CRAZY FOR YOU
Embrace the weird and wonderful side of Tokyo
Tokyo is a crazy city filled with light and shade. One moment you are surrounded by thousands of people on the famed Shibuya pedestrian crossing, next you’re taking in the stillness of a Mt Fuji skyline over high tea on the top floor of the Mandarin Oriental.
Frenetic laneways filled with signage, lanterns and cobbled stones reveal minuscule izakaya bars where you can dine on sake and ramen alongside locals. Third-wave coffee dens serve up some of the best coffee in the land with artisan chocolate and pastries wrapped in intricate origami style packaging.
One side is immaculate minimalist style, the other mayhem. Dive in deep and embrace the weird and wonderful. Try these on for size.
FEMME BOT VERSUS ROBOT
Who wins between man and giant robot? Check in for one of four 90-minute shows each night at the Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku and find out. Expect lots of neon, lots of glow, lots of, well, 3m tall robots, and not to understand anything that’s going on. Hand over ¥8000 (about $100) entry fee, then hand over more for minimal drink offerings and enjoy the show.
RENT A FAMILY OR A FRIEND
Short on friends? In need of a family? Only in Tokyo can you rent a friend for the afternoon or create an entire family. Missing a father? Need a faux husband? Check out family-romance.com and clientpartners.jp, two companies created to solve loneliness in Japan and provide companionship by the hour. Not that kind of companionship by the hour.
YOU’VE BEEN A VERY BAD BOY
Head to the Meiji University Museum to explore the history of torture and punishment of Japan. Expect ancient tools of torture and execution, guillotines, the iron maiden chamber and other such devices designed to rid humans of their dignity.
WHAT A HOOT
More than 20 owls, yes, owls, sit all wideeyed in a cafe in the Akihabara district waiting for bird lovers to come and play. Owl Cafe is a surprisingly soothing experience filled with serenity in the video game and robot district of Tokyo. Pay ¥1500 (cash) to hang with the owls. Pat them and let them perch on your extremities.
GO MARIO GO KART
Take your international driver’s permit to MariCar, choose a Mario- styled costume with moustache if you so desire. Click in behind the wheel of a motorised go-kart and follow your guide around the streets of urban Tokyo. ¥9000 for up to 2 hours.
DINE WITH SNAKES
These are live, cold-blooded, nonvenomous reptiles. The Tokyo Snake Centre is in Harajuku and for ¥1000 you can sip on a beverage and munch savoury or sweet snacks while admiring your chosen snake from python to boa. It will cost you extra to touch them and you’ll be given tips on appropriate handling.
SLEEP IN A CAPSULE
Tokyo is the capital of capsule hotels where guests crawl into tiny pods in which to sleep. They are a cheap alternative to the city’s mega hotels and offer a novelty for slumber. Try Prime Pod Ginza for free Wi-Fi and pod flat screens, Nadeshiko for women only and a kimono dining option, and Nine Hours Narita Airport for some preflight zzzs.
SEX IN A LOVE HOTEL
Act like a local and book into a love hotel for a few hours. Love hotels were created so adult couples can have sex without the paper thin walls of home revealing their antics to family members. Most are themed with a selection of rooms from rock star to fantasyland and many have dress-up boxes, if you are so inclined. All are over-the-top with late-night check-in and early morning check-out.
GO TO JAIL
Alcatraz ER is a prison-themed restaurant in Shibuya where guests are locked up in a cell to dine on ghoulish cuisine (think cocktails in “decapitated heads”, sausage in bed pans) served up by nurses covered in “blood” who appear when you clink your utensils against the jail bars. It will cost ¥3000 to ¥5000.
Peruse more than 300 parasites and 60,000 parasite specimens at Meguro Parasitological Museum, a private museum that has used parasitic specimens for research purposes since 1953. It is free though donations are welcomed. Check times on the website.
KAWAII ON STEROIDS
The cuteness culture of kawaii in Japan celebrates all things adorable and childlike. Think Hello Kitty and friends, add a rainbow of colours and an assault on the senses and head to Kawaii Monster cafe. Monster Girls is the term given to Harajuku girls who dress in all sorts of colour and quirk.
There is small then there’s Bar Piano. The eccentric bar in the Shibuya Drunkards Alley bar region of Tokyo has space for just three people. Perch at the bar created from a piano and sup cocktails or head upstairs to the “bigger” velvet-lined den that serves up to eight people among chandeliers, animal heads and all elements of kitsch.
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There’s never a dull moment at Kawaii Monster Cafe, and bird lovers can be a perch for an owl at the aptly named Owl Cafe.