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Feb 23, 2012 07:38 PM

Zauo/ other "weird" restaurants

Hello fellow foodies! I'm doing my first Japan visit in a couple weeks and came across a list of weirdest restaurants of the world, a lot of which are in Asia.

I was wondering if any has been to any of these and if they're worthwhile or just gimmicky. I will be in Kyoto, Tokyo, Osaka and possibly Nara/Kobe. I'm a travel writer so looking for any interesting/memorable experiences.

Zauo looked interesting where you catch your fish for instance, but I'm debating if the food's actually good or if it's just entertaining for the kids

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  1. I have heard of a "monk bar" in Yotsuya 3-chome, monk don't drink alcohol, and they just serve it, with sometimes prayers, well, as as priest ! Strange thing ! If you are interested in that weird thing, here below the link :

    1. That first link has been posted here before (but perhaps immediately removed by the mods). The nicest thing I can think to say about it is that it's highly inaccurate. For example in the cat cafes, no you don't get to choose a cat to have dinner with - you're just in a room full of cats (and no dinner is served).

      The fish-catching place just sounds kind of gimmicky.

      26 Replies
      1. re: Robb S

        Not a good example. The first cat cafe "Garden Cat" (猫花園) was opened not in Japan, but in Taiwan in 1998. It is apparently still operational, and is first on the list. According to cafe's website there are dedicated chairs with cat's names, and site is proposing them as "dinner partners". Many Japanese cat cafes are calling their cats - staff, with staff pictures, and bios been advertised on their web sites. So, there is little offense in the expression that some cat cafes let you choose the cat to be your dinner companion. The food is also served in some Japanese cat cafes, although not often, and there is even one "Cat Ristorante" :). The list is a product of years of a passionate research. Corrections are very welcomed.

        1. re: Unusual Restaurants

          There used to be a hemp restaurant in Shimo-kitazawa. I don't know if it is still there. If you do a search in Japanese, there are sites dedicated to this sort of thing. I posted one a few years ago. There are just tons of speciality restaurants in Japan- horsemeat, whale, beef tongue, places that put "xyz" into every dish, etc. And there are "catch your own fish or squid from a tank or pond" places around as well.

          1. re: Silverjay

            The most famous specialized horse (Suganoya) and whale (Kujira-ya) meat restaurants are on the list.
            Can't find squid fishing restaurant... does anybody know the name, location, link or reliable lead?

            1. re: Unusual Restaurants

              They are examples of well-known places of which there are many. Here's a nationwide list of about 100 whale places- There are more for horsemeat....You can catch and get your squid hacked up for sashimi at many of the tourist fish market restaurants around the country. Hakodate, I think in Numazu as well. Probably others.

              1. re: Silverjay

                Fish market "squid catching" is not a restaurant fishing like Zauro. You just getting squid from the tank, like here in Hakodate You can "catch" this way any sea product in any restaurant with the fish tank.

                1. re: Unusual Restaurants

                  The one I went to, you catch the squid with a pole and line and then they hack it up and serve it to you right there as sashimi. They also serve cold beer and have other items. I'm sure it's just as thrilling as sitting across from a cat. As noted, cat cafes, maid kissa, etc. aren't dining destinations.

                  1. re: Silverjay

                    photo of this squid pole fishing -
                    may be worth to be included, just for completeness, but it is a big stretch.. :)

            2. re: Silverjay

              Sadly, Aso, the hemp-themed restaurant in Shimo-Kita, has closed down. Even more sadly so did the excellent rock-music-and-microbrew-beer-themed bar in the same building. Some story concerning the landlord, I gleaned.

                1. re: Silverjay


                  Wait, what were we talking about?

                2. re: Robb S

                  Robb, are you referring to Beer Rock in your post above? I really liked that place and I always enjoyed talking with the owner. Does anyone know if he opened up a new bar elsewhere?

                  1. re: ruprecht25

                    Yes, Beer Rock it was. I talked to the Ushitora guys about it and they didn't know about a new venue, although they seemed to know a lot about the closing.

              1. re: Unusual Restaurants

                Also, you're about 20 years too late and missed the "no-pan shabu/ yakiniku" era. But I've heard rumors that there are still some around.

                1. re: Silverjay

                  Please tell me that 'no-pan' refers to a lack of pants. I need a new romantic dining option.

                  1. re: Silverjay

                    Was that real?! I've spent a lot of time looking for a place like that online and could never find anything. Did they exist during the Bubble? (Which I hesitate to point out was more like 30 years ago...)

                    1. re: jem589

                      Yes, there was a Zaimu-sho scandel in the 90's where n.p.s.s. were in the news. They were like invitation only....There are still all kinds of wacked out places- women in various disrobe, crawling on the floor, wearing race girl outfits, etc. I have a good friend who works for one of the big four zaibatsu in sales. Tells me all kinds of (sordid) stories... There's a more mainstream chain of Hokkadio-themed izakaya called Hanako that has a kind of "Hooters" approach to hospitality. Here is their recruitment page- .

                      1. re: Silverjay

                        Bummed that I never penetrated that sphere of corporate life. Work dinners were usually quite bad.

                  2. re: Unusual Restaurants

                    I applaud your decision to follow your passion, so please take this comment in the spirit of answering your request for corrections. Cat cafes, at least here in Japan, are not restaurants where you can have dinner - most serve only coffee, although one or two might have minimal sandwiches or light snacks. Certainly none of them let you "choose a cat to be your dinner companion" - the idea is to go and hang out for an hour and pet a few cats and dangle catnip toys in front of them while you have a cup of coffee.

                    Other listings among your Tokyo selections seem very out of place. For example Les Creations de Narisawa, Ryugin and Tapas Molecular Bar are all world-class restaurants with innovative menus - but what do they have in common with places where the "waitresses are men in drag"? And why do they in particular qualify for a place among the "most unusual restaurants in the world" while their many similar competitors don't? I think you may be casting too wide a net.

                    Also please note that Ogori Cafe, where you pay for the drink of the person after you, has been closed for quite awhile - they were only open for a few months as a sort of performance art experiment.

                    Good luck with your project - it's certainly sparked some conversations!

                    1. re: Robb S

                      - No, there are few food serving cat cafes, eg Cat Ristorante, just browse their sites.
                      - You may argue for long with semantics of any similar site, review or article..
                      - The world's most unusual restaurants are divided into seven categories, so you may find the most innovative avant-garde restaurants in the world, and some weird small cafes with the most outrageous amusing gimmicks.
                      Where practical, all restaurants of the particular type are listed (dining trains, restauratnts in the planes, etc). Any such listing is subjective, and suggestions are welcomed.

                      1. re: Unusual Restaurants

                        I see, so you've found one cat cafe in Chiba that possibly serves dinner, and with that you justify your descriptions of every cat cafe in Japan as a place to "choose a cat companion to have dinner with"? Okay, noted.

                        >you may find the most innovative avant-garde restaurants in the world, and some weird small cafes with the most outrageous amusing gimmicks.

                        Yes, that was precisely my point - maybe you're casting too wide a net. In practical terms, people interested in "the best restaurants in the world" are generally a different audience from people who want to experience weird novelties. Seeing them all crammed together is jarring.

                          1. re: Unusual Restaurants

                            Oh, well done, you've improved your site's credibility right there.

                          2. re: Robb S

                            And of course when dining with a cat, in addition to self-licking in inappropriate places and the occasional hairball being projectile-vomited across the table. you may run into awkward situations such as this:


                          3. re: Unusual Restaurants

                            I don't see the choo-choo train curry restaurant in Yutenji on the list. Or was it Gakugeidaigaku.

                            1. re: kamiosaki

                              I want to go!

                              (I still miss the Ebisu beer train.)