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Japan 2016: Day 9

This article is a post I originally made on Facebook about our ninth day in Japan which took place on April 11, 2016. On the 1 year anniversary of our trip to Japan I decided to repost it here on my blog. The original post has been edited/cleaned up a bit but its spirit remains.

On our first full day in Tokyo we had only one scheduled activity, reservations for the Robot Restaurant at 9:45pm in Shinjuku. We knew we would be out late tonight but the rest of our day was completely wide open. We decided that we would start out the day doing something we had not done much of on our trip so far, shopping!

First stop, the Kit Kat Chocolatory in Ikebukuro. Japan is super weird when it comes to Kit Kats. They are so popular that they have their own high-end retail stores where they sell all sorts of gourmet Kit Kat flavours and products. We saw ornate boxes of Kit Kats that costed over $100. We decided to try and find the most unique and/or strangest flavours possible. My personal favourite was spicy chili and passion fruit which mixed surprisingly well together.

Next we visited the Pokémon Center in Ikebukuro which was apparently the biggest one in all of Japan. Of the three Pokémon Centers we had visited so far it was definitely the best and had a flabbergasting amount of merchandise available. After Elsie finished purchasing a whole basket of merch (I dare you to ask her how much she spent) it was slightly past noon and we decided that it was time to grab some sushi.

The Pokémon Center was located in a building that was connected to the Sunshine 60 skyscraper, one of the tallest buildings in all of Tokyo. Sunshine 60 also happened to have a sushi bar on the very top floor (the 60th) so we knew exactly where we were headed for lunch. While we ate, we had one of the best views in all of Tokyo as well as some of the best sushi. I am not exaggerating when I say that I have eaten the greatest tuna nigiri in my entire life on this trip. It will never be the same again outside of Japan.

After we finished lunch we started on our way back to the train station so we could head to our next shopping destination, Nakano Broadway. Along the way we got distracted by a three story arcade (one of apparently hundreds here in Tokyo) that was filled with mostly claw machines. One of those claw machines caught Elsie's eye because it had a huge Neko Atsume plushie as the prize. ¥1100 later Elsie was the proud owner of said plushie with some of the best claw tactics I had ever seen.

Massive plushie in hand, as well as an inordinate amount of other things we had purchased, we finally made it to Nakano Broadway. The best way to describe this place would be Pacific Mall on steroids. It is a massive shopping center full of tons of random independent shops carrying all sorts of anime, video games, figurines, really anything you could imagine. There was also one chain, called Mandarake, which had twelve different stores each carrying a specific type of merchandise. One of their stores was full of only Godzilla memorabilia for fucks sake! One had VHS of anime from the 70s! It was an absolutely mind blowing experience. After losing ourselves in Nakano for two hours it was 4pm and we decided to head back to our Airbnb and rest before it was time to head out for our night of debauchery.

I had heard of an amazing wagyu beef restaurant in Shinjuku called Yakiniku Blackhole. It was one of the very few things on my list that was a must try. Since we were in Shinjuku for Robot Restaurant we decided to give Yakiniku Blackhole a shot. While it was absolutely delicious wagyu beef it paled in comparison to what we had in Kobe. I thought coming to Japan would ruin beef for me in North America forever but, ironically enough, one city in Japan has ruined beef for me worldwide.

With our bellies full and about an hour to kill before the start of the show so we headed over to Golden Gai for a drink. Golden Gai is a collection of six small alleys packed with hundreds of tiny shanty-style bars, clubs and eateries. We wandered down one of the alleys looking for a place to drink (and got told that we would not get served at one bar because we were foreign) until we found the perfect bar for us. A little hole in the wall with just enough seats for our group and an awesome bartender named Yasu who actually spoke great English. After three whiskies we were all sufficiently inebriated and the time for Robot Restaurant had arrived.

It is really hard to describe the Robot Restaurant. From the outside it looked like the seediest Vegas show you could imagine. Tons of flashing neon lights. Helpers dressed in skimpy/gaudy clothing. Some of them looking like 1920s gangsters. It was all so surreal and that was just the entrance. Once you get your ticket and get past the bouncer you are brought up in an elevator to the third floor of the building. Here you are ushered into a waiting room that looks like something Cher threw up all over. I had never seen so many sequins in my life. Not a single inch of the room was spared from the sequins wrath. It was not clear what was real and what was not because everything was reflective. After about five minutes of waiting we were lead down a staircase to the basement where we could find our seats. Why we had to go to the third floor was never really clear but whatever it was time for the show to begin!

Picture a dark basement about 15 feet high, 80 feet long and 40 feet across with three rows of stadium seating on either side which seated approximately 150 people. The ground in-between the seats was the stage. There were no platforms just two large gates at either end with black curtains suspended behind them. These were where the performers would enter from. What happened next is what I imagine would happen if you told a 12 year old boy to plan a show where money was no object. Robots! Fireworks! Lasers! A panda riding some sort of rhino or something who the fuck cares MOAR lasers!!! Giant snakes fighting some sort of mecha-tank! Whew OK intermission finally. I can come down from this acid trip and OH WTF why are some Jabbawockeez impersonators covered in LEDs doing a laser dance show to Michael Jackson's greatest hits? Did I just see a robot wearing a rainbow afro go by on a Segway? Wait is that a guitarist strapped into a baby jumper? Oh good here come the 12 foot tall bipedal robots and Cher's unicorn to end the show.

Instead of thinking too deeply about what we just witnessed it was getting late so we headed back to our Airbnb to finally rest. We would need all the rest we could get to prepare for Akihabara tomorrow.