If you find yourself in Kawasaki, Japan, as I did this past week, and you’re a part of the Ultraman community, my highest recommendation would be to visit the Kaiju Sakaba. Ultraman fans and noobs alike can all enjoy the whimsical, otherworldly energy, delicious food and drinks, and insane attention to detail at this unique tavern. Everything is intentional at the Kaiju Sakaba, the experience is unmatched. I got a chance to live the Kaiju Sakaba experience first-hand and even speak to the manager, Tomita, to dive deep into what it's all about.
The Izakaya is tucked below street level, the perfect underground hideout for Kaiju and aliens on the run. It was opened in March of 2014, and though this is their central location, there is a smaller Kaiju Sakaba located in Shimbashi. The tavern is inconspicuous at first glance but once you take a closer look at the Kaiju portraits carved into the side of the structure and the welcoming sign featuring Kaiju silhouettes drinking amongst themselves, the otherworldly presence becomes clear.
If you were human before you entered, you aren’t anymore. Music rumbles, a warm glow guides you through the space, it is all foreign in nature but also very familiar. You look to your right and see Alien Baltan’s portrait on the managerial plaque on the wall. It becomes clear that this strange place is indeed a safe space for monsters! This is your last warning to leave all support for the Ultras at the door, otherwise you will be forced to feed your hand to the Kaiju in the wall, Jamila, as punishment!
The tavern’s ‘lost & found’ is notable, with strung horns, tentacles, and claws, presumably left behind by some forgetful Kaiju after too many drinks. But the Kaiju aren’t the only ones to leave things behind, there’s a whole wall of signatures left by actors, writers, and directors that have worked on the Ultraman series.
If you thought you were gonna get away without facing a Kaiju, you would be mistaken. Eleking waits dormant in his private room, watching everyone, but only allowed to wrap his tail around those whose birthdays are in the month of their visit! Luckily, it was my accomplice’s, birthday month so we got a picture!
All of this and you still haven’t even passed the gift shop yet with figures, cups, and other Kaiju related novelties. My personal favorite was the limited-edition mug you can only get if you patronize the Kaiju Sakaba fifteen times or more, and many patrons do! The mugs are displayed on a shelf in front of the kitchen area, along with some of the coolest Kaiju vinyls you’ve ever seen.
The tables are where the magic happens. Each booth is themed to correspond to a Kaiju. Dividers patterned like their skin; images of their greatest moments displayed on the tabletop. Little claw marks, bullet holes, and feathers left behind indicate a history of crazy Kaiju scuffles.
There are many nooks in the Kaiju Sakaba: areas dedicated to analyzing the Ultras (for villainous purposes only, of course); areas for larger groups of patrons with TVs playing clips featuring Ultraman’s most compromised battles; individual seating, and of course the beautiful, traditional style dining room in the back. That was where I was lucky enough to conduct an interview with Kaiju Sakaba manager, Tomita (pictured at the top of this post). The following is transcribed from a recording of our conversation.
NOOB: Thank you so much for having me, the place is beautiful! Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your relationship to Ultraman?
TOMITA: I was born in 1966, the same year that the original Ultraman series came out, so I don’t have the clearest memories of watching it on television. I do, however, remember watching Ultraman Jack. That was my real introduction to Ultraman.
NOOB: Is Ultraman Jack your favorite Ultra?
TOMITA: It’s hard to choose a favorite but I’d have to say Ultraseven is my favorite. My favorite Kaiju is Alien Metron if you consider him a Kaiju.
NOOB: Those are great choices. Can you tell us about how the idea of Kaiju Sakaba came to be?
TOMITA: We wanted to differentiate Kaiju Sakaba from ‘concept cafes’. This is an immersive experience, it’s where the Kaiju come to spend their time, it’s more than a theme.
NOOB: I’m sure people appreciate how much attention you guys pay to the Ultraman lore; I know I appreciate it. What kind of people do you guys tend to attract here?
TOMITA: Originally the patrons were mostly Ultraman fans from the Showa period, people in their 40s and 50s. Recently, though, it’s been more younger people and women than ever before.
NOOB: That’s awesome! Ultraman is definitely expanding in influence to more kinds of people than ever. What is your favorite part of working here?
TOMITA: My favorite thing about Kaiju Sakaba is that it’s the only place where you can experience the Ultraman world firsthand, learning all the lore, through the perspective of the Kaiju. I also love seeing all the patrons enjoy the Kaiju-themed food and drinks.
NOOB: And finally, what does Ultraman mean to you, as a fan.
TOMITA: As an Ultraman fan, not just a Kaiju Sakaba manager, it’s hard to explain in one sentence how much Ultraman means to me. I think my favorite aspect of the show is how positive it is. Ultraman is such an influential property; it has touched so many generations. That’s what I love about it.
It’s easy to understand why Tomita enjoys seeing people try all the Kaiju themed food and drinks. Looking at the menu would have anyone in a decision paralysis… To that I say, the best solution is to buy everything on the menu and share with friends!
Roast beef in the shape of Gomorrah’s severed tail, chips and dip in the style of the Ultra pyramid, crab pilaf served in Alien Baltan’s scissors—they even have both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages like Aboras Blue Citrus drink or a Bloody Nova. Truly a selection made for the most important creatures throughout the galaxy. Not to mention every drink comes with a free coaster featuring many of the classic Kaiju and aliens. Let’s just say, I now have more coasters than cups in my house!
All in all, the Kaiju Sakaba is a fantastic place for an event, gathering, date, or hangout with anyone of any species, except the Ultras of course (unless they’re willing to bring a fake Kaiju ID!).
With great service, a welcoming staff, a menu that would impress anyone, fun décor, and an unmatchable energy, this Izakaya makes for an amazing time. One visit isn’t enough to take in all the intricacies of the Kaiju Sakaba, nor is one article enough to sum up the experience of entering this world. Explore it if you dare, I have a feeling you’re gonna love what you see.