The Kawaii Monster Cafe Harajuku can only be a Japanese creation. The word “kawaii” is Japanese for cute, and the Japanese love their cutesy things. You could armchair psychoanalyse it as an obsession with childhood.  Like so many people the world over, the best times in your life was probably when you were a kid. Unlike the rest of the world, the Japanese fetishise that childhood as a society. Along with the cutesy things that are family-appropriate, you have an undercurrent of Lolita fantasies in Japan which I won’t be discussing. In our two weeks in Japan, we saw lots of cutesy things but Tokyo took kawaii places to a whole other level.

floating red lips at the Monster Cafe Harajuku

Why You Need To Visit The Monster Cafe Harajuku (+ 20 More Ways To Encounter Tokyo Kawaii Life)

Monster Cafe Harajuku – a Kawaii Restaurant

This monster cafe in Japan is all about cute monsters.  You can decide for yourself if giant unicorns drinking from a baby bottles qualify as cute monsters or the stuff of nightmares after a strong MDMA pill. This sort of kawaii is sub-genre known as guru-kawaii – so ugly it’s cute.

Location in Cute Harajuku

The Monster Cafe Harajuku is located right near the rest of cute Harujuku. The better to reel in those kawaii seeking customers no doubt.

This kawaii restaurant is on the fourth floor of the YM square building on the main drag that Takeshita Street has an entrance/exit. It is across the street from the Guzman y Gomez Mexican diner which has much more prominent signage on the street. (Address:  4-31-10 Jingumae | 4F, YM Square Bldg, Shibuya 150-0001, Tokyo and telephone: +81 3-5413-6142),

Mr Chopsticks the kawaii monster cafe mascot

Why You Need To Visit The Monster Cafe Harajuku (+ 20 More Ways To Encounter Tokyo Kawaii Life)

Cute Monsters Decor

The interior of the cafe is psychedelic – no two ways about it.  The conceit is that you are entering through red double doors into the inside of a chopsticks monster which is a swirl of color and garishness. It’s supposed to represent Tokyo which swallows up trends and creates its own variations on them.

As you are escorted by a pretty and impossibly blasé Monster Girl, you will pass the Sweets Merry Go Round into one of four sections – Mushroom Disco, Milk Stand, Bar Experiment and Mel-Tea Room.

Mushroom Disco

We were seated in this section. It’s got giant colorful mushrooms (which also operate as booth seating) with space plants flying overhead.

There are tables lining the back of the restaurant behind the colorful mushrooms with giant flying lips overhead. Just suspend your disbelief. It’s easier I tell you.

Milk Stand

This is the nursery section of the cute monsters. The baby unicorns, sheep and rabbits are fed by giant baby bottles suspended from the ceiling. There is booth seating here also.

A bottle fed baby unicorn with glowing eyes at the Kawaii Monster cafe in Harajuku

A bottle fed baby unicorn with glowing eyes at the Kawaii Monster cafe in Harajuku

Bar Experiment

Sorry, this area seemed the most boring. It’s a bar area meant to be under the sea with giant jellyfish. Or a ripoff of one of those intergalactic bars that Han Solo would find himself in trouble.

The Melt-Tea Room

The Melt-Tea room is decorated with melting sweets and ice cream. It’s also got a stage for the  night-time cabaret. It reminded me the most of Alice in Wonderland which is not surprising because the same company owns the Alice in Wonderland Cafes in Tokyo.

Melted ice cream cone on the ceiling of the Kawaii Monster Cafe Harajuku

Melted ice cream cone on the ceiling of the Kawaii Monster Cafe Harajuku

The Japanese love Alice in Wonderland which is rife for more armchair psychoanalysis thanks to its author’s unhealthy interest in little girls. Things that make you go hmm.

Monster Girls

You are seated at your table or booth by a cute monster girl. Your server will also be a cute monster girl. Technically though I think the monster girls are only the servers who have crazier outfits than the waitresses. They are 5 monster girls – Baby, Dolly, Candy, Nasty, and Crazy (sort of like the Japanese alter ego of the Spice Girls).

One of the Monster Girls from the Kawaii Monster Cafe Harajuku

One of the Monster Girls from the Kawaii Monster Cafe Harajuku

I actually didn’t see any men working at this monster cafe in Japan. Judging from my husband and son’s reactions possibly the cute monster overload is too much for the male mind.

The Monster Girls put on a show on the Sweets Merry Go Round for visitors which is family-friendly. This show is not to be confused with the less family-friendly cabaret shows at the Monster Cafe Harajuku at night.

Kawaii Monster Cafe Menu

The best thing about the Kawaii Monster Cafe menu? It serves beer.

The lunchtime menu when we were there had kiddy crowd pleasers like rainbow pasta, popcorn shrimp, french fries and ice cream sundaes. My children thought the food was good and were pretty happy with the choices.

Rainbow pasta at the Kawaii Monster Cafe Harajuku

Rainbow pasta at the Kawaii Monster Cafe Harajuku

My husband the foodie was decidedly unimpressed. I had to remind him that you don’t go to a theme cafe anywhere in the world for the food.

The french fries and neon color dips at the Kawaii Monster Cafe Harajuku

The french fries and neon color dips at the Kawaii Monster Cafe Harajuku range from ketchup to wasabi mayonnaise

Despite the technicolors, this kawaii restaurant claims to have no artificial ingredients in its food.

Monster dip flavours at the Kawaii Monster cafe Harajuku

Monster dip flavours at the Kawaii Monster cafe Harajuku

The dinnertime menu shown online is decidedly different with more adult choices for both food and drink. But you might also have to deal with rubber-clad playboy bunnies.

Kawaii Monster Cafe Reservations

We did not make reservations when we went for a late lunch on a Friday.  The wait was only a few minutes. We got lucky because it is recommended you make reservations.

You can also get reservations for a guided tour of cute Harajuku food with includes this monster cafe Harajuku.

Opening Times

There is a cover charge of 500 Yen. You are seated in 90 minute slots for lunch and for dinner. Lunch is from 11:30 to 4:30 pm. Dinner is from 6:30 to 10:30 pm.

An Honest Opinion of the Monster Cafe Harajuku

The Monster Cafe Harajuku is an intense experience. This theme cafe goes all in (heads, tails and unicorn horns) for the full neon kawaii experience. My 12 year old daughter LOVED it.  If she had been there with her friends, I would never have gotten them out of the bathroom with all the selfies they would be taking.

The boys in my family would classify this sort of kawaii restaurant as another sub-genre of kawaii: Gero kawaii – so stinking cute you want to puke.

I thought it was really well done. Totally psychedelic, totally cute Harajuku and a fascinating glimpse into what passes for Tokyo kawaii cool.

20 More Things For A Tokyo Kawaii Life

Kawaii Restaurants

So many kawaii restaurants, so little time. You may hear about the Robot Restaurant but the cabaret show is definitely geared for adults. Here are some kid -friendly options:

Max Brenner Chocolate Pizza Bar

What can be cuter than sweet toppings on a pizza-wedge shaped base? It’s a sugar-high that is incredibly popular with kids. After all it combines both pizza and sugar, two things dear to a kid’s heart.

Alice in Wonderland Cafes

There are several Alice in Wonderland cafes run by the same people who run the Kawaii Monster Cafe. Each is slightly different. For example, there is Alice in A Labyrinth in Ginza, Alice in A Magical Land in Shinjuku and Alice in a Castle in Ikebukuro. It’s the Alice gift that gives on giving. You are sure to find one somewhere near you in Tokyo.

 

Animal Cafes

During our two week trip, we went to 8 different animal cafes. By far, my favourite animal cafe was a cat cafe at the JR Harajuku train stop side of Takeshita Street in Harajuku. I was expecting it to be a total tourist trap because my daughter was begging us to go. She saw the poster of a cat in a top hat and had to see it for herself.

Cat Cafe Mocha had 20+ cats who were absolutely adorable. The cafe covered an entire floor of a building (which was bigger than hotel rooms in Tokyo). It was immaculately presented and not smelly at all. The theme was that you were stepping into an Alice in Wonderland fantasy of cats. They had two separate rooms (the White Queen’s Room and the Red Queen’s Room) separated by a long hallway filled with books which was supposed to be a library.

As for my daughter? She was miffed that not one of the cats was wearing a top hat and felt it was false advertising.

A kitty in a bowl at the Cat Cafe on Takeshita Street

A kitty in a bowl at the Mocha Cat Cafe on Takeshita Street

Fake Food

The Japanese take fake food to whole new artistic levels. And, it does keep Japanese artisans in work. After all, back in the day, the Japanese did not consider Hokusai’s The Wave (one of the most famous prints in the world) “real” art.

There is a fake food class you can take near Asakusa but you need to either be fluent in Japanese or have a translator with you. We comforted ourself with checking out the adorable creations.

replica food of carrots being cute

replica plastic food of carrots being cute

Sweet Treats

There are so many different cutesy Japanese sweets that I can run through only a few here.

Candy and Candy Floss

Japanese candies are adorable and come in beautiful packaging. Check out this pretty candy floss! Of course, my kids were begging to eat this candy floss which was about the size of their head.

Tricolor candy floss available on Takeshita Street in Harajuku

Tricolor candy floss available on Takeshita Street in Harajuku

Wagashi (Japanese Sweets)

Japanese wagashi are made from rice flour and bean paste. They are made in charming shapes and found at fancy department stores.

Tokyo Banana

Tokyo Banana sweets are like the Twinkies of yore.  They are a sponge yellow cake with a yogurt-flavored banana cream filling on the inside. How can a banana-shaped panda cake not be cute?? We found Tokyo Banana stands in the JR stations.

Tokyo banana teams up with pandas

Tokyo banana teams up with pandas because you really can’t have enough cute.

Donuts

First twinkies, and then donuts. The Japanese have made even donuts cute. Here’s a list of 5 cutesy donut stores in Tokyo.

Animals

What can be cuter than animals? Animals personified with human traits, of course.

Dogs in bags/strollers

You will not believe the number of dogs we saw in handbags and in baby carriages. Of course, these dogs were young and healthy. They looked spiffy with bandannas and/or full-on outfits which made me think it wasn’t just for the Harajuku Halloween Parade like we had previously witnessed. Amusingly, if it were a couple out for a stroll with their fur baby, it was the man pushing the stroller like it was perfectly normal.

Racoon Dogs

The racoon dog (otanuki) is a type of Japanese goblin who likes to eat and drink so he’s usually found outside of restaurants. He is usually pictured carrying a bottle of sake in one hand and a promissory note in the other. What he’s sitting on? No, not a stool. They are his giant ballsack. There is even a nursery rhyme for young Japanese kids about the racoon dog’s magical balls.

Racoon dogs

Racoon dogs are scary cute – they like to eat and drink and are often found outside restaurants.

Souvenirs

You can definitely find your share of cutesy kawaii things when you are souvenir shopping. In fact, you may wind up souvenir shopping just because you have to buy whatever it is you have seen and need a reason to buy it.

Small Japanese “Stuff”

Japanese-themed keychains, erasers etc are all too adorable. The latest trend among kids seems to be Japanese soft plushies – they are like stress relievers but softer.

Tip – Pay a visit to the Daiso 100 yen store for cute souvenirs – keychains, erasers, pens, magnets, etc. There is a Daiso store on Takeshita Street in Harajuku.

What did my kawaii-crazy kids buy?

a selection of Tokyo kawaii souvenirs

A selection of Tokyo kawaii souvenirs

Clockwise from Top: A bullet train pen that also lights up; a latte-shaped squishy plushy; a pug-shaped squishy plushy; cat amulets to bring good luck in school; candy shaped like kimono-clad girls; a sushi magnet; candy shaped like pandas; a flower hair tie; erasers shaped like traditional Japanese dolls; a Tokyo Banana; a bullet train charm; more erasers shaped like traditional Japanese candy.

Cats Anything

The Japanese seem to love anything kitty related. We saw cat shaped hats, purses, hair accessories etc. There is also the Maneki-Neko statutes everywhere – they are cats with their paws raised beckoning you inside an establishment.

kitty hair clips

Kitty hair clips for sale at a boutique store

Japanese amulets

You can get Japanese amulets (omamori) from shrines that you visit. My kids got two omamori in the shape of cats that was supposed to help them with school.  They have dutifully attached the amulets to their book bags – the jury is still out on if they work!

Photo Opportunities

Look around and you will find so many photo opportunities worthy of the ‘Gram.

Mascots

The Japanese love their mascots. It seems everywhere (and even governmental departments) have mascots. Walking around Tokyo, we randomly met two mascots – furry creatures with people inside them. I have no idea what or who they represent other than they were plush, and cute.

This is the Kappa mascot for Kappabashi, the restaurant trade district in Tokyo. It’s some sort of water sprite who has a shell on its back. Kappas are reputed to be the inspiration for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

The Kappa is the mascot of Kappaboshi neighbourhood.

The Kappa is the mascot of Kappaboshi neighbourhood.

Purikura Photo Booths

You can find Purikura Photo Booths on Takeshita Street and elsewhere in Tokyo. They are basically photo booths with filters similar to Snapchat. I don’t understand the obsession with filters for kids but I’m not the target demographic! They tend to give you the big eyes and red lips that are favoured by Japanese anime characters. Is it me or do the big blank-eyed expression make girls look Stepford Wife-ish?

 

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Cardboard Cut Outs

You will find cardboard cutouts at pretty much every sightseeing place in Tokyo (as well as elsewhere). This cardboard cut out was on the street and you can pretend you are an old-school Japanese storyteller.

One of the cardboard cutouts in Tokyo that you can pose with.

One of the cardboard cutouts in Tokyo that you can pose with.

Stores

Tokyo has great shopping! It’s one of the reasons my kids and I love it.

Kiddyland

Kiddyland is a toy store on Ometesando which is the high-end shopping district in Tokyo. It is 5 floors of kiddy heaven. Every Japanese character you could possibly want (or remember) can be found at Kiddyland. I even saw Monchichi a Japanese plushy character from my childhood.

A mural in the kiddyland store

A mural in the kiddyland store just is too adorable.

Hello Kitty Stores

Hello Kitty is one of the most popular Japanese characters in the world. Can you believe she’s been around since 1974?? She’s British and lives with her family in London.

There are several Hello Kitty stores including a stand-alone store in Tokyo SkyTree and a concession at Kiddyland. In Harajuku, you can find Hello Kitty stuff at the Cute Cube store (address:  CUTE CUBE HARAJUKU 1F, 1-7-1 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku).

Rilakkuma Stores

Rilakkuma is a brown bear cub character that is incredibly popular with kids. There are Rilakkuma character stores all over Japan and 5 in Tokyo, including a concession at Kiddyland an a stand-alone store in Tokyo Station and Tokyo SkyTree.

rilakkuma head pillow

My son tries on the rilakkuma head pillow.

Theme Park

The absolute epitome of a kawaii place has to be an indoor theme park devoted to Hello Kitty. Sanrio Puroland is one of Japan’s favourite destinations and attracts over 1.5 million visitors a year. There are the usual opportunities for a theme park – gift shops, meet and greet characters and rides.  Even though kawaii is not limited to girls in Japan, my son was having none of it. He absolutely refused his sister’s begging to go to Sanrio Puroland.

Hello Kitty mural

Hello Kitty is as popular as ever worldwide.

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Wander Mum