7 Unique and Wacky Cafes in Tokyo

By Martina Lucchini, the Milanese translator came to Japan to study, and never left!

Edited by Kathryn Foley

When it comes to looking for a unique cafe in Tokyo (or a weird, or a downright wacky one), you really don’t have to look far. There are more themed cafes in Tokyo than you could ever have imagined, and believe me, some of them are hard to imagine! Ever heard of a cuddle cafe? Or the Tokyo Pokemon Cafe? I hadn’t either before I moved here, but now I don’t even bat an eyelid when I hear about new, crazy themed cafes in Tokyo. Cafe culture is really deep rooted in Japanese society; unlike for tourists, cafes are where you can go, order a cheap coffee and stay for hours. Everyone from businessmen to high school students needing to get homework done will have their own go-to cafe in Tokyo. But I think people here have discovered the potential of themed cafes, so decided to make them more of an attraction for both tourists and locals, which is how we have so many themed cafes in Tokyo now. All of these cafes are totally unique, and unlike anything you’re probably used to experiencing at home. But that’s the whole point - they're an experience. So here are some of the best cafes in Tokyo; take your pick and get ready to enjoy the weird and the wonderful.

 

Robot Restaurant

The Tokyo Robot Restaurant is one of the oldest and most famous themed venues around. I think they really play on the idea that Japan is super advanced in technology, and have gone completely overboard and thrown all of these stereotypes into the same show. Lots of visitors say afterwards that it was everything they were expecting of Japan. It’s completely crazy, and once you enter the door and go down the stairs, which are an absolute riot of electric coloured butterflies, dragons and parrots, the kaleidoscopic flurry of colours, patterns and lights only get more intense. The technicolour stairs lead into an underground cave, with a catwalk like stage running down the centre. This is where dancers riding robots, people dressed as robots, girls in sequin bedazzled bikinis and huge robots parade between lasers and other kinds of chaos. It’s completely wacky, you’ll wonder what on earth you’re watching but it’s one of the most fun things to do in Tokyo at night and will be an experience you won’t forget in a hurry! You pay to enter and see the show, and if you want to eat too (the menu is basic, you can order a bento box or sushi) then you pay extra. One tip - book ahead.

Alice in Wonderland Cafe Tokyo

Fall down the rabbit hole and into Wonderland. There are actually five of these fantasy themed cafes in Tokyo to choose from but instead of a show, the focus is more on the decoration and menu. The walls are adorned with mirrors, you sit in a chair that’s just like the oversized, extravagant ones around the woodland table in the Disney movie and hundreds of teacups hang from the ceiling. In one, larger than life, psychedelic looking mushrooms are splashed across the walls, whilst another takes its inspiration more from the Queen of Heart’s outrageous castle and croquet lawn, with lavish chandeliers dripping from the ceiling and luxurious red armchairs. The waitresses also wear cute, Alice inspired dresses and the menus are focused on other characters from the fantasy tale. You’ll feel like you’re in your own wacky tea party, whichever one you visit. Visiting a Tokyo Alice in Wonderland Cafe is a must for anyone wanting to experience the outrageous themed cafes that the city loves.

 

Maid Cafes

Maid cafes were pretty much the original themed cafe in Tokyo. There’s no show, but it’s all about the experience thanks to the waitresses dressed in cosplay maid costumes and the entertaining menu. The phenomenon exploded about fifteen years ago in the Akihabara area which is known for being the Japan’s centre of otaku culture. In the past, these unique cafes were a haven for people who were obsessed with anime, manga and cosplay culture, what we call otaku, as they were often outcast from mainstream society. The girls are dressed in lolita-esque outfits and treat you like you’re the master or mistress of the house - they even call you ‘sir’ or ‘mistress’. It’s the incarnation of kawaii culture, playing on the stereotype of being as cute as possible. You could say this is where the ‘cuddle cafe’ idea originated, but now maid cafes are more of a tourist attraction. But still check one out while you’re here, they may not be the best cafes in Tokyo but they’re certainly part of the local culture.

Pokemon Cafe Tokyo

The Pokemon Cafe Tokyo is another one which has really perfected the art of the themed cafe. It’s probably the most recognisable of the anime cafes in Tokyo, since even people who aren’t necessarily into anime and manga culture have almost certainly heard of Pokemon. It’s next to the biggest Pokemon store in Japan, located in Nihonbashi Takashimaya. Every dish on the menu is heavily themed, and I don’t just mean rice shaped like Pikachu - there are Pikachu shaped pancakes, omelettes, whole dessert cups with miniature characters inside, dishes arranged with the right colours to look like the characters… The waiters are all dressed as characters from the creation too, and you can also buy limited edition merchandise which you won’t be able to find anywhere else. It might not be what you had in mind when you pictured eating like a local, but you’ll see it’s wildly popular amongst Tokyoites.

Kawaii Monster Cafe

The Kawaii Monster Cafe is certainly one of the wackiest, most out their themed cafes in Tokyo. You’ll also hear it called the Monster Cafe Tokyo, but it’s anything but scary. Kawaii is a word used to describe cuteness, or something that’s adorable or childlike. The Monster Cafe is kind of the epitome of kawaii culture, it explains to you the culture of the Harajuku area which is famous for younger women cosplayers, and is the main core of underground culture in Japan. It merges what scares you with what you find cute, and even for Tokyo it’s got to be the wackiest cafe around. 

Entering the cafe is one of the most bizarre experiences you’re likely to have here - when you go through the doors you’re essentially assaulted by an explosion of unicorns, giant animal heads with luminous eyes and a merry-go-round of banana splits and cupcakes which are all terrifyingly larger than life and look like they’ve been glazed in sugar. There are four areas, so you can choose things like rainbow clouds or an amusement park, and each area has a differently themed menu. To outsiders it looks like some sort of My Little Pony dreamland contained in an ice-cream sundae that’s gone horribly wrong, but that’s kind of the point. And once you’re in shopping paradise Harajuku, it all kind of makes sense anyway, as its essentially an anime cafe and you’re in the most famous anime district in the world after all.

Pet cafes

The Tokyo ‘animal cafe’ has become quite a phenomenon. You’ve probably heard of cat cafes by now, which work kind of like a cuddle cafe only you can cuddle cats not people, but the themes are getting more and more unusual! You can now find hedgehog cafes, owl cafes, snake cafes, a goat cafe and exotic bird cafes. You pay a certain amount to enter which varies depending on the location, but the standard is around 600 yen for 30 minutes, and you have to order something to drink. But once you’re in and you've ordered, you’re free to play with the animals - although I don’t think I’d want to cuddle a snake! Some of the more unusual animals (like snakes, definitely a Tokyo hidden gem) will be put in a glass box on your table, but you can pay extra if you want to hold them. For Japanese people, visiting an animal cafe in Tokyo is a way to relax (for the cuddly pets at least!) In Tokyo it’s difficult for people to have their own pets, as they're expensive, people are very busy and work a lot and often don’t own their own homes, so some people really go to their local cat or hedgehog cafe once as week as a habit.

Nana’s Green Tea Cafe

Instagram cafes are hugely popular in Japan at the moment, it’s a really big trend. The quality of the food is higher than at themed cafes, since the whole point is to take photos of your food. At some of the most popular ‘instagram cafes’ you’ll even have to queue for an hour - you’ll see when you’re in Tokyo how much Japanese people love social networks. Nana’s Cafe in Ueno is one of these cafes, and it’s famous for its matcha themed foods and drinks. All of the decor is green and specifically geared towards social media. Make sure you try their matcha cakes if you visit - when I say it’s green, it’s really green! Matcha is huge here, so to say you’ve eaten like a local you have try it at least once.

 

Subscribe now and thank us later

Get travel tips from our hosts across the
world plus exclusive offers and discounts

Any questions?

If you’re unsure about anything you can
reach us on any of these channels.