March 26, 2016

Tokyo sakura trip day 1: Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto

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I'm back in Tokyo for a quick trip during cherry blossom season, with Hello Kitty in tow for a visit to HelloKittyLand.  Unlike my previous trips from the last few years, though, this year I would be hitting a few touristy spots along the way... starting from the very first stop after we landed and checked in.

I first heard about the Robot Restaurant (ロボットレストラン) from JC, whose photo album from three years ago entitled "Japanese chicks battle robots" showed a series of bewildering pics.  I found them amusing, but I was never gonna make it one of my stops when I'm in Tokyo.  When Fergie and I walked past it by chance two years ago, I snapped a picture outside the place, but of course our schedule was already full.

As I was planning my trip this year, for some reason I really wanted to hit this place... and Hello Kitty was kind enough not to raise any objections.  So I booked my tickets online through the restaurant's website and made it our very first stop on this trip.  And no, I didn't plan on actually eating here...

We were pretty tight on time, and after we quickly dropped our bags off at the hotel, we took the subway to Shinjuku.  Shinjuku Station is arguably the busiest train station in the world, and it's never been easy to weave through its complex maze of exits.  So of course when we were already running late, I managed to lose my way and come out the wrong exit.

We arrived at the restaurant right around the 5:55 p.m. show time, and were thankful that our seats weren't cancelled as my confirmation email had stated.  We were directed up to the third floor, which turned out to be a lounge where they parked the patrons while waiting for the performance area to be prepped.

A few minutes later we were sent down into the basement to find our seats.  The two of us were seated in the front row at the very end, so we didn't have a very good angle for photos and videos.  Oh well...  We were asked to turn off our devices with Wifi capability before the show started, and would soon realize why.

As the show started, we see a bunch of floats roll out, some with performers onboard.  These were controlled by handlers with Wifi devices.  There were LED lights, drummers, singers, dancers, guitar players... In short, nothing less than an assault on your senses.

Of course there were also robots!  Some had performers hidden inside to control their movements, while others had "riders".

There were four main segments to the show, which lasted around 1½ hours.  In between segments when the staff were shuffling the motorized floats around and prepping for the next segment, we would be entertained by clowns and dancers.  Most of these were pretty dull, but one segment with dancers with lasers and moving to the tune of a medley of Michael Jackson's hits was pretty cool.

Most of the stuff was pretty wild... between the costumes (although there seemed to be less scantily-clad women than I had imagined), animatronics, lights, sequins, rhinestones...  And yeah, the segment on the war between the nature-loving spirits with their animal friends against invading evil alien robots was really out there...

The last segment was what I would imagine Carnaval to be like in Rio... and the costumes certainly looked that way.  We were all issued glow sticks and encouraged to wave them around.

After the show ended, I walked around in a daze for a few minutes, unable to find my bearings.  My senses were in overload, and I wasn't entirely kidding when I said that I was deaf and blind...  But I'm pretty glad I finally came and experienced it for myself.

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