And by “assaulted” I mean my senses were overloaded, stupefied, and confused by the bright laser-pew-pew lights, heart-pounding drums, music, and singing, and ridiculously clever routines that define the Robot Restaurant and its fiercely entertaining show. Quite a mouthful, right? Let me explain.

It was a rainy night. We had spent a good part of the evening strolling around the neighborhoods of Tokyo: Shibuya, Kabukicho (Tokyo’s red light district), and many other commercial areas. The rain didn’t deter the Japanese whose clear umbrellas with white handles filled the streets. So after seeing those sights, we thought we had seen the craziness that is Tokyo. Wrong.

We made it back to Shinjuku and Robot Restaurant, which no one could possibly miss. It seemed as though you could hear the synchronized Japanese girl voices screaming cute angry words from a mile away via its billboards’ loudspeakers. Meanwhile, the strobe lighting attracted people like bugs.

electric guitar guy getting down

After getting our tickets, we were led to a side alley where we entered Robot Restaurant. Remember how Alice went through that rabbit hole and entered a whole new whole? That was basically what happened to us. I believe the owner got the funding to build this restaurant like this:

Investor: So, what’s the idea?

Owner: Hai! We will surround them with the brightest, most colorful, insanely strange things to boggle their minds and make them go into an uncontrollable seizure-trance. Then we will provide them with cheap booze and inadequate amounts of food so they’d be in such a state of weakness that when we show them the madness that is the show, they will shake violently, relinquishing all the money in their pockets for us to collect.

Investor: Here’s 120 millions yen. Build this place. NOW!

Yeah. Be prepared to be bedazzled in this bright and colorful world, with mirrors aplenty and things all glittered. The first area we entered was this wonderful retro lounge (still insanely colorful and glittery) where you can get beer and whatever else you’d like. Here, a band dressed like Daft Punk will entertain you with classics from the seventies and eighties. Towards the end of the lounge session, a singer dressed in sequin belted out Japanese songs to get you into the mood. Then we were led to the dungeon and to our seats.

No one knew what to expect. Or maybe they did. I didn’t. The audience sat on opposite sides with the middle of the room free for performers to prance around and do their stuff. The lights went out. Giant moving platforms moved across the stage via remote controllers (yes, like those R/C helicopter controllers). We were warned beforehand to turn our phones to airplane mode to not interfere with the signal. Stage lights came on, focusing on drummers high on platforms opposite each other. Silence.

Then… madness ensued.

I don’t really know how to describe what went on from that point. The first set was this rhythmic drums/yelling combination thing that made me so happy I wanted to cry. All this happened as platforms carrying performers moved in circles around the audience – needless to say, no seat was a bad seat.

boom boom

The lights went out after the first set and we were too stunned to know what to do. So I guess we clapped. Then electric guitars filled the room. Again, drums pounded our ears. This time, dancers enthralled us as you can see in the video below. Note, this video was taken with my phone and does a gross injustice to the real experience. But you can infer from the video what kind of a show it was. I have to give mad props to the set and costume designers, although I don’t think the job would have been very difficult to carry out. I could have done it using this simple method: Is it crazy enough? Yes? Multiple it by 10. Bam.

The third act blew my mind and I was too feeble to record any videos. All I can say is that at some point Kung Fu Panda was involved, maniacal laser shooting alien demons were destroying magical mermaids, a gorilla equipping a dinosaur with a cannonball was electrocuted, and other wildly unfathomable events occurred. After this performance, we had intermission in a room filled with smoke and dazed human beings looking for answers.

When the show resumed, shiny robots came out and circled us for what seemed like half an hour blaring music and doing crazy things.

We left the show satisfied, horrified, and electrified. In conclusion, go see this show if you’re going to Japan. Just do it! Though… after the show we discussed what the experience would have been like if we had taken some form of psychedelics. Please don’t. I think you’d literally implode.

I took a few shots. It was dark so some of these pictures didn’t come out well. But… enjoy anyway.

 

PIN THIS!

I was assaulted in Japan. It was awesome.


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Old McDonald had a cat café, E-I-E-I-O. And in this café he had lots of kitties. With a nom nom here and a purr purr there. Here a rub, there a yawn. Everywhere a nyan nyan. Old McDonald had a cat café.

First started in Taipei in 1998, the cat café industry has grown tremendously, especially in Japan’s metropoles* like Tokyo. Here in this vibrant and populous city, people predominantly live in small apartments or condos – most of which have pet restrictions. And, as you may already know, Japan’s dwindling inclination towards the traditional family unit, along with extreme work ethics, leaves many young professionals stressed and no time for relationships. It’s no surprise that after the opening of the first hugely successful cat café in Tokyo in 2005, the proliferation of more neko (Japanese for cat) cafes took off. There are at least 40 cat cafes in Tokyo alone. And cat cafes in Japan could breach the 200 mark soon.

Japan isn’t the only country with a growing cat café industry. Here in the Puget Sound where I hail from, the first cat café (Seattle Meowtropolitan) is set to open at the end of this year! But it’s not the first cat café in America. Cat Town Café, the first cat café in America, opened its doors in 2014. Since then, numerous other cafes have welcomed customers looking for meows. The phenomenon is taking place all over the world.


 

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after searching aimlessly for the cat cafe, there it was!

after searching aimlessly for the cat cafe, there it was!

While in Tokyo, I had the opportunity to visit such a cat café (Cat Café Calico in Shinjuku). It was an interesting experience. The first of which was having to find the place. I learned that in Japan, you have to look up as stores and restaurants are often stacked on top of each other. The entrance to Cat Café Calico is on the 6th floor but the café extends to the 5th floor as well. As you come in, you have to take off your shoes and pay a cover fee of 1,000 yen (about $8) for the first hour. Each subsequent hour was 500 yen. If you want to feed the kitties, come around 5 PM. You can purchase a small container of white chicken for 300 yen each. Trust me, you’ll be a popular target for the throng of kitties that will flock towards you. I suggest coming earlier than 5 PM so you’ll have more space to play with the kitties, then feed them and go. After 5 PM, the café become so crowded you’ll have no place to relax and you’ll be competing against the influx of people on their way home from work. People often stop by cat cafes to de-stress before heading home.

The rules are pretty simple: don’t pick up the cats, don’t play rough, and don’t feed the kitties wearing a red scarf because they have dietary restrictions. Other than that, you are free to pursue the cat of your choice, to pet him, play with him, feed him, and take pictures with him. Toys are bountiful, and there are seating areas for you to relax. A small TV and game console are also available for you to get your game on. You can also read one of the many books they have stockpiled on their shelves.

i'm sorry, can't hear you over my cute

i’m sorry, i can’t hear you over my cute

Being my first time in a cat café, I was more interested in the kitties themselves, but I could tell that the regulars who come to the café are there to relax around cats and not necessarily to play with them. Many were content just reading books and petting kitties as they come by. The majority of the patrons were young women.

So while it was mostly a novelty experience for me, people who regularly come to these cat cafes are finding real comfort and peace. These slow-paced places are a stark contrast to the chaos outside. The first couple days in Japan were dizzying to me. Being packed like sardines in the subway, getting hurried by the herd of people calmly rushing to the next subway train, and breathing down food to allow the long line of hungry businessmen/women waiting to eat were exasperating, to say the least. After 2 exhausting days in Tokyo, the cat café was a haven for me. Now imagine what these cat cafes represent to people who live there.

I found this experience really rewarding and am looking forward to going to the cat café in Seattle once it opens. The future wife and I are on board the cat café express. If you have the opportunity, give these cafes a chance.

sigh... when is next nom?

sigh… when is the next nom?

*It took me 20 minutes to find the plural form of “metropolis.” The best explanation I found was a comment from Ryan Blaine Brown (wherever and whoever you are, thanks): “Most often you see “metropolises” for the plural. More properly the plural is “metropoles,” third declension, as the word comes to English through Latin. Don’t force a second declension masculine (long “i”) or neuter (short “a”) ending here, or everyone will know you are trying too hard and don’t know Latin. And though the word was originally Greek, no one will understand what you mean if you go for the Greek plural “metropoleis,” so avoid it, too. You can either go English plural or Latin (III declension) plural.” I just thought you might appreciate this little nugget of truth. Or not. Meow.

Also… Neko Samurai!!! Look it up. Watch it. Be amused.

Finally, below is a collection of pictures from Cat Café Calico. Enjoy.


 



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little campbell lake, anchorage, alaska

UPDATE: Thanks to one of our readers, we now know the original source of this story: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heinrich_Böll.

I was going to unload everything I learned from my recent trip to Taiwan and Japan but my fiancé told me this story on our 3 hrs drive to her parents’ place this afternoon, and I have to share it. I suppose it counts as a travel story as we were traveling. Don’t judge me.

Also, I don’t know the source of the story nor if it were told as a folktale or not. So, if you DO know the source, I would love to find out from where it came and to properly credit such source. The story goes like this:

A businessman on travel to Taiwan was having drinks in a local watering hole. It was a fishing village. As he was bantering about with fellow travelers, a man came in with a string of fishes. They were huge. All the travelers were very impressed. So the businessman approached the fisherman and asked him how he was so good at fishing and if he had any secrets. He guessed that the fisherman had to work very hard from early in morning to reel in such a catch.

The fisherman nonchalantly replied that he didn’t have any secrets. He went on to explain that he’d wake up whenever he wanted, go find a fishing spot, catch a few plump ones, sell them for a good amount that was enough to support his family with a little bit left over to put in his savings, play with his children afterwards, take a nap with this wife in the afternoon, and drink with his friends in the evening before retiring for the night.

The businessman was even more impressed but thought the fisherman was wasting his vast talent.

“You’re doing it wrong,” the businessman said. “I’m a businessman and I can help you get rich.”

“Well, what do I have to do?” the fisherman asked.

“If you turn your knowledge into a business, hire people to fish for you, form partnerships with restaurants and supermarkets, advertise your company’s expertise, and work really in this regard, you’ll make a lot more money,” the businessman replied.

“And how long will this take?” the fisherman asked.

“With my help and your hard work, you’ll be rich in 5-10 years.”

“And then what next?” the fisherman asked.

“Well, you can use that money to invest in the stock market, buy smaller companies to gain a larger market share, go public with an IPO, and be rolling in so much money you won’t know what to do with it,” the businessman excitedly explained.

“Then what will I do then?” the fisherman asked.

“Well, when you’re that rich, you can sleep in as much as you want, maybe go catch a fish or two leisurely, play with your kids, take a nap with your wife, and go drink with your friends,” the businessman replied.

The fisherman handed his catch to the cook and received a wad of money for the sale. “No thanks, I can already do all those things. Why would I spend all that time getting rich when I’m perfectly happy with what I already have? I’d rather be poor and happy.”

The fisherman walked out leaving the businessman perplexed indeed.

Take from this story whatever you want. Maybe the fisherman is a fool for leaving all that money on the table, but I think he made a good choice. It’s good to be ambitious and hungry, but we should also learn to appreciate the good already in our lives. We often work ourselves to death with the belief that we can enjoy life later, but there’s no guarantee we’d even wake up tomorrow. Work hard, but enjoy life as you go along. What I’m trying to say is… go travel, explore the world and enjoy the fruits of your labor as they ripen. Otherwise, the fruits will rot while you try to hoard more fruits.


 


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