Working at the Robot Restaurant in Tokyo

After I finished my exchange and had decided to stay and live in Tokyo, I was in some desperate need for cash. I was applying for any and every teaching job I could get. But with my degree being delayed, no one would hire.

My next option was part time work. This was where I ended up being interviewed in Japanese for the position as a waiter in the famous Robot Restaurant. Six months in Japan had paid off; I brushed off the elementary interview with ease and got the job. I started the next day, so I rushed off to Uniqlo to buy my uniform.

One thing I noticed about jobs in Japan; they sort of just throw you in there and expect you to work it out. At Robot Restaurant I had no one show me around and no training. Well, they gave me a “training period” where I earned less, if that counts. But I wasn’t really shown what to do.

Anyway, who cares. The work itself was really fun. For those you don’t know, it’s more of a “show” than “restaurant.” Lights everywhere. Like Vegas. In fact, that became the most overused joke among visitors. “Oh wow this place is great!! So many lights it’s like Vegas! HAHAHAHAHA.” Great joke, very original. Too bad the lights pointed in my eyes while I was trying to work. Also the hundred million trillion lights made summer feel an extra 10 degrees hotter (Celsius).

Part of my costume when I had to enter the show floor

Robot Restaurant is in the middle of Shinjuku’s Kabukichō, the red light district. Shinjuku is generally considered a dirty part of Tokyo, full of neon lights and suspicious stores, but the amount of dodgy dealings I saw in Kabukichō was beyond belief. The streets of the Kabukichō are narrow, and there are hundreds of pedestrians on the road everywhere selling things and harassing girls to enter their bar. Literally stalking them down the street and blocking their way. I was disgusted at first, but it’s so common that I soon became desensitised to it.

Every night a black BMW would gently stroll past the front of the restaurant and people would be quick to move out of the way, which was rare. I quickly learnt that this was a car owned by a Yakuza. Nobody dared get a scratch on that vehicle. Now that I think about it, all the guys promoting the bars and stalking girls probably worked for that Yakuza.

The robots aren’t real, unfortunately, just men in costumes

Working behind the bar was a different scene. It was almost purely foreigners that came to the red light district just for the show. You always got the most enthusiastic tourists that drank heavily, making for good conversations. What’s more, one of the other bartenders I worked with was an “ex” skinhead, so things were always interesting. Let’s just say he had some noteworthy comments about some of the people we saw.

Speaking of people we saw, famous celebrities would come in just about every week. My very first shift I had a conversation with Tara Reid about where to drink after the show. She probably had already drunk enough before the show, but I love to be helpful. The manager at Robot Restaurant “collected” these celebrities by taking pictures of them and displaying so all customers could see the show was worth going to – they just had to pay a ridiculous price of $US70 plus food and drink costs.

Another time a saw a man walking his dog late at night. It walked over to the restaurant entrance and casually sat on one of the photo chairs. Suddenly, all the pedestrians walking past stopped and began taking pictures of the dog. The squeals of “kawaii” went on for a long time as the poor owner was forced to stand their while his dog got his 15 minutes of fame. It had attracted maybe thirty people by the time it ended, all patiently queuing for their turn to take a picture of the dog marvel.

This dog definitely has more followers on Instagram than I do

Probably the best part about working here was the other waiters. Robot Restaurant being in the red light district meant all the people applying for jobs here were eccentric, to say the least. Take the ex-skinhead for example. But no matter our differences in interests, we all got along well and I could always have a laugh. Not to mention the entertaining competitions of getting the most tips each week. The fact that tipping is not a custom in Japan and the manager would fire us if he found out just added to the fun.

If you’re on exchange or just plain need a part time job in Tokyo, Robot restaurant pays a lot better than most places. The Kabukichō can also be an interesting place to hang around if you want to witness some crazy antics, just be careful!

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