Drink with demons, take a seat at the Mad Hatter’s tea party or nosh like a ninja—you can do it all at these Tokyo themed restaurants.
Sometimes food can be fun, and in Tokyo, it can be terrifying, magical, beautiful or disgusting—but certainly not boring. Themed restaurants are one of the most popular options for visitors and the variety means there’s something for everyone. Whether you want to hold your own funeral, try life as an elementary school student or play some retro video games, you can experience some of the most unusual meals right here in Tokyo.
As expected, at a theme cafe, you’re not only paying for the food, you’re paying for the experience, so prices will be more expensive than an average joint. And you’ll almost always have a seating charge of about ¥500 (but never more). The food is usually simple izakaya fare, so it can be best to go for snacks and drinks rather than a full meal as you can still enjoy the creativity, but not leave disappointed. Desserts can also be some of the most fun and more affordable options. You can first fill up on some reasonable ramen and then head to these spots for drinks and dessert; you will save the pennies and enjoy the experience too.
Be aware that some of these spots are quite tight on photography, so remember to ask permission first!
1. Moomin Bakery and Cafe, Oshiage & Tokyo Dome
If you’re a lone diner and want some company, head to the Moomin Cafe for cute desserts and some white, fluffy company. Once seen as an anti-loneliness measure for customers who felt self-conscious enjoying their meal alone, the cafe has huge Moomin characters to sit opposite you while you dine. With the classics like Moomin Papa and unlikely favorites like Little Mi, you know you’ll have a friend for half an hour at least.
The food is quite normal, featuring salad plates and traditional Scandinavian breads but the desserts are where the themes come to play. With cute limited-edition cups coming as part of some sets, and additions like themed biscuits, jellies and chocolates, it’s a pretty fun place for a catch-up.
They have two cafes, one in Tokyo Dome City and one in The Sky Tree Oshiage complex. Reservations are not required but recommended as queues can be long on weekends.
2. The Lockup, Shinjuku
The first of three horror-themed izakaya, The Lockup is a chain that focuses on creating a prison environment that you’ll be trapped in for the evening. As you step into a dark hallway with alarms in the distance, a prison guard will lead you to your cell where you’ll be shut in for the night.
With drinks served in test tubes and beakers with floating eyeballs, it is certainly a lot of fun, but it’s the staff that make it. They roam the halls occasionally jumping in to scare unwitting customers, wearing horrifying masks and outfits designed to terrorize. You’ve not witnessed horror until you’ve seen five Japanese girls scream-denying their own birthday just to get away from a cake-wielding monster until the girl they point at slides under the table in abject desperation.
Photograph the famous Shibuya scramble crossing, wander around the curious and quirky love hotel hill, visit Yoyogi park and Meiji shrine...
While the food is average and prices are higher than they probably should be, it’s a fun place to celebrate a special occasion and definitely a night to remember.
3. Kawaii Monster Cafe, Harajuku
For a dose of surreal with your supper, the Monster Cafe is one of Tokyo’s most outlandish cafes and is perfect if you’re looking for that famous Tokyo-crazy, but don’t want to pay for the Robot Restaurant. The restaurant was designed around the concept of Tokyo as a monster, swallowing the trends of the time and creating a new Tokyo no one has ever seen. Filled with four psychedelic zones to choose from, you step off the street and through the mouth of Mr. Ten Thousand Chopsticks into a wonderland of sheeps’ heads and jellyfish bars.
Centered around a rotating merry-go-round of nightmare-inducing characters, you can choose from the four sections: Mushroom Disco, Milk Stand, Milk Tea Room and Bar Experiment.
If you’re a return visitor you can collect location stamps and gain special access once you have your initial member card. The food is creative and fun, and lunch options are (as usual) more affordable. If you’re in a group, the sundae is a thing of beauty and can easily be shared.
Read the full article here.
4. Alcatraz ER, Shibuya
One of the strangest and oldest of Tokyo’s themed cafes, Alcatraz is a confusing and sometimes scary experience that will haunt you for months to come. Designed to recreate a medical prison, they are not afraid to get you involved and as soon as you arrive you’ll be handcuffed and lead to your cell. Catch your waitresses attention by rattling a metal bar across your cell bars and order your selection of tempting dishes.
As well as being graphic in the bloody sense, this place isn’t afraid of sexual references either, with sex-toy stirrers and sperm drinks available. Take your pick from blood transfusion, intestinal cleansing and sperm juice—all between ¥790 and ¥890.
The food is mostly normal, though there are some unprintable words (don’t take your family here) and body parts built out of beef that should never, ever be built from beef. The friendlier menu items include the cheese fondue, bright blue curry or an impressive red omurice that looks a lot like a liver.
When it comes to sticking to a theme, this place ties with the Monster Cafe as it is bizarre, scary and disgusting in equal parts. Prices are what you might expect for a themed cafe, plain alcoholic drinks start from ¥580, soft drinks from ¥480 and food ranges from ¥430 to ¥1,100. There is also a ¥500 seating charge per person.
5. Rokunen Yonkumi, Shinjuku
If you want to relive your old school days or want to take a step back into the daily life of one of your favorite manga character’s life, this school-themed izakaya is for you. Designed to look like the average elementary school classroom—and coming pretty close—it is a surprising change of scene when you step out from the elevator in a regular Shinjuku building.
The staff are dressed as a variety of teachers and the main room is a large classroom, complete with tiny tables, blackboards toys and drawings. One of the highlights is getting to fill your basket with unlimited sweets—and whether they fill you with nostalgia or are a chance to experiment, it’s fun to try a good few before your food arrives.
The menu options are classics, like kyuu-shoku, the Japanese school dinners of youth containing soft noodles and lunch bread. There is normal izakaya fare too though. The drinks are pretty fun, with popping-candy colas and science-set flavoring kits.
There is a menu rule that each customer must order a drink and two food plates, but prices are low as far as themed places go so it isn’t bad. There is a ¥500 seating charge, which makes sense given the unlimited sweets part. And remember to study for your pop quiz!
Read the full article here
6. Ninja Akasaka
Ninja by name, ninja by nature—this restaurant is hard to spot unless you know where to look, with a low-key black front and small sign. Once you’re in, you’ll be guided through secret passages and trap doors to reach the secret village within.
The inside of the restaurant is indeed like a small village, with stone huts and hanging moss, waterfalls and five small ponds. If you throw any change into the waterfall, it will be donated to the Hiseda Shrine and should bring you good luck. For customers who spend over a certain amount, a magic performance is included.
The food here is a little more up-market, with 11-course options featuring shuriken (throwing star) grissini and stone-boiled soup. An à la carte menu is available, but the prices can be steep—an affordable option is the burning-cold noodles for ¥1,200.
The Ninja restaurant recently abolished its service fee which makes for a nice change, but this is because it is a proper restaurant rather than an izakaya, so you can’t really just pop in for a drink. Interestingly, they do a vegetarian course menu for ¥6,800 and a pork-and-alcohol-free course for ¥8,800, both of which have 8 courses.
7. Yurei Izakaya, Kichijoji
Another dark dinner spot, Yurei Izakaya is an underworld themed restaurant with plenty of ghosts and ghouls to remind you that you’re not long of this world. Waitresses dress as Japanese ghosts (white kimonos tied right over left), but the scary themes are borrowed from around the world, with shrunken heads and severed limbs to be grasped when waitresses are required.
The food is a similar price to most izakaya and comes with fun twists like rogue eyeballs and blood, as well as fiery options like Cremation Pyre spare ribs. If you attend on your birthday, you get a free treat, and at the end, you can climb into a coffin for your own funeral service.
Read the full article here
8. Alice in Wonderland, Shinjuku, Ginza & Ikebukuro
Tokyo has a few different Alice-themed cafes, all owned by the same company and adhering to slightly different themes. While the Shibuya site is no longer listed, they have two in Shinjuku, one in Ikebukuro and one in Ginza—all with elaborate decorations and centerpieces like hanging heart chandeliers and wall murals.
The food is quite elaborate and it suits an afternoon tea more than a substantial meal (desserts are always more fun anyway). Cheshire Cat parfaits, cute puddings and a layered Mad Hatter cake, you’ll have plenty to choose from.
This is one of the priciest of the themed cafes though—we often judge by the price of fries, and here they are ¥580 which is up there. This is definitely a cute catch-up spot, but don’t go too hungry as you might end up spending more than you planned.
9. Pom Pom Purin, Harajuku
Whether you know Pom Pom Purin or not, this cafe is a very cute spot up on the second floor of Harajuku’s Takeshita Street filled with adorable desserts and drinks. Sanrio’s Pom Pom Purin is a golden retriever who wears a brown beret and the end of his name means pudding, meaning he lends himself well to a delicious dessert.
The interior is filled with large merry-looking characters, his theme colors of yellow and brown along with stylized chairs and decorations.
The menu is all familiar dishes but with a Purin-twist, be it a rice-face floating in your curry or sitting on your “Taco Rice Cup of Friendship”. Mains start from just under ¥1,000, while desserts range from ¥500 for a custard pudding (his favorite) to ¥1,200 for pancakes and pudding parades.
There are souvenir mugs and puddings available to take home if you need a slice of Pom Pom Purin in your daily life.
10. 8-bit Cafe, Shinjuku
If you like things retro, then step inside this game lover’s paradise for an afternoon of drinks, Tetris, Mario and more. The cafe/bar is small and tucked away beneath a sex shop, but at least the sign makes for a good conversation starter. Inside you’ll find all the consoles you remember from childhood and plenty you don’t—and best of all they will be in perfect working order.
Take a seat on the gaming thrones, have a go on a Game Boy Color while you wait for your drinks and admire the incredible collection of relics and models from times gone by. There are two-player games and all the favorites like Mario Kart, so it’s great for a date or friends, especially if you have a competitive relationship. It’s not a cave if that’s what you’re imagining, it’s actually a bright and colorful room with enough space to relax.
The cafe hosts are super friendly and they have delicious homemade lemonade. The food and drinks are not themed, but the room will be plenty enough to keep you happy.
11. Little TGV, Akihabara
A railroad theme crossed with a maid cafe, this cute restaurant has even created its own fictional train company called the New Akihabara Electric Railway. The cafe is small but has original train seats and decorations, with old-fashioned signs, clocks and train-line signs and even tickets which are stamped when you are served.
Drinks are themed around the colors of Tokyo’s trains, so there’s Cassis orange for the Ginza Line for example, with the drinks displayed on a handy train map. Your food is creatively shaped, with Shinkansen rice balls and train-like egg sushi.
They have a service charge of ¥500, and the menu also features plenty of regular izakaya food ranging from ¥400 to ¥850. This is a smaller and independent theme cafe, melanin you’ll be mingling with regulars and locals too.
12. Hananomai Ryogoku, Ryogoku
Located in Ryogoku, the heart of sumo in Tokyo, this restaurant seats you alongside a sumo ring and serves up the protein-heavy dishes traditionally served to wrestlers. The dohyo is perfect for performances of traditional sumo songs, drummers, a sumo stand-up and, of course, the occasional sumo match.
As well as being sumo-themed, the restaurant focuses on the Edo period which was the height of the Sumo age, adding a whole new element to your experience. You’ll be seated among sliding screens and Edo-style storefronts with woodblock prints, while sumo wrestlers make the rounds and greet guests.
There are all-you-can-eat and all-you-can-drink options, but these do need to be reserved ahead of time. The most appropriate dish to try is the chanko nabe—a protein-filled hotpot served to wrestlers to maintain their energy and weight. Chanko pots range from ¥900 per person to ¥2,800. There is also a regular izakaya menu to choose from too, with grilled meat, sushi and sides. Also, lunch prices are cheaper.
Lastly, be sure to check the calendar for the days with performances scheduled (they all take place at 7pm). Drumming takes place every Sunday, the shamisen (traditional stringed instrument) performance is every Thursday.
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|Location(s):||Akasaka, Akihabara, Ginza, Harajuku, Ikebukuro, Kichijoji, Oshiage, Ryogoku, Shibuya, Shinjuku,|
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