Andrew Zimmern visits Tokyo's bizarre themed cafés

Andrew Zimmern visits Tokyo's bizarre themed cafés

La Carmina takes the Travel Channel's Andrew Zimmern to Tokyo’s wildest theme restaurants
Andrew Zimmern

When the producers of Andrew Zimmern’s travel show, Bizarre World, invited me to co-host an episode about Tokyo theme cafés, it took me all of three milliseconds to say yes.

Why me? Had they read my book, "Crazy Wacky Theme Restaurants: Tokyo"? Or seen the cross-dressing shenanigans on my blog? Host Andrew Zimmern flatters me by saying, “It was a no-brainer. You have beauty, grace, intelligence and can speak with authority on many subjects.” You can guess that I liked the bald food guru the minute we met.

With TV crew in tow, Zimmern was introduced to three Tokyo cafés that throw customers into an over-the-top food fantasy.

Haunted mental hospital restaurant

Andrew ZimmernChowing down on what looks like bloody brains.

Alcatraz E.R. is not a restaurant for the faint-hearted. The waitress -- dressed as a skimpy nurse -- slapped handcuffs on Zimmern and locked him in a cell with my Goth comrades. We bravely sampled pig tripe, fruit cocktails mixed with dildos and Russian Roulette takoyaki. When a slushy red drink arrived in a mannequin’s decapitated head, he used a syringe to pump shots into our mouths. 

Zimmern loved the kitschy B-horror atmosphere and was surprised by the broad mix of customers. “Quality of the food was better that I would have thought it would be. And eating dinner with a giant pink pussycat was about as fun as life gets,” he said. 

Alcatraz E.R.
Harvest Bldg 2F, 2-13-5 Dogenzaka, Shibuya

Bunny Shinto maid café

Andrew ZimmernA maid café run by Shinto temple bunnies.

The following day, we visited an Akihabara café where the waitresses cosplay as Shinto temple maidens with bunny ears. (Don’t ask why.) We skipped the snacks in favor of the 'rabbit hole' attraction. Our bunny told us to follow three instructions: don’t use your cell phone, speak softly, and keep moving forward. She took us to the basement and left us in pitch darkness. And what happened next was as chilling as the trapped-in-a-coffin scene from "Kill Bill". You’ll have to wait until the episode airs to find out!

Akiba Usagi Jinja
Shuman Bldg B1, Soto-Kanda 4-6-1, Chiyoda

A private school boys café

Andrew ZimmernAndrew Zimmern and friends outside the Harajuku schoolboy café.

Edelstein (click here for CNNGo's review) is a favorite with the ladies: the café resembles Harry Potter’s boarding school, and the waiters pretend to be awkward schoolboys. My friends joined us, dressed like students from a horror high school. Zimmern and I drank rose tea, tasted dainty buttercream cakes and sighed over the dreamy waiters.

Café Edelstein
Champs-Élysées Bldg 2F, 4-28-14 Jingumae, Harajuku

Thumbs up to bizarre theme restaurants

The Bizarre Foods star has visited Tokyo several times, but this was his first opportunity to explore theme restaurants. He gave them the thumbs up and said, “The idea that food should be fun and not a stuffy experience has always been my preference. In Japan, these restaurants achieve that without diluting their content (food) the way that American ‘eater-tainment’ joints do.”

The Tokyo episode of Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre World airs this May on the Travel Channel and in 75 countries. La Carmina photographed and described dozens of Japanese theme restaurants in her book, "Crazy Wacky Theme Restaurants".

La Carmina writes about Harajuku pop culture and all things spooky-cute. She is the author of three books about Japanese pop culture and food, including "Cute Yummy Time" and "Crazy Wacky Theme Restaurants: Tokyo" -- for which she did all the photos and illustrations. Both books were released in October, accompanied by a U.S. major city book tour.

For more, please visit her website.

Read more about La Carmina
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