A while back, Hashi wrote a post about Japan’s Weird, Themed Cafes. While Japan’s cafes are admittedly pretty weird, I think that Japan’s themed restaurants really take the cake as far as being weird goes. Japan has many themed restaurants, most of which are totally unexpected but must make for a pretty unforgettable dining experience, I’m sure.
Alcatraz is arguably the most famous themed Japanese restaurant and it started the whole wacky themed restaurant trend about a decade or so ago. The setting is a medical prison and the patrons are the patients. The waitresses are dressed like nurses and upon entry they handcuff you, (pretend to) inject a giant needle into your butt, and lock you into your dining cell. Five star dining right here, folks.
While imprisoned, you can order dishes like the Dead Chicken (two chicken feet clasped together), Penis Sausage (sausage that looks like a most appetizing severed penis) and Intestine (sausage again, but I don’t know why they don’t just use real intestine from an animal). To get the attention of your waiter you have to bang on the cell bars just like in a real prison.
Most of the drinks are served in test tubes and beakers and there are plenty of actors wandering around the place pretending to be escaped patients and spooking you at every given opportunity. The nurses are also pretty scantily dressed, so there’s much eye candy here for the fellas.
This restaurant takes the tradition of eating sushi off a female body (nyotaimori) to a whole new level. This time you’re actually eating what’s inside the female’s body. Of course the body is fake, and made entirely of edibles, but still, this is kinda weird and creepy.
Dressed as a nurse (of course), the waitress wheels the body in on a gurney. She then uses a scalpel to cut a section of flesh out of the woman’s abdomen to expose her crimson innards, blood running everywhere. Her guts, of course, are the sushi. Patrons then go on to chop up the body themselves, searching for their favorite sushi pieces. It’s fun for the whole family.
You can chop it up however you want and eat what you find inside. The dough body will actually bleed sauce as you cut it open and all the intestines and organs inside seem to be completely editable. Yum yum.
This restaurant is all about ninjas and is located in Tokyo’s Akasake-Mitsuke business district. The entrance leads to a maze of cave-like corridors where staff escort you through a labyrinth of trap doors and trick drawbridges before seating you at your private table. Ninja magicians come to perform their ninja magic while you dine. Others sneak up with menus and food, and there’s plenty of neat things to look at while dining.
The maze-like interior is meant to make the place seem like an old Japanese castle and all of the meals are themed after ninjas and feudal age Japan. This, along with Alcatraz, is another one of the most popular and well known themed restaurants in Japan.
Alice of Magic World
If you didn’t already guess from the name, Alice of Magic World is an Alice in Wonderland themed restaurant located in Tokyo, Japan. Besides having a really awkward name, the restaurant boasts tons of neat things modeled after both the original novel and the Disney animated take on Alice. The restaurant is designed to evoke a wonderful feeling of fantasy and surrealism while dining.
The restaurant includes playing card dining tables, giant tea cup booths, a magic forest, and heart-shaped chandeliers. One of the creators of the restaurant said that they “wanted to give guests excitement and surprise, like an unreal world with various wonderlands. But we didn’t want it to be gimmicky.” Well gimmicky or not, the place does look pretty impressive. Alice in Wonderland fans surely won’t be disappointed.
The restaurant offers a wide variety of meals including Cheshire Cat Tail Pizza and Burgundy-style Braised Beef Cheek in Queen of Hearts Red Wine Sauce. Mmm, beef cheek. I’ve never really been into Alice stuff, but the inside of this restaurant looks really cool.
Biohazard Cafe and Grill
Video game publisher Capcom installed this limited time only Resident Evil restaurant in Shibuya, Tokyo last July. The eatery is known as Biohazard Cafe and Grill and features Resident Evil-themed food, props, and an unlimited supply of dancing girls in booty shorts.
The centerpiece of the Biohazard Cafe and Grill is definitely the life-size Tyrant statue pictured above. Using 3D projection mapping technology, the Tyrant statue comes to life and the scantily clad staff then shoots Tyrant down to simulate a real life Resident Evil experience. And since this restaurant is limited time only, it should be closing its doors come July 2013. So if you’re hoping to experience this one, you’d better make it sooner rather than later.
So What’s the Appeal?
Some of these restaurants may seem pretty gimmicky, but they consistently do very well. Most of the theme restaurants I’m used to seeing in America are like, attached to an amusement park or theme park, or attached to something else in some way. Many of these theme restaurants in Japan are just standing on their own and are doing just fine, consistently drawing large crowds.
I imagine the main draw of these places is just what you’d expect – an escape from the humdrum reality of everyday life. Sure, if you’re a tourist, these are great places to visit, but tourists aren’t the only people coming to these places. I’m sure Japanese people like to mix it up every once in a while and dine at one of these wacky locations. I know I would.