No city in the world does weird better than Tokyo. So it’s saying something that the infamous Robot Restaurant – where girls in bikinis battle each other in giant animatronic monsters, while onlookers nibble at bento boxes – eclipses just about everything else in Japan’s crazy stakes.
The Shinjuku original is less a culinary destination and more an exercise in stretching the limits of absurdity. It’s a loud, bright assault on the senses and – unsurprisingly – a total hit with visitors. So Contiki made a popular decision when they announced they’d be bringing a pop-up version of the Robot Restaurant to Sydney for two nights, kicking off yesterday.
Sydney’s Robots Unrivalled adaptation, here to celebrate the launch of Contiki’s Japan Unrivalled trip, isn’t a carbon copy – the robots are actors in costumes, not actual mechanical constructions – but the essence is the same. It’s dinner and a show on steroids: you eat some Japanese finger food, then sit down to watch a string of different musical numbers and cabaret performances stitched together in rapid succession.
The Daft Punk medley, complete with Guy-Manuel and Thomas Bangalter look-alikes in sequinned jackets, gives way to a rendition of ’80s classic ‘Turning Japanese’. A guy in a chicken suit runs around while one very skilled pole dancer writhes vertically to stage left. Scantily-clad girls bang the bongos while something that looks like a giant eel is wheeled out for no discernible reason. And then there’s the woman sending sparks flying by grinding a power tool on her metal underwear.
All this – plus Kylie Minogue’s ‘Can’t Get You Out Of My Head’ belted out in Japanese and an appearance from two fighting robots, who’ll kindly pose for a selfie with you afterwards – happens in just 30 minutes. It is intense.
The only bad news? With tickets selling out almost straight away, all remaining sessions of Robots Unrivalled are completely booked out. Tokyo’s real deal, however, is open seven days.
(Images courtesy of Contiki)
Katie Cunningham is the former Features Editor at Junkee. She's currently travelling around the US and Central America.