CRAZY FOR YOU

Em­brace the weird and won­der­ful side of Tokyo

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Escape - - DESTINATION JAPAN - RACHAEL OAKES-ASH

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.

SHIN­JUKU-ROBOT.COM

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.

WWW.MEIJI.AC.JP/CIP/ENGLISH/IN­STI­TUTE/ MU­SEUM.HTML

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.

AKIBA2960.COM

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.

MAR­ICAR.COM

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.

SNAKECENTER.JP

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.

AL­CA­TRAZ-ER.NET

PAR­A­SITES, ANY­ONE?

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.

KISEICHU.ORG

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.

KAWAIIMONSTER.JP

BAR THREE­SOME

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.

+ 81 3 5467 0258

PIC­TURES: KAWAII MON­STER CAFE, AKIBA FUKUROU

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.

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