinner only. Metro: Station Ginza.
- Christon Café (church theme). Metro: Shinjuku-sanchrome.
- Kawaii Monster Cafe. Fun fair theme (kids). Metro: Harajuku.
Not many people in Tokyo can afford having their own pet. Instead they go to an animal café. Not sure whether it is acceptable to use animals for human entertainment in this way, but in Tokyo they definitely do. Well the cats snore anyway… Some of the most interesting Tokyo’s animal themed cafes include:
- Owls: Owl Park Cafe (Ikebukuro), Fukuro Sabo (Kokubunji) or Owl Café Shinjuku
- Hedgehogs: Hedgehog Café (Roppongi) or ChikuChiku (Shibuya)
- Goats: Sakuragaoka Cafe (Shibuya)
- Snakes: Tokyo Snake Center Cafe (Shibuya)
- Rabbits: a.g.f Café (Harajuku)
- Cats: Cat Bar Neko (Ueno), Temari no Oshiro (Musashino) or Calico (Shinjuku)
- Dogs: Dog Heart (Shibuya)
Rabbit Cafe, Maid Cafe and some other places can be visited during A Deep Akihabara Tour.
In other parts of Japan I also noticed places with owls, for example the Owl Forest in Huis Ten Bosch, but never combined with food.
Tokyo’s neighborhood Akihabara is the nursery and still home of several maid cafes. In these cafes, waitresses are dressed in a cute maid uniform and treat customers as their Master (or Mistresses). Or in case of @Home for example, you will be called Prince or Princess.
I personally visited the @Home maid café in Akihabara. There are several floors; just pick one and enjoy the show. It was a bit strange yet fun experience I would not have wanted to miss for the world! The maids act very childish, I guess it is part of the Japanese culture. No reservation required. Metro: Akihabara (northeast Tokyo).
Different kinds of sweet and alcoholic beverages are served. Your food (small breakfast, lunch or snack) is decorated at the table by the maid, she draws for example a bunny or bear on your desert with chocolate or egg with ketchup. Sometimes games can be played with the maid (upon request) and the session (usually 1 hour) ends with a group performance by the maids. There are some strict rules at maid cafes: no touching and no cameras allowed. A Polaroid photo with a maid costs around 500 YEN.
My cousin Astrid went to the Peter Rabbit Maid Café and she loved it! Metro: Jiyogaoka (south Tokyo). Other well-known maid cafes in Tokyo are Maidreamin (locations in Shinjuku and Shibuya) and Pinafore. Some maid cafes now also have locations in other cities such as Osaka, but Akihabara/Tokyo is the best place to do this! You can even book a Akihabara Tour with Your Own Personal Maid!
Eat at local’s house
Meet Akane, Tori or Nahoko, locals in Tokyo who would love to cook for you, or learn you how to cook a Japanese meal, at their very own home. Tadaku is a brilliant tool to arrange such meal with a local, which will give you a real taste of Japanese culture. Maybe you can learn how to make your own sushi?!
Tiny alley restaurants
You might have heard of Omoide Yokocho, just behind Shinjuku station. That’s a nice street to walk through, but the real fun starts at the street parallel to it: Yakitori Alley Memory Lane a.k.a. Piss Alley. Full of tiny restaurants with max 10 seats, roasting all kinds of skewers fresh on the Japanese BBQ. Metro: Shinjuku. There are more of these alleys in Tokyo, see this Time Out article.
Other restaurant tips Shinjuku
- If you want to go cheap and quick, eat Japanese curry at CoCo. It’s unlikely you will spend more than ¥1000 and still get a good, local, filling meal. A bargain!
- When bistro meets yakitori, you get Kushiyaki Bistro Fukumimi. Not so easy to find, but worth the search. From the open kitchen, the cooking staff greets all arriving and leaving guests loudly together. Delicious skewers with meat like beef and chicken, but also horse meat, pork and veggy options.
The best steak I have ever eaten was Kobe beef. Kobe is a city in Japan, the cows get massages, special feed, etc. Not cheap but worth it! No worries if you do not have time to go to Kobe, you can also enjoy it at Kobe Beef Restaurant Hakushu in Shibuya!
Not only sushi
In Japan, the dishes the restaurant offers are made clear by plastic versions displayed in the window. You will notice that Japan has lots more to offer than sushi alone. You may find it actually a bit challenging to find a sushi restaurant. The only sushi I ate in Japan was served as one of the many tiny dishes during special dinner at an onsen. (Later I will write a blog post about my onsen experiences in Japan.) Teriyaki, yakitori and ramen restaurants are more common and really delicious!
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