How to snag a table at the craziest cafe in Tokyo’s Harajuku

You may have heard of Tokyo‘s Kawaii Monster Cafe — the restaurant that embodies Japan’s fascination with all things kawaii, which loosely translates to “cute” or “adorable.”

The Fab Five dined there with Japanese superstar Kiko Mizuhara during the latest season of “Queer Eye.” Celebrity sisters Kim and Kourtney Kardashian stopped by in 2018, American TV host Conan O’Brien recently visited to film a travel segment for his talk show, and Hello Kitty just wrapped up a collaboration with the venue.

The cafe’s “Monster Girls” attended Vogue Japan’s 20th anniversary in Milan this past September. Amazingly, Kawaii Monster Cafe has attained this celebrity status in just four years.

Bvlgari CEO Jean-Christophe Babin, Priyanka Chopra and the Kawaii Monster Cafe girls attend Vogue Japan’s 20th Anniversary Party on September 18, 2019 in Milan, Italy.

Daniele Venturelli

What is Kawaii Monster Cafe? Though a popular point of interest for locals and tourists in Japan, it can be difficult to wrap around one’s head.

Part-restaurant and part-psychedelic experience, it’s a sensory overload composed of rainbows, glitter and sweets. Imagine “Alice in Wonderland” meets “Sesame Street” — and all the characters are suffering from sugar highs. There’s a little bit of creepy mixed in there, too, as is evident in the cafe’s cave-like interior and goth waitresses.

Patrons are greeted by a three-tiered cake merry-go-round at the entrance of Kawaii Monster Cafe.

Courtesy of Kawaii Monster Cafe

Located in the bustling Harajuku district — Tokyo’s center of vibrant youth culture and fashion trends — colorful and quirky Kawaii Monster Cafe fits right in. It was designed by Japanese visionary Sebastian Masuda, the creative producer who has worked with Japan’s most colorful popstar Kyary Pamyu Pamyu.

Trippy and touristy, it’s only for those willing to brave Japan’s weird and whimsical side.

One restaurant, two different sides

There are two faces to the restaurant — one by day and the other by night.

Seating area in the Mushroom Disco.

Courtesy of Kawaii Monster Cafe

By day, the venue is family-friendly. Visitors enter through a door resembling the mouth of a googly-eyed monster.

Once inside, there is a choice between four dining areas. Mushroom Disco is where the “Alice in Wonderland” vibe comes to the forefront, with booth seating beneath gigantic, multicolored fungi. The Milk Stand is saccharine, with adorable decorations featuring unicorns, bunnies and baby bottles. An area called the Mel-Tea Room is decked out in pastel frosting and massive macaroons.

The fourth room is only open at night and is not child-friendly. Called Bar Experiment, guests sip cocktails after dark in a dimly-lit room designed to resemble the ocean floor.

Dinner and a show

Live performances occur multiple times a day. While cute family-friendly shows happen hourly during the afternoon, there is usually a single, spectacular event at night. Evening performances are meant to offer an alternative to the many bars and clubs in the area by providing something that mimics the atmosphere and excitement of a Broadway show.

The Mel-Tea Room, one of four dining areas at Tokyo’s Kawaii Monster Cafe.

Courtesy of Kawaii Monster Cafe

Briton Andrea Moon, who now lives in Osaka, visited the cafe with her family and recommends it for anyone “searching for a unique visual feast.”

“It was nuts but so fun! We loved wandering around the different themed areas — very Instagrammable,” she said. “We were there in time to catch a show and my kid sister went up on the revolving stage to dance with the Harajuku ladies and a big fluffy monster mascot.”

Most weeknights have a theme, like Burlesque Thursdays — do keep the kids at home.

Food, Play-doh or art?

Kawaii Monster Cafe is, admittedly, more about appearances than the culinary arts. While most accounts report that the food is only so-so, what it lacks in taste, it makes up for in style.

The food matches the decor at Kawaii Monster Cafe.

Courtesy of Kawaii Monster Cafe

The Colorful Poison Cake is a rainbow swirl of sweetness. And the Colorful Rainbow Pasta is presented on a plate shaped like an easel and looks more like Play-doh than spaghetti (yes, it’s edible). The multicolored meals are truly works of art.

The waitstaff goes all in as well, acting as “visual icons” who represent the cafe wearing costumes and hairstyles that make Harajuku’s Lolita girls look tame.

Lip-shaped designs adorn the walls of the Mushroom Disco at Kawaii Monster Cafe.

Tomohiro Ohsumi | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Tips:

  • Kawaii Monster Cafe has an entrance fee (approximately $5); once inside, there is a one meal or one drink minimum purchase per person.
  • Guests are limited to spending an hour and a half in the restaurant because there is usually a wait to get seats for those without a reservation.
  • There are English menus, but the staff may not necessarily speak English.
  • The cafe has separate daytime and evening menus.
  • Evening shows can be viewed on the monthly event calendar.

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