Hey foodies, planning a trip to Japan any time soon? Well, even if you’re not, one look at the country’s strangest theme restaurants will make you wish you were. In a country known for its unique, intriguing and sometimes truly bizarre customs and trends, the recent rise in theme restaurants will come as no surprise to many. Taking an intensely creative approach to dining out, these restaurants are big on setting and atmosphere, transporting customers on mystical culinary adventures populated by monsters, robots or even, erm, a lot of cats.
We can only hope that the UK soon adopts this popular approach to restaurant dining – Pizza Express doesn’t quite compare, somehow.
Cannibal Sushi Restaurants
While you may have heard of the nyotaimori ( ‘female body plate’) trend that’s popular in Japan – where customers are invited to eat pieces of sushi off naked women – chances are that the concept of cannibal cuisine will be new to you. Chefs prepare food in the shape of a human ‘body’, which is placed on a table reminiscent of a hospital operating table, with diners then ‘operating’ on the body by cutting it open to eat the delicious fake vital organs concealed within. The body even bleeds when you cut it! A culinary treat for any would-be cannibals.
Here’s one for all you kawaii fanatics/Mummy’s boys. Tokyo’s @home café plays host to a flock of uber-cute maids to pamper you from the minute you walk through the door – they’ll even call you ‘go-shujinsama’ (master). Slightly creepy undertones aside, the café is all about having good, clean, U-rated fun – you can play rock, paper, scissors and have photo stickers taken with the waitresses, and even get customised ketchup designs made on your omelette.
Advertised as a ‘Medical Prison’, Alcatraz E.R. was one of Japan’s first ever theme restaurants. The customer takes on the role of patient, and the waiting staff are doctors and nurses; and they take their job seriously – expect to be handcuffed, locked in a cell and maybe even given a giant injection in the rear. Cocktails are served in everything from test tubes to mannequin heads, and there are enough scares and screaming to ensure that everyone has at least one mild heart attack before dessert.
Cat cafés have exploded in popularity in recent years (there are over 50 in Tokyo alone), not least because many buildings in Japan prohibit residents owning pets (and, you know, because cats are great). Customers are asked to pay a cover fee and wash, before then being led to play with a wide variety of cats to their hearts content. Katy Perry is even a fan.
Resident Evil Restaurant
As you might guess from the name, Tokyo’s recently opened Biohazard Café & Grill S.T.A.R.S. is inspired by Capcom’s grisly Resident Evil video game series. Visitors can expect to see Resident Evil-inspired food, props from the games (including a terrifying statue of Tyrant that uses 3D-mapping technology to come to life) and dance routines by Dance Team S.T.A.R.S. Angelique.
Perhaps our favourite theme restaurant is Shinjuku's new Electric Cabaret Café, which comes complete with an army of 12 of gargantuan ladybots, a cabaret featuring live women driving tanks (yes, tanks) and allegedly close to 10 billion yen’s worth of epilepsy-inducing LED light features. We’ve got no idea what kind of food is served – but really, does it matter?