If you’re the kind of person who likes their cocktails stirred with sex toys then Alcatraz ER just might be the place for you. It’s one of Japan’s oldest – and scariest – themed restaurants, and it’s based on a medical prison. We checked it out for some food, cocktails and screams.
Alcatraz ER is one of two jail themed izakayas (venues where you can drink with snacks on the side) in Tokyo’s popular suburb of Shibuya. The other is Japan’s larger prison themed chain, The Lock-Up, which has several branches in Tokyo and around Japan. Where The Lock-Up is just prison themed, Alcatraz ER takes on the theme of a prison hospital.
Like The Lock-Up, when you arrive at Alcatraz ER, you’ll be handcuffed and led to your cell. At least, that’s what happens to everyone else. Sadly they didn’t bother to hand cuff either of us. And I say sadly, because these izakayas are not cheap – if I’m paying for a prison experience, I expect to be handcuffed like everyone else.
Aside from all the signs reminding customers that Alcatraz ER can be found on several social media sites, the dilapidated, dirty looking interiors with steel tables gives the feel of a haunted prison for the criminally insane.
Little touches such as fake graffiti on the wall (note the “oh my god” in English on the wall in the photo above) and old hospital TVs on the wall add to the effect.
Above: To get the attention of the wait staff, you have to bang the metal pipe against the bars of your cell.
Our cell was above the floor-level cells and up a small set of very steep stairs. We were instructed to take our shoes off (which they kept near our cell for us). Toilet slippers were placed at the bottom of the stairs should we need them. A slight language barrier caused a bit of confusion which almost resulted in me wearing the toilet slippers into the cell before our polite nurse quickly explained what the slippers were meant for. I’m not above being a silly tourist on occasion.
Above: For very large groups, there are a couple of rooms with longer tables and plenty of chairs. The ideal group would probably be about four to six people – enough to get a good cell and to share the terror with during the ‘show’.
The menu is full of colourful cocktails with a medical prison twist. Like most themed eateries, the cocktails are not particularly alcoholic. Unlike most other themed eateries, some of these are stirred with sex toys. The staff will take these stirring utensils away almost as quickly as they bring out the drinks, so if you want a photo, don’t delay in asking the staff member for permission to take a photo. I always recommend asking first if a staff member might end up in the photo, as many themed restaurants have rules about these things – we found that the staff at Alcatraz ER were happy to be in our photos, which was great.
Above: The Alcatraz ER medical prison cocktail menu.
Click here to access the Alcatraz ER menu online (I think this is a slightly older version of the menu, but it’s close enough to give you a good idea of what to expect – and yes, the ‘roast beef pussy’ is still available in case you were wondering).
Above: A nurse pouring my Blood Transfusion cocktail. 890 Yen. They pour one beaker only; you don’t get to drink the rest.
Above: Rainbow Cylinder, 990 Yen. Nothing particularly medical/prison themed about it, but it looked cool. Joining two straws together to make one long straw is not as effective as one might imagine, so it wasn’t that easy to drink.
Above: Intestinal Cleanse, 890 Yen. This is equivalent a cocktail on the current menu by the name of ‘Anus Play’ (yes, you read that right), and is stirred with the same… utensil… Alas, the waitress was too efficient and I didn’t manage to get a photo of it being stirred.
Above: Vibrator Play, 890 Yen. Yes, this is exactly what you think it is.
Above: A small paper cup with a bit of spicy trail mix is given as medication (after all, this is a jail hospital). It’s one of those small, random appetisers that they give you in exchange for a ‘service charge’ (an extra amount of money that they charge you simply for existing at the restaurant). Alcatraz ER charges each customer 500 Yen which is included in a 10% service charge paid at checkout.
Above: Some kind of fried cabbage. I’m not sure whether the cabbage and salt kelp on the current menu is the same as this, but this was actually my favourite dish (from the three that we ordered). It was oily, but salty and delicious, and from memory, it had anchovies in it.
In the background you can also see the four-cheese pizza, 750 Yen. Way overpriced, but quite edible.
Above: Some kind of steak with a few token bits of vegetable. It was okay, but I wouldn’t order this again as it was very fatty.
At some point while you’re enjoying your visit at Alcatraz ER, the lights will go out. Sirens and red, flashing emergency lights will go out, and the entertainment will commence. You may witness different events depending on where you’re seated. A more elaborate show might take place if you’re with a group in a larger room.
My partner and I were right down the end of the prison, on our own. I think this probably made it a little scarier – and yes, it’s surprisingly scary! The idea is that some of the most insane inmates are on the loose. At one point, we had an almost naked guy showing off some most unusual dance moves – this was more funny than scary, unlike my encounter with a psycho clown.
I thought we’d be safe given that – aside from the flashing lights – it was very dark and getting to us would involve climbing the small but steep stair case. However, this was no issue for the insane clown who scaled the stairs and repeatedly poked me in the back. If a picture is worth a thousand words, the above photo probably tells you almost everything you’d need to know about Alcatraz ER.
Above: The male and female toilets were very similar. My partner and I both had the same question for one another when we emerged, “Do you think the toilets were intentionally horrible, or just horrible?”.
Would I recommend Alcatraz ER? If you’re really keen on eating or drinking at a place with a jail theme, then I would recommend Alcatraz ER. Food-wise, Japan’s jail themed izakayas are not the best, so my suggestion would be to have your main meal somewhere else, and just have a drink or two and maybe a light snack on the side at the Alcatraz ER. There is also the option of the course menu which includes 7 or 9 dishes and unlimited drinks for 3500 – 4000 Yen, which gives you better value for money. The drinks are not very strong, but what they lack in alcohol they make up for by being weird and amusing. It’s a place that would best be enjoyed with a group of friends, and (they do not allow children, and even if they did, I would not recommend this as a family restaurant!).
Note: Flashing lights include strobe lights are used during the ‘show’, so those with conditions such as epilepsy may want to avoid this venue. (The same goes for The Lock-Up – my recommendation would be to consider the Vampire Cafe in Ginza if you’re looking for a restaurant with a spooky theme that doesn’t use strobe lighting.)
Address: 3965, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo Dogenzaka 2-13-5 Harvest Building 2F
Sunday – Thursday 17:00 – 23:30
Friday – Saturday 17:00 – 4:00
How to find Alcatraz ER:
Alcatraz ER is a 10-15 minute walk up the main street from Shibuya Station. Take the Hachiko Gate exit from Shibuya station, cross Shibuya Crossing, turn left and walk past the tall Shibuya 109 shopping centre. Keep going straight up the main street for about 10 minutes, and then turn right off the main street and walk for two blocks.
Here is a map (thanks to Google Maps) – just follow the blue line that I’ve added to it:
It’s in a building called Harvest Building, which is nestled between some love hotels (keep an eye out for Star Crescent and Hotel Beat Wave – note that Hotel Beat Wave has two entries/exits, so if you can’t find Alcatraz ER, you might be on the other side), just near the O-West building and close to the Womb nightclub.
If you’re standing at the entrance to Alcatraz ER’s building, you’ll see Star Crescent and Hotel Beat Wave opposite and slightly to your left (see below).
The Harvest Building has big red and white Alcatraz ER signs around it, and Gateway Studio signs just underneath it (it shares the building with music and photography studios).
The entrance is just past all of the vending machines. Once you get in there, you’ll find a lift and a stair case. Alcatraz ER is on the second floor.