Gaudy and Glittered Tokyo
Tokyo has the reputation of being weird. I think everyone has heard rumors vending machines that spit out school girl’s used panties or all other kinds of fabricated urban legends about strange things in Japan. I have to admit that I fell victim a little bit too to that opinion before I left. After reading about some of the interesting Japanese opinions regarding love & sex in Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance, I have to admit that I came to Tokyo wondering what kind of strange things I’d see.
Maybe we would have seen more crazy if we ventured deep into Tokyo’s redlight district, but everything we stumbled across in Tokyo was pretty tame. The only vending machines I encountered were drink ones, and the only remotely racy thing we saw was a strip club with girls dressed almost identical to Britney Spears in Hit Me Baby One More Time. After all, boobs are an international language.
This isn’t to say that we find anything over the top in Tokyo, but it was mostly stuff I researched and knew about ahead of time.
Animal cafes have begun a little bit of a worldwide phenomenon, and I know that Austin opened its own cat cafe sometime in the last year or so. Still, they are all over Tokyo. There were “bengal” cat cafes, owl cafes, hedgehog cafes and any sort of small furry creature you can think of. I did not visit any, because honestly these establishments make my animal rights radar blare red. In the states I feel like I can differentiate one that provides good care for the animals and facilitates rescue, but in Japan I have no idea what’s good and what’s not. So I avoided them entirely.
Instead, we visited another heavily themed cafe – the Kawaii Monster Cafe in Harajuku. This place was exactly the kind of over the top cuteness I was looking for.
Each section of the restaurant was decorated slightly differently. There was a French macaroon room.
Something with lots of lips.
I think these are animals drinking from light up baby bottles?
In the center of it all is a giant moving carousel, which is of course – adorably cute.
The food is also cute, and brightly colored.
And the bar looks like a giant spider (or something) that changes colors.
The boys said in the male restroom there were signs showing how at night the Kawaii Monster Cafe turns from a kid friendly pitstop to a more adult themed burlesque show. We didn’t return, so I can only speculate how weird (or not weird) it gets after dark.
Another completely absurd thing we did in Tokyo is admittedly a huge tourist trap, but I hesitate to say “trap” because even though it was filled with westerners and had more English in the show than Japanese — we had a blast. That spectacle was the Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku, which is hard to put into words.
Basically it’s a dinner theater (although we didn’t eat), and if you picture Medieval Times but replace the cheesy nights with giant robots covered in glitter you’ll come close… kind of.
It’s hard to figure out what drug trip inspired the plots behind the Robot Restaurant’s shows, but one of them was basically like…
There once was an island full of happy people (mostly hot women in skimpy outfits), but one day EVIL ALIENS showed up. So the hot women in skimpy outfits called on their animal friends to DEFEAT THE EVIL ALIENS and somehow that involved a shark and a panda riding around on a wild boar! yay!
At least that’s what I took from the show…
At one point they handed out light sticks and asked us to wave them madly around, which I did – super happily.
These parts of Tokyo certainly did not satisfy any desires for native culture or history, but I didn’t feel like I could visit Japan without dipping my toe in a little bit of the wacky and wonderful.
9 thoughts on “Gaudy and Glittered Tokyo”
Let me get this straight. You learned from signs in a men’s bathroom that the Kawaii cafe turned into a burlesque show at night and your first thought wasn’t immediately “We must and WILL stay to experience this”?!?!?!
It is such a different aesthetic. Glad you were able to document!
I’m with you- I don’t think owls really want to be cuddled.
Wow. Thanks for giving insight into the crazy world that is Tokyo!
Im legit watching something on pbs about Japanese food as well…
And I didn’t think things could get any weirder than Vegas + West Hollywood.
What a cool ‘cafe.’ And that robot restaurant is far out. I totally want to go to an animal cafe, but I’m with you on the potential for abuse. At least all the ones I’ve seen advertised around here are cafes + adoption centers and their end goal is to get the animals adopted.
There are plenty of super weird things that may not be readily apparent to people on vacation, tbh. I’m not sure if you noticed, but later at night right after working hours, convenience stores are always lined with men reading the readily available books of porn lining the magazine shelves. Not to mention the porn available at practically any bookstore. There is the uncanny obsession with individually wrapping everything, a distinct lack of fruit and veggies on menus & for purchase in stores, the fact that eating an apple with the skin on is like sacrilege (seriously, people got upset when I did this), and the clear presence of Yakuza if you know what to look for. If you venture into Akihabara, any basement level store is going to be filled to the brim with crazy things to purchase. Roppongi is possibly the only place in Japan I ever felt uncomfortable tbh, but the night life there can get super crazy. I have a ton of stories, including one in which I was roofied at a near overdose level and spent three days recovering holed up in my dorm room, but hey – that could also happen in America 😉
Sorry for the rambling lol, but these posts are getting me excited for my return in August. But I agree with you – people hype up Japan like crazy but in reality there isn’t much there that you wouldn’t find in America unless you dig a little bit.
*Just an aside: porn in japan is censored (genitals are blurred out), so a more accurate term for the magazines and ero-centered books/manga is probably nudes instead of porn, but meh. Close enough to me. Same purpose.
Hah, I love it! Also, your white and red outfit makes you look a model — SO pretty!!