“Are you ready?” says the lady with the biggest pigtails I’ve ever seen. She pushes on the double doors with both hands and opens them with a flourish. I follow awkwardly behind her, stepping into the restaurant and getting metaphorically slapped in the face by all the Snapchat filters.
“Welcome to Kawaii Monster Café,” she giggles as she hands me over to a pretty cousin of Chucky who has been assigned to take me to my table.
We skirt around a giant merry-go-round made of desserts and unicorns. There are giant bunnies sucking on babies bottles dangling from the ceiling, booths consisting of garish colour combinations, a tinny music blasting over the stereo and mirrors that distort your reflection so you don’t even recognise yourself anymore. To say this place is intense is an understatement.
The Kawaii Monster Café makes sense within the context of Harajuku. It’s a little hard to find (you’ll need to take the escalator to level 4f of the YM square building) but the garish décor and sexy goth costumes are fitting considering this neighbourhood of Tokyo is known for its wacky and offbeat fashion. The name itself refers to the girls – the Kawaii (cute) Monsters – who are more like sexy cartoon characters than any monstrous.
I’d been told the queue during my lunchtime visit would take between 45 minutes to an hour but in the end it takes less than 20 minutes until I’m seated. There’s a 500 yen entry fee (added to your bill at the end of the meal) and you’re required to order at least 1 main meal and a drink per person but to be honest it’s all fairly reasonably priced considering the unique experience you’re in for.
The menu is limited – with a focus on cakes and sodas – but the chicken and waffles I order is surprisingly delicious. All items have an injection of colour and so my order comes with an artist’s palette of sauces – something cheesy, garlicky and spicy in primary colours. Popular options include the Colourful Rainbow Pasta (which looks at lot like Play Doh) priced at 1,300 yen and the Colourful (you see the theme?) Poison Cake priced at 850 yen for a fat slice.
As I’m dining alone I finish quickly and am left wondering where the waitress with distressing contact lenses has disappeared too. Although you are assigned a seat in 1 of 4 areas (the Mushroom Disco, Milk Stand, Bar Experiment and Mel-Tea Room) you are welcome to wander around and explore all corners of the restaurant.
I visited on a Sunday and it was sweet to see how many locals were dining. There were children’s birthday parties, young couples and tourists who had bought the whole family. Although pricey – and additive-filled – for a family with small children, it is a quirky family friendly experience, more so than the other famed themed restaurant in Tokyo, the Robot Restaurant, which is more like a macho cabaret show and needs a beer or two to get through it.
Just as I’m thinking I’ll have to hunt down my bill the merry-go-round kicks into action. I hadn’t realised but the restaurant tries to make sure that each diner gets to experience a ‘show’. There’s a language (and perhaps cultural) barrier so I have no idea what the theme of the show is but I can say it was highly baffling – I mean, amusing – to watch the costumed ladies dance, sing and prance around the big banana.
Someone from the crowd who has dressed for the occasion is pulled up on the spinning stage and she gets stuck into the performance magnificently. At the end of the song guests are invited to take photos with the girls but this is charged extra.
I think I’ve seen enough craziness for one day so I pay my bill and make for the exit. I can honestly say I’ve never had a meal like it.
The Kawaii Monster Cafe has now sadly closed.
You may also like: Tokyo’s best weird and wacky theme cafes