Step outside your comfort zone at 10 unbelievable food destinations that could only exist in Tokyo.
Tokyo is home to some of the greatest edible adventures on earth. In this city, technology, tradition, and visual stimulation all inform the vibrant and exhilarating food scene. Here are 10 of the wildest and most outlandish dining experiences in the city of the future.
Kawaii Monster Cafe
Step into the candy-colored kaleidoscopic world of the Kawaii Monster Cafe, a cafe themed as the inside of a monster’s stomach, featuring rainbow pasta, monster burgers, and even a live show on a monster-themed carousel every hour. A total mind-melting display, the cafe was created and designed by acclaimed art designer Sebastian Masuda and is something that must be seen to be believed. Be aware, each person must order one entree and one beverage—however, you aren’t here for the food, you’re here for the ambiance, so temper your culinary expectations and enjoy the ride!
What if those Medieval Times dinner shows were a wild robot frenzy instead of a jousting competition with knights and horses? Welcome to the Robot Restaurant! Your journey begins in a pre-show lounge that resembles Liberace’s living room featuring a band costumed as robots. After a cocktail, follow the hosts down several flights of stairs into the main stage, where you are seated in front of a small counter facing the center of the room and are served bento boxes. Sit back, relax, and let the pulsing, glowing neon and wall of sound wash over you as dancers, drummers, and a menagerie of robots dance and fight and dance-fight for your delight. While this may indeed be a bit of a tourist trap (you won’t find any locals here), it is the world’s greatest tourist trap and worth every slightly overpriced penny.
Omakase Sushi Service
Tokyo is a culinary wonderland with the highest concentration of Michelin-rated restaurants in the world. One style of sushi you must try while in town is Omakase-style service. “Omakase” is a meal consisting of dishes thoughtfully chosen by the chef, and many of these meals take place in tiny restaurants with as few as six seats at a sushi bar. Think of it more like theater for your tastebuds, or a highly curated meal where each piece of sushi is prepared with the utmost care.
You may be familiar with this style of service from the film Jiro Dreams of Sushi about the chef at Sukiyabashi Jiro. While reservations at Sukiyabashi Jiro are difficult (practically impossible) to book, there are a number of equally exciting and less hyped options available. Sushi Saito and Masuda are both excellent options and are a bit easier to reserve. Unlike the rest of this list, Omakase sushi service is some of the best food you will consume in your lifetime, so come hungry.
INSIDER TIPHave your hotel make the call to make a reservation for you, as many Omakase style eateries avoid allowing tourists to reserve as they have a habit of not showing up. Be prepared, you may have to put a deposit down to hold your reservation and the price tag on this style of meal is not for the faint of heart, with most options costing around $250-$500 USD per person.
Sip your coffee and munch a croissant while enjoying the company of cuddly cats! These cafes are popular in Tokyo due to the fact that most apartments in Japan do not allow pets, and many others are simply too cozy to accommodate a furry friend. Often charged in 10-minute increments, you are free to pet, play, and befriend as many kitties as you’d like. You can even purchase special snacks to feed your new kitty friends, which is the best way to guarantee snuggles. There is definitely a range of quality when it comes to cat cafes, but Cat Cafe MoCha is comfortable, kind, and had lovely cats who seem really happy and well taken care of. Be aware that many cat cafes do not allow children, so check before you go with kids.
If you are looking for something a little darker, then wing your way over the Vampire Cafe. Full of gothic romantic touches, candles, and red velvet, this place is pure Interview With a Vampire atmosphere. The staff is fully committed to character and provide an immersive experience as they serve you spooky themed snacks and beverages. It’s recommended that you make a reservation. The quality of your visit can also be boosted by going before or after peak hours, so the spooky vibe isn’t ruined by a crowd.
INSIDER TIPFor the best experience, request to be in the room with the coffin, as it has the best vibe and decor.
A maid cafe is something that truly has no Western counterpart. Customers can drop into a maid cafe and enter a fantasy world where a bubbly maid will cater to your (most) every whim. Heavily clustered in the Akihabara District (known as an anime and gaming culture hotspot), maid cafes are wildly popular amongst both tourists and locals. Your maid will sing songs, giggle, play games, put a love spell on your coffee, and take a photo with you. There are a few counterpart butler cafes, but maid cafes remain the dominant destination for performative servitude. Check out At Home while in Akihabara; their menu is in English and they are very tourist friendly.
Izakaya Yurie (Ghost Bar) is located a train ride outside of Tokyo off of the Chuo line, a few stops from the Ghibli Museum (which makes it a great way to end your day there). Although it’s a bit far and tricky to find, this bar is worth the journey if ghosts are your bread and butter. Customers enter down a staircase of terror (watch out, it’s actually light-heartedly booby trapped) into a dark bar full of Halloween-style decor, black light, and spooky sounds. Your server will be a poltergeist in the style of Japanese horror cinema ghosts (white clothing, white triangle on their forehead) and will bring you food that looks like eyeballs, voodoo dolls, and tombstones. Of the many theme restaurants in Tokyo, this one benefits from being a bit off the beaten path and has a cozier vibe.
A far reach from the occasionally garish nature of the Tokyo theme café, the Peanuts Cafe is all clean lines, style, and class. Don’t let its sleek modern interior throw you off; it is full of lovely little Charles Schultz-y touches and treats fit for the pup himself, Snoopy. It’s a pleasantly calm and mellow experience that also allows you a moment’s break from the overstimulating nature of Tokyo. Don’t miss their exclusive merch, including stunning stoneware featuring Snoopy and well-designed shirts, a lovely departure from the generally cheap souvenirs found at other theme cafes.
INSIDER TIPTake a detour over to the Snoopy Museum, an equally classy museum dedicated to Snoopy, his evolution, and all his pals. If you’re still peckish, you can grab a bite at Cafe Blanket on-site.
Conveyor Belt Sushi
At a typical conveyor belt sushi restaurant, you sit down in front of an ever-rotating line of small plates and watch the same tuna roll slowly turn grey. Behold! Tokyo has been struck with major innovation in sushi conveyor belt technology. Step into a vision of the future, where you can order your food on an iPad and have it jetted out directly to you on a little conveyor belt train. Instead of waiting for your favorite dish to make the rounds, you’re able to order exactly what you want and receive it fresh. Some places even have a slot where you can deposit your spent plates–after 5 dishes or so, you are able to play a minigame on your menu iPad and even win capsule prizes. As if you needed more encouragement to down plate after plate of fresh sushi. Try Uobei in Shinjuku, however, we wouldn’t recommend the “CheeseBurger” sushi.
If you are fortunate enough to be flying in or out of Haneda Airport, there is a special treat in store for you. Before you pass through security at Haneda, there are a number of exceptional shops and restaurants, and on the fifth floor between Edo Hall and the Moon Viewing Patio, you will find the Planetarium Starry Cafe. Perfect for relaxing before a flight, you can enjoy several different animation “shows” between the standard star projections over a plate of pasta, some gyoza, or the highly popular green veggie drink.