Reading Time: 8 minutes
“truly, it was terrifying”
It was midday and the fact I was feeling heavily sluggish from both the chaos of thousands of busybodies filling the streets and the feverous moist heat of Japan, I decided then would have been as good a time as any to find a place to eat, of course, preferably in the shade. After squeezing my shapeshifting body through the mass throng which seemed to gather at every step I took, my usual lack of patience for inconsideration began to, hypocritically, fuel a lack of consideration for others.
After a while of urgently trying to not drown under the crowd, I was, to my surprise, abruptly stopped by what seemed to be a young girl dressed as a type of maid, not an erotic one, rather, a fairytale type maid, one thrilly and whose makeup created a false sense of bashfulness. She stopped me in my warpath of shoulder barging ‘selfie-takers’ and created a bubble around us with her complete blissfulness to the surrounding we both endured in. She began wafting me with an elegant hand-carved fan before encouraging me to follow her, but not before saying so few words, with, “Up… food. No people” Maybe that should have been my first concern. This is a true story about the creepiest restaurant in Japan.
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Unsure of her offer, I turned my head in an attempt to find an alternative but to no avail. Anything had to be better than continuing in the strong current of tourism, so I looked back at her and into her strange and unnatural colourful eyes, vacillating, and said, “…sure“, like a charmed, defeated sailor following a mermaid.
On hearing my consent, she changed her demeanour into a placid and overtly eager, what I can only refer to as, ‘slave’. She took me by the limp and unwilling wrist and skipped us both towards a shadowy gap between two towering buildings where I lowered my head from the overhead cables, “okay” she said, pressing a sticker covered panel to what I gathered was the button to an elevator. The elevator was small and played no part in enticing private conversation between us, instead, we stood in silence with the girl pushing down her ostentatiously decadent and puffy dress to offer space, and me, resting my side against the elevator utterly unknowing as to what was about to happen.
With a ding, the elevator doors opened and the girl instantaneously resumed character as if she herself had just reconnected to the wifi, she welcomed me warmly with her great huge colourful eyes and directed me out and into her establishment. Like a cat, I took a step, nervously, whilst the rest of my body remained inside, of course, I wasn’t utterly clueless, I knew it would be a themed establishment of sorts, but one in which I could eat in nonetheless; though this place, this was identical to a dark T.V panel show and by dark, I don’t mean ‘lighting’, it was as if I stepped through the looking glass.
I sat at a table with only one thing on my mind, ” leave, quick “
There were four rows of curved desks with each one behind a little higher than the one before. At these desks were four men, one at each level like a visual hierarchy of peculiarity, each one was middle-aged and each one stranger than the next, all of whom sat hiding behind a fringe that fell over their faces. Situated at the front was a type of stage washed in pink paint and was lit up with soft glowing pink fairy lights dangling from pins and tack on the wall behind. On the stage, there was an assembly of maids, all of which welcomed me with loud screeching like the ones of sirens.
Feeling under pressure from such a greeting, my immediate reaction of “get out of here” was hugely overshadowed and I foolishly and regrettably followed the maid deeper into the web, though, instead headed for a table in the back corner to retreat from partaking in any performance that I had convinced myself they’d force me to participate in.
I sat at a table with only one thing on my mind, “leave, quick“, but before I could entertain the thought, a burst of maids rushed into my space and crouched all around me, they were insistent I stayed; it was as if they had been watching me, as if they had been reading my very thoughts, or at least, my ‘resistant’ body language. One maid, who stood small at the back, stared through the group and directly at me, she was holding an unburning candle, waiting for the others to disperse before kneeling down beside my table and offering it to me.
“This is our magic, please… you say the magic spell with me“.
“No, no, it’s not necessary, honestly, just came to eat.”
Reluctantly, I insisted it wasn’t necessary to cast any such spells, but it didn’t work and instead, she became annoyed which inadvertently drew the attention of the four men sat across from me who began staring through their fringes that they parted with their fingers. It was as if they were watching me but without thought, with a completely lifeless expression, “as if they’d been drugged“, I thought to myself, genuinely convincing myself that this indeed was a mermaids lair and I too had been innocently sung to shipwreck.
I succumbed to shift the attention away from me, I murmured along with the words to her scripted spell with great embarrassment and confusion and on doing so, she took the candle in one hand and blew on it, and as she did, she flicked a switch with the other and an LED flame appeared. This very moment in time and space was one that she cherished and solemnly did believe was sincere magic, or at least wanted me to believe it was, this seemed palpably through her seriousness and an unwavering stare that saw no blink. The ‘candle’ offered no light to what was a dim atmosphere, one that shared the space with a soft, erotic pink glow that trailed around the room.
I ordered a plate of what was labelled, ‘meat’ and sat waiting whilst trying to avoid the gaze of the pecking order of peculiarity, and as I did, another unsuspecting poor soul had been lured in. We looked at one another with a sense of understanding and shame, unfortunately for him, he was about to feel a little more embarrassed as he too cast the ‘magical spell’.
Suddenly, the lights dimmed further, casting the room into a darkness and a sense of vulnerability, I sat up and shuffled so that the back of my chair touched the wall to offer myself security. The now new member of the coven looked my way as if my few minutes more gave me a clue as to what was happening, though I did not, I shrugged his way and as did he.
I looked ahead at the group of men and saw them react to it in a childlike way, sitting upright and becoming giddy and shy, projecting this with a bashful and ‘kawaii’ expression of crossed hands in front of the mouth as if they were about to giggle something serious. The maids came on stage and began performing a series of odd postures, all without music and all in dim light… just silence. It was as if they were figurines being manipulated by a giant child twisting his action figures in every which direction that went against the springs, truly, it was terrifying.
” leaving it in there long enough until she was satisfied I’d be fully intoxicated “
During what I can only assume was a ‘display’, the absolute muteness was disturbed by the arrival of my ‘meat’, which of course I was highly suspicious of. The same maid as before crouched beside me like a doctor offering a lollipop to a child and told me, “try“, I replied, “thank you, it’s fine, thank you” hoping she’d leave so that I could somehow discard of what I thought was, for sure, drugged stuffed ‘meat’. I picked up a spoonful and stuck it in my mouth, leaving it in there long enough until she was satisfied I’d be fully intoxicated, or so I thought.
She left and I swallowed it, I had no choice, the maids who gathered in the kitchen watched me through the small service counter that sat in the wall just in front of me, it seemed to please them. Though just before I did, I took a photo of what I had eaten and sent it to my wife just in case my body turned up dumped in an alleyway deep in the heart of Tokyo, chewed on and half eaten, or whatever it is sirens do, at least then she’d know.
A scream of, “No!” followed the kitchen door swinging back off its hinges and into the other customer, I was terrified, the maids ran out and crouched all around me, screeching, “no picture, no pictures!” I knew it, it was dosed and I too was about to become a trophy on the panel of peculiarity, “but where would I sit?” I began questioning as if it were a turn of fate I had so quickly accepted, “will I need to fight the king?”, I knew it, these thoughts were those of a lunatic, what had I eaten and what was it doing to me?
In the uproar, it was if I drew the eye of Sauron as the panel of men turned simultaneously, seeming offended that I had disturbed whatever it was that was happening on stage. The maids who ran at me joined those on stage and continued the enchanting moves to recast what had to be a spell, and as they did, the man from the bottom row, the ‘lesser oddity’, got up and began making his way over to me.
As he approached I lowered my head, I had no intention, no business in challenging anyone for a spot at the table of kings; I kept my head down and looked under my brow and across at the table to my only ally, “fu*k” I said to myself, seeing that he too had fallen to the lure with his almost daydreaming type expression, “Medusa“, I supposed mockingly, this was all too much.
He passed me, running his fingers across my table and over the brim of my plate, seemingly claiming territory and headed straight to the one and only bathroom. I waited for the door to close behind him so that I could recollect my thoughts without distraction, but the door never closed, well, I never heard it close anyway. I sat pretending to eat what was still unidentifiable, the shape of the meal wasn’t going to fool me, “a bear” I smirked, unimpressed by their attempt to conceal the malice of their intentions.
The ‘lesser’ returned from the bathroom as if a sense of relief was slowly fazing over him; after a mere few seconds of him returning to his seat, the second man, the one above, stood and proceeded to go to the bathroom, though this time without any touching of my table nor plate, fortunately. Like the first, he went away for a few moments, returned satisfied and sat, and like the second, the third then took to the same procedure, “what’re they… doing?” was the only question I had, I was confused by what seemed to be ‘order’, almost like a rehearsed agreement of bladder movement. This became more intriguing than the performance on stage which was still taking place.
“If the ‘greater oddity’ goes” I had begun thinking, “seriously, what’re they doing?”
And as if they had been listening, the fourth then took his turn and went to the bathroom, but this time… I watched.
As if he was bending backwards, his head perched around the door as his body lingered within the toilet, it was like seeing a hand puppet poking around a doorframe. His eyes locked the stage with a wide stare and his face shook vigorously for a minute and then gradually, ever so slowly, he closed his eyes and as he did, his head retreated and rejoined his body. I observed this man with a look of shock and doubt, not believing what I was seeing, “fu*k off” I thought, “no, there’s no way…” But he was and he really did. I looked around for cameras, “clearly, this is a TV show, it has to be“, I believed, I was always hearing about strange Japanese TV shows, I wanted it to be one, more than anything I did, but as much as I wanted someone to run out with a camera, I knew they wouldn’t, I knew what this was… I knew.