I first heard of Robot Restaurant from the Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown episode on Tokyo. His words from that episode were “I’ve seen Jimi Hendrix, I’ve seen Janice Joplin…this was the greatest show I’ve ever seen in my life.” For this reason and my deep seated trust of television I decided to go to Robot Restaurant as well…twice.
I first attended in 2015. As any intrepid adventurer would be, I was wholly unprepared.
I could read every review, watch every video, and still enter completely innocent to the sensory orgasm that was going to occur. This was no normal show, this was a ceremonial procedure into the depths of the human mind, I knew I would leave this experience a changed man.
At the time all I can be grateful for is that I’m so happy there was also booze. A fully sober human is incapable of understanding the dimension they are viewing, much like a Lovecraft horror novel. You will go insane, it’s just how much you welcome it along the way.
My second time I was more prepared for this experience. I had consulted a priest and attended confession for the first time in decades, just in case. But why even go you ask? Wasn’t once enough? You escaped with your life, what do you have to prove? I can’t explain the seed that was planted in me the first time but some unexplained force had drawn me back. A tiny voice in my head summoned me home.
This time I had also brought more friends, because I feel insanity is more fun as a group. The first part of the Robot Restaurant Ritual was to enter the threshold.
We sat upon the welcome altar and prepared. The sign said Free Picture, but nothing is ever truly free here. We entered the waiting area.
The waiting room was the same, everyone was clearly very nervous and frightened. However they did have an expanded drink menu and Ninja Beer, which I was definitely all for. If I must stare into oblivion, I’ll need some beers. They had a simple, presumably brainwashed band there to attempt to ease our spirits.
As the hour wore on people relaxed. Even I was feeling better (3 sakes and 2 beers deep) and I was starting to feel maybe I will get out of this with my mind intact. Then suddenly, some kabuki like ritual priests(I am assuming their roles) burst in and began a drum beat.
The ritual was beginning. We all ran from the room terrified but the only way was into the arena.
We were corralled and seated and allowed a last drink (or 3) before it began.
The drums began again and the priests and priestesses rode out on giant demon monsters. One after another, each staying perfectly in sync in their macabre dance.
This part was clearly to get us antsy in the pantsy for the main show. At this point one has no choice but to embrace the madness…after a 15 minute intermission because papa needs another drink and to see these gold plated bathrooms. When they started again, there was a panda riding a pig.
It was telling us an allegorical story of nature vs. machines. It was a beautiful tale of overcoming odds and what beli…HOLY CRAP IT’S A GIANT SNAKE!
GET THE GIANT MACHINE GUN AND KILL IT! KILLLLL IIIITTTTTT!!!!
Later in the ritual a man was eaten alive by a shark.
And through some form of what I can assume was monstrous genetic experiments they brought out a giant spider to make sure anyone with arachnophobia would have a heart attack before they went insane.
Once the elaborate plot based portion of the ritual was complete a portal was opened to another dimension and all sorts of cosmic nightmares poured out. The Abyss was staring back at me…
The harbinger had arrived, and we were all ready to welcome him.
At this point I blacked out, welcoming the void around me. When I was awoken I was outside with everyone else on the streets of Tokyo. We were all equally confused and dizzy (also I was drunk) but there was no way to explain what had happened to us in there. We could only wonder what would come next, would we be called back. Maybe we were in the darkness now, what was even real anymore? Is conveyor belt sushi open this late? I know something came with me out of Robot Restaurant, and its purpose is not yet clear.