Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Robot Bar: the Pinnacle of Kitschy Acultural Chaos.. and it's awesome

I heard about Robot Bar within a month of our arrival. It seemed to be a right-of-passage for foreigners and was routinely described exclusively with the use of adjectives that have both positive and negative connotations (e.g.ridiculous, insane, etc). Based on those descriptions, I couldn't suss out whether this was a tourist trap or some quirky oddity that was uniquely Japanese and a mandatory part of my cultural education. In short, I was skeptical. Fortunately for my skeptical side, one of our earliest visitors was unapologetically enthusiastic about checking it out. What I found was 77% kitsch, 83% tourist trap, 54% quirky Japanese oddity, 4% bar, 1% cultural... and unapologetially I profess: it was worth it.

Robot Bar is a 3 (or 4?) story performance space in Shinjuku's Kabukicho neighborhood. It caters to foreigners and unabashedly intends to drown its audience sense out with its over-the-top exploitation of the stereotypes of Japan as a land of ever-present if half-conscious eroticism, as the homeland of the impossibly youthful and doll-like and as an innovator of all things high-tech. 

Practically speaking, Robot Bar offers a 2+ hour show featuring north of a dozen, highly enthusiastic and dramatically dressed (or undressed?) young women; about a half dozen robots over 10 feet tall, and a bevy of costumed hype men prancing, play-acting, parading and posturing around a central stage in a uninterrupted marathon of genre-defying entertainment and mind-altering energy. It is so insanely over-the-top (notice my totally inadvertent use of said positive/negative adjective), that anything short of the 2+ hour experience might be enough to turn anyone off. Here's how it works:

Before the show, the audience is ushered into a third floor lounge area the size of a fair-sized restaurant that is covered from floor to ceiling and wall to wall with lights, jewels, glitter, embellishment, gold plating, mirrors and velvet. In this area, the audience is treated (?) to a pre-show show. On the day we went, it featured these two bedazzled, mostly Romanesque, yet slightly burlesque, singing angel girls. 

Pre-show entertainment.

After a significant rest in the lounge, the audience is ushered into the main stage area in the basement to get the evening started in earnest. Let the show begin:

Opening montage of fierce drummer gangs.

More girls with smiles and more appropriately-choreographed dancing, fist-pumping and general enthusiasm about that which is Robot Bar

And this thing (what is this thing?!?) that I must have

And the robots

And this woman flying on a pterodactyl?


I left feeling as happy as this girl (though with considerably more clothes on).

PS If you plan to visit Robot Bar, pick up one copy of the current Metropolis magazine for each person in your party. There is an ad in every issue for a 1000 yen (~$10) discount per visitor per magazine brought to the door of the bar. (Limit one magazine per visitor)

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