I have made it no secret that Tokyo is one of my favorite places in the world. It is a Japanese city that is filled with the latest innovations, an undying energy and a rich culture. Plus, there are so many unique and fun things to do in Tokyo, and a lot of them are centered around the tasty (& slightly weird) food scene.
Tokyo Food: 13 Themed (& Slightly Weird)
Cafe & Restaurant Experiences
1. Dine in a Jail Cell
Most people would avoid (at all costs) dining in a jail cell, but Alcatraz ER will give you an offbeat dining experience of a lifetime. This restaurant is designed as a jail and each cell or prison represents a dining area for a group. Staff that are well dressed in nurse uniforms tend to the call of the bang of a metal rod against the cells bars.
Brave diners (like myself!) will nosh on things like blue curry served in a urine tin or drink cocktails out of dummy’s head. Can you ever imagine eating sausage in the shape of bowel movement; well this place has more quirkiness to offer than you can imagine. A must have experience even you prefer not to visit again.
2. Go to Dinner at a Ninja Restaurant
At Ninja Shinjuku a small robot in the corner starts to speak to you as a sliding door opens and leads you down a narrow hallway. Shoji doors open and lead you to a small room where dinner is served. This is not the kitschy place where spry ninjas pop down from the ceiling and serve mediocre food, it’s more of a molecular gastronomy experience where smoke billows out of a box to uncover a beautifully executed salad and Kobe beef is served with a trio of unique dipping sauces.
Dessert was served inside a basement room, along with a “ninja show” which really was more like a magic show—impressive none the less. But what was even more impressive was the bonsai tree dessert whose branches needed to be trimmed with scissors in order to eaten and the base was a sweet crumb that looked just like dirt. Genius.
3. Go to a Ping-Pong Restaurant
Tokyo is filled with quirky dining options and The Rally Table is one of them. It’s ‘Game On’ at this restaurant where table tennis is the centerpiece of the room. So pop on in, order yourself a plate of the ping pong curry and play a game or two. FYI: It gets pretty lively at night, but during lunch it’s mostly business men so you’ll have a better chance at playing a game.
4. Eat Grilled Salamander (and other delicious stuff) in Piss Alley
Piss Alley, also known as Omoide Yokocho (or Memory Lane), is best described as the restaurant version of Golden Gai, a section that squeezes in over 200 miniature bars into a network of six narrow alleys. Piss Alley is a small area filled with quaint yakitori restaurants, and a few drinking holes, most with just a handful of seats.
If you are an adventurous eater head over to Asadachi, a name that translates to Morning Wood, where you will get the privilege of tasting Grilled Salamander. Yes! Salamander! Maybe not the best food in the world, but visitors who love to challenge their eating habits visit this restaurant for the most bizarre meal. Here you can also try pig testicles, frog shasimi, raw pig testicles and snake liquor. Yum!
5. Eat Dinner with Robots
From the moment you enter The Robot Restaurant lounge to the time you depart, you will feel like you are diving into the colors of neon that bounce off the mirrors. There are dramatic fights between bikini clad girls riding atop robots, the sound of the cast playing the charismatic drums and visitors are given a glow-stick to cheer during all the action.
This place is more dedicated to a flashy show than on food, but you can order a sushi bento box or caramel popcorn to dine on while you are entertained. Plus, flowing beer and a few drinks are available, but the core attraction is the captivating chaos of the show. You can get a 15% discount by booking through Voyagin!
6. Go to a Maid Cafe
Maid cafés are all the buzz in Japan! They are fun cosplay restaurants where waitresses are dressed up as working maids to serve the customers as a master in a private home rather than as a café patron. The key word is “iyashi” that translates into “to be soothed”.
Your quintessential Victorian maid fantasy will come to life with spa like services, scrumptious food along with relaxing classical music while you are enveloped by verdurous greenery! There are numerous maid cafés in Tokyo (you can see some of the top ones here), each offering a unique service with the cutest undertones like chanting “moe moe kyun” to make your drinks taste better or writing over your food with ketchup! It is definitely something to look out for.
7. Get Your Meal From a Vending Machine
You heard right — eat a meal from a vending machine! One of Japan’s greatest inventions, definitely not only limited to being found in Tokyo, are the vending machines at just about every corner. You can barely walk a block in Tokyo without passing by a half dozen vending machines. Though most are filled with an array of beverages, many will have food products that can easily make a meal. The list includes special items like flying fish soup, eggs, hot dogs, hamburgers, sushi, ramen and so on. My afternoon lunch of warm corn soup was surprisingly tasty!
8. Indulge in a Massive Matcha Dessert
Offbeat food in Tokyo is not limited to main meals, but extends to sweet desserts too, and some of the most popular is made from matcha, a green tea. Desserts like ice-cream, mousse, cream, jelly and many more variations are available. But, I say if you are going to do it go big! I ordered this this quadruple layered matcha gateaux chocolate parfait that was topped with an entire piece of cake! Yes, I ate the whole thing! No shame.
9. Eat at the Kill Bill Inspiration Restaurant
Gonpachi restaurant, in the Roppongi district of Tokyo, is known as being the inspiration for the fight scene from the Kill Bill movie and it’s easy to spot the similarities. Not only can you enjoy the interior design, but you can also indulge in a bowl of Soba.
10. Drink a Cat Coffee at Oshiage Nyanko
Are you a cat person who loves coffee? This quaint little café boasts stuff dreams are made of! Tucked away in a tiny pocket-sized treasure cove, this hidden gem is located near the Tokyo Sky Tree. You will be amazed at the wonderful 3D latte art of “Oshiage Nyanko”. Although the café isn’t that prominent, it is so famous that you can easily find it.
11. Sip Coffee at a Cat Cafe
Tokyo is filled with weird things to do and going to a cat cafe ranks really high on that list. Calico Cat Cafe in Shinjuku is an attraction that gives you the opportunity to play with unique feline breeds while drinking a cup of coffee. So odd that it’s definitely worth a spot on your things to do in Tokyo bucket list itinerary. If you prefer, you can also play with cute hedgehogs in Roppongi!
12. Eat Chankonabe (Sumo Wrestlers Stew)
Chankonabe is the nutritious stew that sumo wrestlers eat daily as part of their bulking up diet. It is a hearty dish that is relatively healthy, low in fat, high in protein and filled with tons of veggies. There are many Chankonabe restaurants in Tokyo, conveniently located close to the sumo stables where the wrestlers practice and live. But, Yoshiba is the most unique because it is located in an old sumo stable with a sumo dohyo (ring) right in the center of the dining room (this is where I had my chankonabe experience in Tokyo).
If you’re interested in booking a tour instead of navigate somewhere to each chankonabe here are a couple highly rate ones:
13. Get Served Sushi on a Conveyor Belt
The menu at Uobei is common to see in many Tokyo restaurants, but the speciality lies in their ordering and serving system. Being completely dedicated to hi-tech modern era, customers are seated upon their place in a long row and are made to make orders through buttons available, then suddenly a conveyor belt arrives and delivers the food. The taste and ambience is worth paying the money and the experience visitors gain makes an everlasting impression as no humans are involved in the entire restaurant process!
These Tokyo food experiences are some of the most unusual in the world. Bon Appetit!
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