3 Must See Kabukicho Attractions
By Andrew Smith on 7 Mar 2016
Kabukicho has long had a reputation among some locals as being a gritty area where only hooligans go to hang out. However, in recent years, Kabukicho has been cleaned up a bit and is becoming an even more accessible tourist hotspot offering variety of activities and an endless amount of entertainment. At first the bright, neon signs or the dozens of hosts inviting you into their bars may be overwhelming, but here’s a few spots where you’re sure to have fun.
Toho Cinemas Building
Upon arriving in Kabukicho, the first thing you are likely to notice is the giant Godzilla figure appearing to climb over the Toho Cinemas Building. Although the looming figure is impressive enough from the street as its glowing red eyes look down on Kabukicho, fans may want to get a closer look of that menacing yet lovable face from the windows of the Gracery Hotel. Special rooms in the hotel even feature Godzilla’s grizzly claws crashing through the walls. Good luck trying to sleep with that hanging over your head though.
If you are not actually staying at the hotel there is still plenty to do inside. Of course, since it is the Toho Cinemas Building there is a theater inside where you can watch the latest blockbusters. The high-quality theaters are spacious and feature comfortable chairs with armrests perfectly equipped to hold your drink, popcorn, or any other snack. In case the extra large screens aren’t big enough, IMAX is also available.
If you are still hungry despite the buckets of popcorn you ate in the theater, the building also has many nice restaurants and bars on the ground floor. Most of these restaurants serve traditional Japanese food like sushi or ramen, so you can re-immerse yourself into the culture after two and a half hours of Captain America. Although I’m not a huge fan of seafood, I tried Itamae Sushi and thought it was delicious. You can even see the chefs preparing your order right behind the counter, so you know it is being made by well-trained, authentic chefs.
Just across the street from Toho Cinemas is the Humax building, an enormous multi-purpose entertainment center in Kabukicho. Incredibly, Humax crams in such a variety of entertainment in one place. Moving between dedicated levels for arcade games, manga, bowling, darts and billiards, live events, restaurants, and a 24-hour spa, you could literally spend an entire day in just this building. After spending an absurd amount of money on unsuccessful crane game attempts, I’ve learned to avoid them altogether, no matter how adorable the prize is. There are still plenty of games to try though. If you love inventive arcade games and Japanese manga you’ll be satisfied on the first two levels alone, but there is still much more to explore.
For something a little more physically challenging, you may enjoy InSPYre on the 6th floor. In this real-life adventure attraction, you play as a spy trying to take out an evil organization working for a foreign corporation planning to infiltrate Japan. It’s compelling stuff, I know. But the real fun is trying to navigate your way through puzzles and mazes, including laser tripwires. Now I can finally say that the questionable amount of time I spend watching Entrapment is just for training. Unfortunately for Japan, I am apparently not a very good spy, but I encourage you to give it a try.
Once you’re all tired out you can go back down to the basement and use the 24 hour Spa. Although its baths are not as glamorous as others in Tokyo, after spending enough time in Kabukicho, it is probably a good idea to rinse off a bit. Joking aside the spa can be very relaxing after a long day, and the baths and saunas are actually pretty nice. For your sore muscles, one of the baths features water jets that will nearly blast the skin right off your body to get down deep and relieve stress. Just right! There are also other 24 hour services and facilities outside the baths including a restaurant and a resting area.
Robot Restaurant uses the word “robot” in its title almost as loosely as it uses the word “restaurant” (seriously, eat before you go), but even though it was different from what I expected, I was very entertained. The performers were great, the stories and characters were hilarious, and the robots were a lot of fun. It is like a Frankenstein monster sewn together out of pieces of outrageous western stereotypes of Japanese culture, but instead of running out and terrorizing the village, it puts on a campy light show.
All together, there were four acts. The first was a creative blend of traditional Japanese culture and a conceptual Neo-Tokyo. The dance choreography and taiko drums were very exciting. As someone who spends a lot of time at concerts, I appreciated the live guitar and drums throughout the event.
Everything after this strong opening act is absolutely hilarious. Robot Restaurant goes into full parody mode, and it is glorious. The following acts use stories to introduce more unique characters, robots, and settings such as the ocean floor or the jungle. Luckily all of the narration and dialogue is in English so you won’t miss any golden lines like “This forest is so peaceful. I wanna trash it!” or “You’re evil! I beat you up!”
As crazy as it was, I have to commend Robot Restaurant for really knowing its audience. The show unabashedly panders to the foreign crowd who came to have their outlandish expectations of Japanese entertainment fulfilled - for example a cute Japanese girl in a bikini riding a giant robotic snake. To further accommodate the tourists who attend the show, most of the staff speaks English, and they take everyone through the process of getting tickets step-by-step. Robot Restaurant is apparently so popular among foreigners that adjacent business have had to put up signs in English saying “Stop. This is not Robot Restaurant” to keep tourists from accidentally walking into the wrong door.
Even though I’m having a little fun writing this review, I sincerely enjoyed myself, especially after a couple of beers. It is difficult to put this experience into words. Robot Restaurant is just something you have to see to believe. Since it is so popular, I recommend reserving a ticket online before you go.
So there are a few places to visit in Kabukicho, and I didn’t even mention Karaoke! It is nearly impossible to run out of things to do in this area, and this is at least a great start. Enjoy your journey through Kabukicho, and don’t be afraid to explore a bit.
Andrew is an American writer living in Tokyo, Japan. He often finds himself wandering home from a livehouse after missing the last train. As an outdoors enthusiast, musician, traveler and editor, he stays pretty busy, but he is still always looking for new things to try. The only thing more unorganised than his schedule is his room.