Kawaii Monster Cafe
A mystifying must for tourists in the wild and crazy Harajuku.
Your first impression of the Kawaii Monster Café will be a surreal one. If you walk in on a Friday night, you’ll be bombarded with colorful lights, loud music, and a landscape reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland, but with more drugs.
Located in the heart of Harajuku, Tokyo’s fashion district, this extravagant café strives to evoke the bustling and constantly evolving fashion world of this popular downtown hub.
What’s behind it?
The café describes Harajuku as a monster that takes in other elements of popular culture from around the world, mixes them together, and spits them out into something new and unusual.
A notable result of this cultural mixing is the trend of combining disgusting and cute that is quite popular amongst young Japanese people. The business’s very title expresses this contradiction as kawaii means “cute” in Japanese.
This adorable, though slightly off putting, imagery is on the cutting edge of Japanese fashion and is something that you have to experience to really understand.
The resulting bizarre atmosphere permeates every part of the shop. Some of the staff wear crazy outfits like an assemblage of various fur accessories that gives off a cat vibe or a woman with hair in tight colorful braids that stick out from her head. Day and night at the Kawaii Monster Cafe is stark, as the nighttime at the Kawaii Monster Café becomes more adult in theme and presentation.
While the restaurant has four main areas, each with their own design and titles: the Mushroom disco, milk stand, bar experiment and Mel-Tea Room. The center of it all is dominated by a spinning cake merry-go-round upon which a dancer and her furry-cat-mascot-friend will perform burlesque-style at night. Yes, even the kitty is involved.
Surrounding this is a variety of themed booths all of which are painted in a riot of colors and seem to be in the process of melting. The decorations are equally bizarre and range from spiky plants to the heads of farm animals seemingly drinking milk from baby bottles.
The food and drinks, both alcoholic and not, are expensive for a regular meal, but compared to other tourist destinations like the Robot Cafe in Shinjuku — it’s definitely a steal.
The quality of the food is decent, but it’s really the presentation you are paying for. For instance “The Drug Cocktail” comes with two test tubes of brightly colored liquid to mix into your drink and there is a monster shaped cake. Even the French fries come with five different flavored (and of course colored) sauces. The food photos alone are guaranteed to make your Instagram account blow up.
The place is tourist friendly. Every menu has both English and Japanese on it, and the staff, while not fluent in English, are used to foreign customers. Once you finished your meal you can purchase some cute goods like shirts and keychains if you’d like a memento of your time in this trippy dream world.