When it comes to weird and wonderful places to eat and drink, nothing beats Japan’s colourful capital. Here are some of the strangest cafes and restaurants in Tokyo to chow down in – perfect for your Instagram Stories!
Kawaii Monster Café, Shibuya
If you're done with the whole unicorn thing, you'll probably want to avoid the Kawaii Monster Café - a trippy, neon-hued tribute to cuteness. It’s the brainchild of Sebastian Masuda, a pioneer of Japan’s kawaii (cute) culture and, if the decor's anything to go by, a big fan of bright colours. Highlights include the Milk Stand section with its cake-shaped merry-go-round and a (mirrored) ceiling adorned with the oversized heads of unicorns, while the Mushroom Disco area features super-sized vegetables. And then there's the food. The most popular items include include rainbow spaghetti and BLT sandwiches with blue, green and orange fillings. Time to embrace the E-numbers.
Kawaii Monster cafe © Thomas Hull
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AKB48 Café, Akihabara
This Akihabara eatery is a tribute to Japan's most famous K-pop band, AKB48. Why 48? That's the number of members in the band, which puts on regular appearances at this diner-style café. It's all slightly odd – the passageway leading to the toilets feels like a school corridor, with framed, signed photos of the school uniform-wearing band members covering the walls, and drinks are served on coasters bearing images of the girls. But there's no denying J-pop fans will be on cloud nine. The menu lives up to the theme too, filled with favourite dishes of band members, and then there's the gift shop, where you can purchase a mind-blowingly wide range of AKB48 merchandise.
Moomin House Café, Oshiage
Love a Moomin? You're not alone, although that's not always the case, which is why Tokyo's Moomin House Café has come up with a rather cool perk for solo diners – they'll be joined at the table by a giant stuffed creature. That being said, by the time you've paid your bill you'll probably never want to see a Moomin again – there’s a Moomin on hand to greet guests, Moomin-shaped sandwiches and cakes and the coffee comes topped with a Moomin sculpted out of foam.
The Moomin café goes all out on the theme© Timo Hakkarainen
MORI Building Digital Art Museum teahouse, Odaiba
For something more sophisticated, check out the tea house at teamLab Borderless – the world's first museum dedicated entirely to digital art. The menu's somewhat limited, with just four types of green tea on offer, but that's not the point - here, it's all about the experience. Visitors sit at long, dimly-lit tables, and the magic begins when the tea is delivered and its surface transforms into a series of floral patterns, before exploding in a cloud of blooms the moment the cup is lifted. Suddenly Starbucks looks rather boring.
Green tea is given an artistic makeover at the MORI Building Digital Art Museum teahouse © Tamara Hinson
Owl café, Akihabara
If cat cafés don’t do it for you, how about owls? We’re pleased to report that the birds’ wellbeing is a top priority at this Tokyo café, and all visitors are told to abide by several rules – before bonding with your bird of prey you’ll be asked not to make sudden movements, use flash photography or squeeze your allotted owl, although why anyone would squeeze their feathered friend is beyond us. Guests are given one-hour time slots with the creatures, and gloved employees will happily move one of the birds onto your arm or shoulder for that all-important selfie.
Posing for photos is de rigeur at the Owl cafe © Robert Yanal
Pokémon Café, Nihonbashi
Don't know your Sandslash from your Squirtle? You will after a visit to the Pokémon Café, which opened in early 2018. This is actually one of Tokyo's most stylish themed cafés, with vast expanses of artfully-exposed brickwork and floor-to-ceiling windows offering stunning views of the city. There are still plenty of Pokémon on show, including statues on the tables and Pokémon-themed murals on the walls. The minimalist decor is balanced out by the menu, which has a huge section of Pokémon-themed dishes, ranging from Pikachu-shaped burgers to Jigglypuff cheesecakes. And no, we've got no idea what a Jigglypuff is, either.
Pickachu latte art at the Pokemon café © Ajay Suresh
Robot Restaurant, Shinjuku
Robots really are taking over the world, or at least Tokyo, anyway. One of the city’s most popular themed restaurants, the Robot Restaurant, is hard to miss – just look for the enormous cyborg outside. Start your visit by posing for a selfie in one of the robot-shaped chairs by the entrance, before taking a seat in the restaurant, with its mirrored ceiling and wall-to-wall video screens. The robot shows are truly bizarre – there are ninjas, drummers and dancers too, along with an eardrum-bursting soundtrack of J-pop. Oh, and a lot of glow sticks, which are handed out to audience members. Only in Japan.
The entrance to the Robot Restaurant is hard to miss © Tyrone Pham
The Lockup, Shinjuku
Ever fancied chowing down inside a zombie-filled prison? Thought not, although should you have a change of heart, we recommend the Lockup, where diners are handcuffed, escorted to their cell/table by a prison guard and presented with a menu inspired by prison food and monsters. Dishes on offer include zombie entrails (we’re assured it’s actually chicken) and cocktails are served in test tubes and garnished with (fake) eyeballs. Regular monster shows crank up the fear factor, and the zombies are happy to pose for selfies.
Alice in Wonderland Café, Shinjuku
For the ultimate sugar fix, head to the Alice in Wonderland Café, where food is served on heart-shaped dishes, by staff dressed as characters from the book. The décor is fantastic – tea cups dangle from the ceiling and you can recline on sofas shaped like playing cards. We’re particularly smitten with the huge, heart-shaped table in the centre of the café, although the furry green hedges between the seating booths come a close second.
Heart-shaped everything at the Alice in Wonderland cafe © Tom Hume