Tokyo Entertainment Restaurants
Diane M. Sattler, Ph.D.
28 Aug 2015
While you're in Tokyo taking in DisneySea and Disneyland, you'll have a perfect opportunity to check out one of the city's many very unusual restaurants, some bordering on the bizarre, called entertainment restaurants. They come in all flavors, catering to nearly all tastes while appealing to the curious. Speaking of curious, you've heard the expression, "as curious as a cat?" Well, cats take the high position in this category, literally and figuratively, as there are more than 50 cat cafes just in Tokyo. Why are they so popular? Tokyo is a very crowded and expensive place to live where apartments are very small and pet-free. So, pet lovers frequent cat cafes where coffee is served with cat companions to fulfill their feline fetishes. Let's virtually visit one.
As you walk in, you'll notice cats of all stripes and ages lounging about in their beds, napping, resting on top of tables, looking down from their haughty perches atop drink machines. One lucky customer is enjoying a purrfectly calm lap cat that deigns to be petted. Customers are sipping coffee or sodas; there may even be snacks available, or it could be the rare cafe' that serves hot meals. Drinks and snacks usually are included, as customers pay for the time spent in the cafe' while they surf the web or read as cats generally ignore them. If this is a weekend, you'll be in the midst of couples enjoying the cats and each other in the markedly cozy environment. At other times during the week, singles predominate in the cat-themed cafes, sipping cups and glasses decorated with cats, of course. Some typical spots are: Nekorobi (neko is Japanese for cat); Calico Cat Cafe, featuring only that type of cats; Curl Up Cafe, where people wear slippers and cats naturally come with foot pads; and Hapi Cat. Then there's my favorite concept for cat cafes, the Cat Cafe Felis that gives the profits to support the lives of cats through fostering programs. Buyers beware: cat cafes don't cover medical expenses when the cats hurt you, and you'll be liable if you fight back.
Photo credit [Ari Helminen](https://www.flickr.com/photos/picsoflife/6313408271/)
Those who prefer other pets can visit Rabbit Books and pay to pet staff bunnies or a dog cafe' (just make sure the dogs are for petting rather than serving, ewww).
Special Ingredient Restaurants
Those of you who enjoy spices or a certain ingredient just might find your favorite one in a Tokyo restaurant. Following are a few examples:
Ninniku-ya (with a branch in Newport, CA called Garlic Jo's) and Arin Krin — Follow your nose to these garlic restaurants, where every food choice contains garlic. Sometimes, even the dessert has garlic! The restaurant is closed on Mondays (possibly for fumigation?)
Paxi — The motto of this restaurant is: No Paxi, no Life. Ok, so what's paxi? It's coriander, a Mediterranean plant related to parsley that's reputed to protect against salmonella bacteria and nausea, remove heavy metals from the body and lower blood sugar. Paxi prepares dishes with the leaves or seeds.
Some restaurants feature dishes with "not your ordinary" main ingredients. The names of some of the ingredients follow. You can always tell or show the taxi driver the type of ingredient that you're looking for and probably go directly to a restaurant.
Oddities from under the sea and on the land
Fugu — is the famous toxic blowfish, which necessitates painstaking preparation by special sushi chefs to avoid poisoning patrons. It's very expensive for a tiny piece of sushi, which, disappointingly, has little taste other than the sauce that can be added to it. The good news is that I lived through the experience to submit my food review article for the Japanese English newspaper that I was a stringer for.
Photo credit [Kojach](https://www.flickr.com/photos/kojach/4042432975/)
Whale meat — Kujira-ya is a Tokyo restaurant that serves whale meat only. Founded in a post-WWII Japan when food was scarce and whales were a reliable food staple, this restaurant with a whale's tail logo depends on the continuation of Japan's commercial whale hunting permits to exist. Although I didn't eat whale meat in Tokyo, I did have some in Misawa, where we were the only foreigners (gaijin) at the restaurant and our plates came with a large order of Western guilt. What did the forbidden whale meat look and taste like? Shiny, black, raw strips of sushi that tasted like beef to me.
Ikizukuri — is another dish that comes with angst, as the creature is still alive when served. Often you can choose your octopus, fish or shrimp from tanks and have it served ikizukuri style, still quite lively, even when filleted. Personally, I love fresh seafood, but the ikizukuri shrimp was a little too fresh for me. I waited for a bit to eat it, and after that, have opted to choose only lobster from tanks when I am positive that it will arrive at the table thoroughly cooked.
Irabu — is the poisonous sea snake that frightened me to see when diving. Harvesters find it easiest to catch when the females come on land to lay their eggs. Then they're smoked with eggs and venom still intact! It's often served in udon soup in a chunk with its skin on. Those brave enough to try this food say they experienced an increased heart rate and a warm, flushed feeling, along with improved health, whether imagined or real.
Tuna parts — Like the pig, every part of the tuna is used in food, including raw, steamed or fried tuna eyes and whole roasted tuna heads.
Sakuraniku, (literally "cherry blossom meat") is pink, raw horse meat often served as basashi sushi. Raw chicken also can be served as sushi if someone dares.
Unusual Serving Staff Restaurants/Cosplay
This type of restaurant often features cosplay (kosupure), which is costume play where performers portray a specific character or an idea from manga, anime, TV or movies. In restaurants, wait staff portray themselves as anime characters and others wear ears of various animals. Tokyo's Harajuku district is popular for cosplay, even in the streets. Here are some examples:
Maid cafés — young lady servers dressed as French maids and often cosplay by acting as though they're serving you in your own mansion.
Capcom — If you love video games, the iconic Japanese game maker, Capcom, serves up dishes based on its well-known games: Resident Evil, Ace Attorney and Monster Hunter. Monitors and screen shots of their games line every inch of the walls.
Kamen Rider The Diner — Based on a manga/TV series hero, this décor is like a hideaway for the Shocker terrorist group. Aside: This may be the only modern fiction with minor planets named after an actor (the hero) and the series.
Kigurumi Café Aokazetei — houses staff that are in anime costumes with an added twist; they have giant heads.
Thunderbird's Café — that is based on a 60s British TV series, features show memorabilia, episodes that play in continuous loops and costumed wait staff.
Luida's Bar — Dragon Quest gave rise to the featured character at this bar, Patty (Luida).
Table 4 — is a new type of restaurant that has what appears to be waitresses, but they actually are waiters in drag. Drag shows are available, also.
The Lockup — The iron door screeches and clanks shut behind you, and you may find a handcuff being slapped on your wrist in this unusual restaurant setting. The setting must attract customers, because the grotesque food is not why people would want to go. I'd skip this one, as four and a half years in the big house was enough for me, but let me explain that even though I was a member of the program staff, we were locked in much as the prisoners were. Our advantages were that we got paid a whole lot more plus we got to go home at night.
Alcatraz E.R. — is designed as a prison hospital (go figure) and features back-lit "doctored" x-rays and a demented doctor character.
Photo credit [Morten Skogly](https://www.flickr.com/photos/mskogly/2405956736/)
Vampire Cafe — If being locked up isn't edgy enough, try this promotion of Castlevania games where you can summon wait staff with a coffin bell and enjoy coffin cake amid the blood-red décor.
Zano — You're seated on a fake boat and can fish to catch your dinner from the tank below. They serve ikizukuri.
Luxis — has an aquatic setting featuring a huge tank where you may see sharks and sea turtles.
Fusion Restaurant — in a rich section of Tokyo, Roppongi, that is a city within the city of Tokyo, you can find this sanctuary and watch mermaids swim. The many restaurants in this area are symbols of the IT industry.
Little TGV — is an eatery and bar for train aficionados who sit in carriage seats and dine amid railroad memorabilia and watch the miniature train rumble past them. Food arrives on an engine-shaped dish.
Planetarium Bar — The name is a spoiler for this cozy, romantic cabaret with ceiling displays of the night sky.
Hammock Cafe — Hang around on your hammock here and get served in this relaxing environment after tromping around Tokyo.
While you're enjoying some of these restaurants, I'll start my next blog. See you soon! BTW, I'm saving my report to you about a robot restaurant until Adam, our webmaster and sensei, reports on his upcoming onsite visit. [hint, hint!]
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