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July 5, Harajuku
July 4, Harajuku
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Tokyo hasn't seen anything like this since the Bubble Era. Every night in a basement in Shinjuku's Kabukicho district, bikini-clad women stage mock battles using enormous robots – though it's more steroid-enhanced fairground attraction than modern-day Gundam. Fitted out at a cost of ¥10 billion, Robot Restaurant looks like something straight out of Gaspar Noé's Enter the Void, all migraine-inducing neon, video screens and mirrors (and if you think that's bad, just check the website). Customers pay a ¥6,000 charge, but the Bubble Era comparisons end there: rather than massively marked-up Ballantines and Beaujolais Nouveau, the drink menu only extends as far as canned beer, chu-hai and bottled tea, sold at the kind of prices you'd expect at a baseball game. The entry fee also includes a bento box, though you'd find tastier fare in an average convenience store. There are three hour-long shows each night, in which the nubile staff take to the floor on giant robots, including a neon tank and enormous female 'borgs – complete with (literally) pneumatic busts. When Time Out visited, the customers seemed a little too gob-smacked to know what to do at first, but by the end they were waving their glowsticks like hardened para-para dancers. Give it a chance, and you might find yourself doing the same thing too.