Best Themed Restaurants in Tokyo
By Taryn Siegel on 13 Mar 2017
Tokyo loves to mix a lot of quirkiness with its tourism. It doesn’t have the temples of Kyoto, the beaches of Okinawa, or the mountains of Nagano, and yet it has more experiences to offer than all of these beautiful places combined. As a major metropolis it has every variety of food you could ask for (although with a bit of a Japanese spin on all of it). But believing that sheer selection and quality isn’t interesting enough, Tokyo also offers countless “themed” restaurants for truly unique dining experiences. Some of these places sound a bit tacky at first, but actually the Japanese reverence for presentation and detail make most of these exceptionally well done.
- Vampire Café (website in Japanese; reservations recommended but not required)
In the middle of the glitzy Ginza neighborhood is Tokyo’s Vampire Café. Red velvet curtains hang in great folds around the entrance, walls, and tables. As you walk into the dining area from the entry hallway, you’re immediately greeted on your right with a coffin filled with little skulls, roses, and a candelabra dripping red wax. The servers are all dressed in cloaks and fangs, speak in a “vampiric” accent, and enjoy ripping back the curtain of your table when summoned so abruptly that it seems as though they were hiding behind there the whole time. The drink menu is in the shape of a coffin and includes a bunch of (expensive) themed drinks. They also have cheaper drinks that they’ve just given a quirky name to (“blood of the sacrifice” for red wine; “tears of the sacrifice” for white wine). The food menu comes in what looks like a withered tomb with a great gold cross on the front. They have a fair amount of themed foods, though mostly just food in the shape of vampiric symbols (spring rolls in the shape of a cross, a caprese salad in the shape of a rose, etc.). But the atmosphere is legitimately haunting and cool and the food and drink surprisingly good.
- Robot Restaurant (website in English; reserve a few days in advance)
The Robot Restaurant is easily the most famous themed restaurant in Tokyo—so much so that you might be lucky enough to spot a visiting celebrity in the audience. Entry is a bit steep at about ¥7000 (though you can find some cheaper deals online), which includes one drink. You also have the option to add a “bento box” but that’s an extra ¥1000 or so and definitely not worth it. You’ll have to reserve online in advance, choosing between 3 different “cabaret show times.” It definitely is a spectacle. Bikini-clad girls dance around on floating taiko drums, robots march down a runway and battle giant pandas, and at some point a giant spider rides in on a Star Wars-esque monster. All the while techno music blares and seizure-inducing neon lights flash all around you. It’s definitely a bit campy and incredibly weird, but also a very Tokyo-exclusive experience.
- Christon Café (map directions; reservations not required)
When I first heard of the “cathedral café” I expected a pretty ordinary café but interestingly situated inside a massive cathedral. Of course, there are no cathedrals in Tokyo, as far as I know, and certainly not in the middle of Shinjuku. Christon Café is inside of a normal multi-story building, occupying 2 floors to make it appropriately high ceilinged. Since it’s not inside an actual cathedral, they put their full effort into the décor, which is quite beautiful. The massive dining area is dripping with crosses and huge chandeliers. Around the wings of the main room are red plush and white leather couches, with large Renaissance-style paintings hanging on the walls behind. They even attempted to treat their boring industrial windows with some kind of green plating to make them appear like stained glass.
- Snake Café (website in English and Japanese; reservations not required)
There are so many weird pet cafes in Tokyo that it’s hard to choose just one to include here. But by far the strangest pet café is the Snake Café in Harajuku. Just opened in 2016, the Snake Café is home to over 25 different species of snake, lining the walls in differently sized cages. Entry is ¥1000 (including 1 drink) and for an extra ¥540 you can pet the snakes, which means sitting in front of the biggest cages while the owner places an older, larger snake in your lap or draped around your neck. I highly recommend doing this for the full experience. You can read more about the snake café experience here.
- Alice in Wonderland Café (restaurant details; reservations not required)
Alice in Wonderland is awfully popular in Japan. This is probably because it combines cuteness and absurdism in a way that really fits in here. As a result, there’s actually several Alice in Wonderland themed cafes in Tokyo. One of the best is Alice in Magical Land in Shinjuku. When you enter, all of the tables are shielded from view behind rows and rows of thick hedges (the croquet scene from the movie). The waitresses are of course all dressed in Alice costumes and can’t seem to believe their luck that they found a job where they get to dress like that. They have a “café menu” and a “lunch menu” depending on the time of day when you visit, as well as a drink menu that includes a bunch of cute non-alcoholic cocktails named things like “Pursue the White Rabbit” and “Happy Commonplace Day” (by which I think they mean “Happy UnBirthday”).
- Ghost Izakaya (reservations not required)
If you’re walking towards Inokashira Park in Kichijoji at night, you might notice a weird high-pitched whistling as you’re strolling down the promenade of shops that lead up to the park entrance. Turning right off of the shop road, the whistling gets louder and louder until you’re facing a white-sheet ghost with long black hair nailed to bamboo, marking the entrance to the basement Ghost Izakaya (Yurei Izakaya in Japanese). After making it down the pitch-black staircase lined with booby traps, you’ll be greeted by a ghost server who escorts you into the “land of the dead.” Like most of the themed restaurants in Tokyo, the staff is very committed to the theme. After you’re seated, your ghost server will tell you a bit about how she died while handing you the menus. To get the server’s attention to order, you have to hit a “prayer bowl” at the center of your table, and when your server comes over she will clap her hands, signaling large fake spiders to drop from the ceiling. All of their food and drink is “death” themed (Death rice cake, bloody fries, etc.) but the best dish is definitely the “ghost-fire flaming spareribs” which erupt in a giant burst of flames at your table.
- Gonpachi: the Kill Bill Restaurant (website in English; call for reservations—can be done in English)
This one doesn’t technically fit into the same category as these other themed restaurants in Tokyo, since the restaurant was the inspiration behind a movie fight scene, rather than the other way around. Quentin Tarantino was so impressed by the décor of Gonpachi that he used it to stage the fight scene in Kill Bill Vol. 1 where Uma Thurman and Lucy Liu face off in the middle of a two-story Japanese restaurant. The décor really is awesome, with a wooden balcony that wraps around the whole room, where you can just imagine Lucy Liu leaning over the edge lazily as she watches Uma Thurman slay her minions. On the upper level there are a series of private rooms and big booth tables, and on the ground floor a long line of counter seating in teppanyaki style, where you can watch the chefs grilling up yakitori (chicken skewers) right in front of you. The restaurant pays homage back to the film that made it a tourist stop with a tasteful display case at the entrance with pictures of the movie and a signed photo of Tarantino. But there’s nothing kitschy or tacky about this place. The food is also quite good (typical izakaya fare) and not expensive.
- Alcatraz ER (website in English and Japanese; reserve a few days in advance)
This has to be the weirdest themed restaurant in Tokyo without competition. Alcatraz ER is a “mental hospital prison” themed restaurant paying homage to the federal US prison that housed only the very worst offenders. The entrance is a bit disorienting, with Maroon 5 blasting over the sound system and the smell of French fries thick in the air. But after entering, you’re quickly led down a narrow hallway to the “prison cells” at the back. If you’ve ever been to a hostel with dormitory bunk beds, the layout is similar to that, with an upper and lower row, except instead of curtained-off beds there are iron bars encasing a low-ceilinged cell with a little table inside. All of the walls are rusty or burnt-looking, and the servers are all dressed in hospital scrubs or nurses uniforms. They have a massive list of specialty drinks, all in theme, like “Beaker Red Bull” (Red Bull with a beaker tray of additives, like vodka, cassius, etc.) and beer served in a urinalysis cup. At some point, though, the theme seems to diverge from “prison” or “mental hospital” and is just sex-themed or gross out themed. Some of the dishes were so gross I couldn’t even look at its image in the menu, let alone order them, and I definitely can’t describe them here. If you want to see what I’m talking about I recommend heading over there and checking it out yourself.
Whether it’s ghosts, vampires, robots, or Disney that you’re after, there’s a themed restaurant in Tokyo to suit every taste. Kill Bill is probably the nicest, Robot Restaurant the most ridiculous, Alcatraz ER the weirdest, and Vampire Café the scariest (unless you have a fear of snakes). But follow your own taste to the theme restaurant of your choice. I don’t think a trip to Tokyo would be complete without hitting at least one.
Hi there! I'm a freelance writer, part-time Physics tutor, and amateur musician living in Tokyo, Japan. I'm originally from New York, but have also lived in Massachusetts, Wisconsin, and Scotland. My interests are nearly equal parts reading, writing, travel, guitar, coffee, and Physics. When I'm not trekking around glorious Japan, I'm likely biking around Tokyo, reading in cafes, or at a live show of one of my greatly more musically talented friends.