After seeing so many things as a traveler, it’s sometimes hard to find certain events that really wow you. I’ve become a lot more critical of shows I see while I’m abroad—I’ve witnessed some awful opera in Florence, been sorely disappointed by some live music in Mexico, and have had to revise some of expectations of what I see when I buy tickets to an event.
However, after seeing a snippet of the show Better Late than Never while on our flight to Guatemala, Daniel and I became obsessed with seeing the famed Robot Restaurant in Tokyo. At a hefty price of $80 a ticket, we were a little concerned that it wouldn’t live up to the hype and that we were spending a lot of money on nothing. We rushed back from Kyoto on the bullet train, worried we were going to miss the chance to get there on time (there were some very strict instructions on the ticket).
Hopping on the JR train, we scurried to the edge of the Shinjuku area, tickets displayed on our phones in our hands. We arrived just in time—they had started letting in people and there was a long line waiting to go in. It didn’t take long before we made a friend from the Netherlands in line with us.
“Do you think this is going to be as good as we think?” he asked. “I’m a bit skeptical.”
We all were. The front of the “theater” looked a bit tacky and dingy, and almost felt like a fair funhouse instead of a place where we would be drinking and enjoying an expensive show. After being ushered inside the carnival-like halls into a waiting room, we were offered a drink on the house and sat down.
A live band took to the stage. We glanced at one another. This couldn’t have been it. What we had heard about was giant robots fighting one another—not a mediocre band dressed as robots serenading an increasingly drunk group of tourists. Our Holland friend shook his head.
“This better not be it,” he said.
Before we could really start to wonder whether this was going to be the end of the night or not, we were directed into a large room and told to take a seat, turn off our phones (the WiFi signal interferes with the robots), and to relax. Daniel, Eric, and I were starting to get hyped now. This was clearly something worth checking out—even if happened to be less than we had built up in our minds.
It took only a moment to realize that there would be no disappointment for anyone. Drums started emerging on floats, along with dancers, other musicians, and yes, robots. What emerged was a story not unlike Avatar about robots taking over a prehistoric land with…scantily-clad women? Anyway, it looked just like a live-action anime. Eric looked on, dumbfounded, while Daniel and I kept glancing at each other. This was so much more than we expected. There were flames coming from a giant, robot T-Rex, music, and more…scantily clad women.
One of them was devoured by the T-Rex before there was an intermission. We had another drink and watched another hour or two as the robots dominated the stage. In shock, we couldn’t believe what we were seeing even existed. By the end, we weren’t quite sure how to process everything, so we stopped at a restaurant outside and shared some of the local foods.
“What did we just see?” I asked.
“I’m not sure,” Daniel replied. “But it was awesome.”
Have you ever seen something on your travels that has defied expectations?