I’ve heard about the Robot Restaurant for a while and have walked past it a number of times during my trips to Kabukicho in Shinjuku, Tokyo. It always seemed like a popular tourist attraction, but at 8,000 JPY per ticket (approximately 70 USD) at the door, it was a bit too steep to go out of pure curiosity.
There’s good news though. I didn’t have to pay top dollar to attend what was described as the ‘greatest show of his lifetime’, by Anthony Bourdain, from the show, Parts Unknown. Discounted tickets for the robot restaurant show are now available from many different sources. I saved the link at the end of this article. For now, focus on my review to see if it’s the show that you really want to see.
Robot Restaurant Showtimes
The Robot Restaurant has four different showtimes. The first show is usually the cheapest to book, which is a bit strange since all of the shows are the same, so it’s probably due to Kabukicho as a whole being pretty quiet at this time of day.
- 1st show 3 p.m.
- 2nd show 5 p.m.
- 3rd show 7 p.m.
- 4th show 9 p.m.
Getting to the Venue of Robot Restaurant
From Shinjuku Station, you’ll want to look for the East Exit. From here, following the directions on Google Maps is very simple, and only about a 10-minute walk. You can still reach it from the other exits, but it’s usually a far longer walk, and sometimes Google Maps gets a bit finicky.
For tourists, the first thing you should know is that it can be a little bit confusing to find the place without the help of Google Maps. The reason for this is that it’s located in Kabukicho in Shinjuku, Tokyo. Being both the entertainment and red light district of Tokyo, it is almost always extremely crowded and difficult to navigate, and you can be easily be distracted by many Asian massage parlors, nightclubs, and bars blatantly advertised everywhere in the area. It’s also important to note that Japan, as a whole, doesn’t have named roads, since there are simply too many roads to name. So this is why Google Maps is essential to living in Japan nowadays.
The Robot Restaurant show is actually in a separate building than where you actually present your reserved tickets, so it may add to the confusion for a tourist not accustomed to the area. Neither of these are particularly bad things; they’re just things I feel you should know beforehand so you’re prepared. Either way, the staff will give you directions to main building after you check in with your reserved ticket, if not simply walk you to the entrance.
It’s also important for you to know that they have a dress code and etiquette when coming to the robot restaurant. Their website states no sunglasses, already drunk customers, attention-grabbing outfits, or large wigs. Additionally, if you are also a member of any criminal organizations (perhaps mafia or yakuza), you are also not allowed to enter (not that I know how they would be able to tell if you were, let alone enforce this last one).
Robot Restaurant Bar and Cafe Lounge
While you wait for the Robot Restaurant Show to begin, you will be first escorted to a robot cafe or what they also called robot restaurant bar which is basically a lounge for visitors who arrived early at the site.
(We didn’t do this because we arrived late, but should you arrive early you now have an idea of where you will be escorted).
The billion yen cost of the entire Robot Restaurant building and its giant Wi-Fi controlled robots is very evident in this lounge area because of the wild and bright light ornaments, tables, and chairs. Which is probably the reason the ticket price for the watching the show is so expensive.
Once the time comes to start the show, you’ll be escorted to the main theater. There is food available in the main theater (you buy it along with your ticket), but I would suggest eating before the show, as the menu is very limited.
On the night we went they were serving sushi in a bento box, but I’m not sure if they rotate the menu with other foods. Inside there is popcorn for 300 JPY, along with beer, and other alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages starting at 500 JPY. But these can only be purchased during intermissions. Another good bit of info to know is that you can’t use the bathroom during an act, and if you’re in the bathroom once an act starts, you can’t return to your seat.
So, with all the preface out of the way, here’s my review of Tokyo’s famed Robot Restaurant.
First Act: A Mix of Old and New
The show started with a highly entertaining traditional Taiko drum performance, mixed with some modern twists, such as neon lights, a rock drum set, and mixed traditional/futuristic costumes. Next, they brought out a long stage to allow for dancers to join in on the music. In all, the first routine was very fun and entertaining, and honestly, might have been my favorite act, but it did feel slightly out of place in a venue known as the “Robot Restaurant.”
Second Act: Robot Wars
After an intermission, the second act was undoubtedly the weirdest thing I’ve seen during my 9 years in Japan! This act was supposed to tell a story of sorts, which turned out to be ridiculously corny and included some things which would probably present legal issues if it were performed in America. To start, the voice acting in the entire show is in English, even if the performers themselves don’t speak it. It’s all dubbed over the speakers. This leads to some unintentionally entertaining scenes of performers over-exaggerating their mouth and body movements, to pretend they are speaking in English.
As for the act itself, it’s a story of a distant peaceful planet, unaffected by war, where all the people and animals live in harmony when it’s suddenly attacked by bad guys from the evil Robots world who want to rule it for themselves. During the explanation, there is a video on the giant screens, which are located on either side of the room, presenting the story. The issue is that the music they play during the shows are straight out of quite high-profile movies, and the characters used to depict the bad guys are almost all from the popular Blizzard game series, Warcraft.
This is not an issue against the show itself, but it does make you wonder if the operators of the show know they are stealing trademarked properties. As for the music, the second act ends with the triumphant music of Indiana Jones. Throughout the show, I heard music from Star Wars, ET, and Jurassic Park. So hopefully they obtained permission from the correct people to use said music (I guarantee they didn’t).
Third act: Giant Robots, Brazilian Carnival, Pole Dancing, etc.
The third and final act was the most entertaining, as well as perhaps the loudest part of the show, and is the act by which the Robot Restaurant gets its name. It started with an introduction to all the cast members in the show, followed by an impressively coordinated routine by Japanese dancers dressed up in Brazilian carnival costumes, involving around 10 to 12 different Wi-Fi controlled giant robots as the performers danced and sang to music a band was playing on a moving stage.
I say, all these were impressive, because it was amazing to me that they could pull off the show at all within the very narrow stage. It was narrow enough that, had one of the drivers of the robots (moving stages) made a mistake, it would have forced the whole show to stop while they repositioned. The stages were literally inches from one another and the audience. In fact, I have doubts that such a show would be allowed in countries like the US without their being some kind of barrier between the stage and the platforms. Couple this with the fact that many of these same people controlling these machines are also dancing while driving, and it’s very impressive.
Verdict: Is it really worth it?
In summary, the show was very entertaining, although, I personally believe it would be more appealing if I had been able to drink during the show. I was driving, thus unable to drink! I don’t, however, believe it’s worth the 8,000 JPY asking price. That said, if you can manage to get the tickets at a cheap discounted price, then it would be worth the time to see it with friends. It’s an entertaining show, and it really encompasses the modern Japanese culture as a whole. It includes a mix of the campy, zany, and sexy that Japanese people, especially the younger generations, really seem to enjoy.
Regarding whether you can bring your small children or not depends on how well they behave. The show, designed to be a sensation overload for adults, makes use of loud sounds and music and bright flashing lights, which could all prove too much for most children. Couple that with the fact that you are actually in the Tokyo Red Light district, and it may not be the best place for you and your kids. Ultimately, however, it’s up to you. Just don’t forget to be a responsible parent. When your kid starts crying you better prepare your exit and accept the fact that you just lost your money.
Where to Book Discounted Robot Restaurant Tickets
If you are convinced with my review and still very curious about the Robot Restaurant show, there are many ways to how to get a discounted tickets to watch this “show of a lifetime.” I curated 7 of them because I find them trustworthy and legit. Please also take time to review my full disclosure above this post in case you missed it.
1. Metropolis Magazine
Obviously, not a website, but Metropolis magazine is free and you can find them at the airport, or your hotel. The discount varies but is usually in the 1,000 or 2,000 JPY range, and the coupon is generally attached to the middle page. Cut it out and show it to the ticket reception when you arrive. Keep in mind that one discount coupon is limited to one person. Meaning, if there are 2 or more of you watching the show, you’d better grab more than one magazine. It’s also very important that you call the Robot Restaurant for reservations, as they will usually sell out fast. This link will show you where to find free Metropolis magazines.
- No credit card or online transaction needed.
- No free drinks or discount coupons.
- You must call the Robot Restaurant by yourself to make reservations.
- Language barrier through phone if the person who picked up doesn’t speak English.
Voyagin offers two different ticket prices depending on the time slot. The first show, which is 3 p.m., is 38% off, while the regular shows at 5 p.m., 7 p.m., and 9 p.m., are 23% off. So far, I find that booking through them is the easiest and most convenient way to watch the Robot Restaurant show. The main advantage of Voyagin when it comes to booking the Robot Restaurant is that they are actually the primary affiliate of the show. This means when you book with Voyagin, it’s a direct booking with the Robot Restaurant. This makes it easy because you get the email confirmation smooth and fast. This also makes it one of the cheapest discount ticket available online, and their ticket also includes a free drink (in form of a coupon).
SPECIAL PROMOTION: For first time Voyagin users, get extra 10% OFF by using the code: ROBOTLIVE10
- Cheapest Robot Restaurant Ticket available with free drink coupon!
- They have dates available when other booking sites are unavailable.
- Tickets and bookings confirmation are made as fast as possible since direct contact with Robot Restaurant.
- English chat and phone support available.
- Cancellations can be made 2 days prior otherwise tickets are nonrefundable.
JAPANiCAN is actually the online booking site of JTB Sunrise Tours, the largest travel agency in Japan, which is very popular for foreign tourists booking hotels and Shinkansen tickets. The price is straightforward and shown in Japanese yen. Upon check out, you’ll see the conversion rate that will be charged to your credit card. Booking the Robot Restaurant show with them comes with a free drink, and you get the confirmation via email. While I was going through their website, I experienced some hiccups with the booking system. Some dates showed unavailability even if it was available on other booking sites. I guess this can lead some guests to book with other sites instead. So just remember to check the correct time slot you are booking, to ensure the tickets are actually available. Here are the booking links for all the shows: 3 p.m. (6,000 JPY), 5 p.m., 7 p.m., and 9 p.m. (6,600 JPY).
- Free 1 drink.
- Cancellation can be made 1 day prior.
- English phone support available.
- Date or time change is restricted. If you need to change the date, you need to cancel your original booking first, which may incur a cancellation fee.
Klook has cheap Robot Restaurant discount tickets as well. The first show at 3 p.m. is only 5,400 JPY, while the regular shows at 5 p.m., 7 p.m., and 9 p.m., are 6,000 yen. Klook seems cheaper than the previously mentioned websites, but the biggest disadvantage of booking with Klook is that all ticket bookings are final and cannot be canceled or refunded. Once it’s booked, it’s booked. So only book with Klook if you have a solid plan of watching the Robot Restaurant Show while visiting Tokyo.
- Free 1 drink coupon.
- Instant booking.
- All bookings are final. No cancellations. Nonrefundable.
- No phone support.
GetYourGuide is another travel concierge platform similar to the websites mentioned above, but with a focus on European destinations. Their Robot Restaurant tickets start at 65 USD. Discounted, yet still expensive compared to other travel websites mentioned above. It is understandable though as they don’t really focus on Asian destinations, so they don’t really try to be competitive with it.
- Flexible. Can cancel up to 1 day in advance for full refund.
- No free drinks or drink coupon.
Viator is a TripAdvisor company with a focus on United States destinations. The earliest show is 56 USD, while the later shows are 61 USD. It’s very easy to book the Robot Restaurant ticket with them because the overall user interface of the website is very user-friendly.
- Free cancellation should be made 7 days prior. 3-4 days prior, you get 50% refund, and 0-2 days prior or no show is nonrefundable.
- No free drinks or coupon.
Verdict: The Best Discounted (or Cheapest) Robot Restaurant Ticket
It all depends on what you need. However, alcohol would probably be very helpful to fully enjoy the show! The cheapest choice with a free drink would be Klook. The caveat with Klook being that all bookings are final, and no cancellation and/or refunds can be made. Which then leaves you with the next best option — Voyagin, which comes with a free drink and can be canceled 2 days prior.
When it comes to flexibility though – like booking cancellation, you might be better off with JAPANiCAN or GetYourGuide, as they offer full refunds, even with cancellations 1 day prior. Another thing to keep in mind is that the first show at 3:20 – 4 p.m. is usually much cheaper. So, you might want to consider that when making your final decision.
|Company||Price||Free Drink||Free Cancellation|
|Voyagin||53 USD||Yes||Yes, 2 days prior.|
|Japanican||53 USD||Yes||Yes, 1 day prior.|
|Klook||48 USD||Yes||No cancellations. Nonrefundable.|
|GetYourGuide||65 USD||No||Yes, 1 day prior.|
|Viator||56 USD||No||Yes, 7 days prior.|