Tokyo is a city of thousands and thousands of restaurants, we have more Michelin stars than any other place in the world, and it’s legitimately difficult to come across a bad meal when eating out – believe us, we do attempt that kind of thing every once in a while. Although most restaurants here compete with quality, cheap prices, flawless service and fresh, seasonal ingredients, some Tokyo eateries have chosen a different path, namely the path of curiosity and craziness. Perfect if you're looking to take a break from the daily grind or impress a Tokyo newbie, here are our top picks of the strangest food- and drink-serving establishments out there – not an exhaustive survey, by any means.
The top 10 weirdos
Railway nerds have it good in Tokyo: not only can they sip on cocktails while staring at miniature trains speeding around the bar in Ginza or Shibuya, they can also chow down Japanese-style curry rice (from ¥650) in this full-on ‘railway restaurant’, featuring real train seats, heaps of appropriate memorabilia and a veteran ‘station manager’ who always wears his conductor’s cap.
The name is somewhat misleading – nobody goes to this Kabukicho wonderland for the food (think convenience store-style bento boxes). If, however, you’re more into disco-dancing ‘borgs, battling bikini babes and gilded toilets, this is exactly the place for you. Built at an alleged cost of ¥10 billion, the Robot Restaurant is a place that every Tokyoite should visit at least once. Remember to bring your Time Out Tokyo magazine for a ¥1,000 discount.
This tiny hole-in-the-wall haunt on Shinjuku’s ‘Piss Alley’ is the place to go if you have something to prove: anyone who manages to chow down delights like grilled salamander, cow heart and raw pig testicles (pictured) without flinching probably deserves some kind of price. Loved by both long-time regulars and far-away guests, the offerings here are called ‘stamina food’. It certainly beats ordering dubious sex drive enhancers online.
Everyone knows that the combination of firearms and alcohol inevitably leads to good outcomes. This eternal truth has been well grasped by the cheery folks behind this Kichijoji haunt, where you can let out steam by shooting away with equipment ranging from 007’s Walther PPK to the legendary AK-47 (BB versions – what were you expecting?). The gun-inspired drink menu contains choices like ‘Colt Government’ and ‘Desert Warrior’.
Not really a restaurant, this curiosity is located in a nondescript Katsushika residential area and consists of a tiny sandwich shop with a couple of handmade-looking vending machines built into the front wall. Insert a coin and wait until your small but decently tasty burger appears in the plastic hatch – it's all human-powered, so don't freak out if your package doesn't arrive right on the spot.
Had enough of picking plates of sushi off a standard conveyor belt? There’s no need for that at this futuristic kaiten-zushi chain, where orders are delivered with a spaceship-like, high-speed chute and the interior is straight-up sterile. Every dish is ¥108 (damn you consumption tax increase!) but the quality is just good enough. Recommended as a fun place to take Tokyo first-timers.
Want to make sure your fish is fresh? Catch it yourself, have it expertly prepared, and then eat it in a boat-shaped seating area at Zauo, a somewhat gimmicky but mostly decent seafood restaurant with five branches in the Tokyo area. Angling is surprisingly challenging and all catches have to be paid for, so you might be better off just ordering directly off the menu.
As far as disturbing theme restaurants go, this one has to be close to the top: a prison hospital recreated inside a slightly run-down office building in the middle of Shibuya’s love hotel district, Alcatraz delights patrons with everything from drinks served in urine bottles and syringes to creepy nurse waitresses. The grub is mostly standard izakaya fare, but everything else is more horror than ha-ha.
Yep, Tokyo has a Jesus-themed eatery too. Serving a muddled menu of Asian-European fusion food and imaginatively named cocktails such as ‘Angel’s Trap’ and ‘Deathscyth Hell’, this Shinjuku weirdo is worth a visit just for the WTF factor. Occasionally used as a venue for all-night fetish parties – o tempora o mores.
‘What kind of restaurant makes you cook your own food?’ Well, Bob Harris (Bill Murray), this one. Higashi-Nakano’s Self Kitchen is essentially a culinary space-for-rent: for a small fee, the friendly owner lets you take advantage of his pro-grade kitchen and amply stocked fridge – perfect for Tokyoites living in apartments without cooking appliances who still want to enjoy homemade meals with friends. Book ahead and you can have the entire place all for yourself!