I could do a whole series of posts on unusual restaurants and food traditions in Japan (many already have and there are even a few books on the subject), but for now, I’m just going to look at one: The Christon Café. Featuring a ridiculous amount of Christian imagery in a Gothic dungeon setting, this same restaurant in the US would attract a horde of nut-job protesters faster than an abortion clinic, a gay wedding or a half-black president.
But it’s located in Japan, where Christian imagery is nothing more than kitsch and crucifixes and rosaries are standard accessories of the Gothic Lolita look. To Japanese eyes, Christian symbols also fit perfectly with the overall Gothic dungeon theme of the restaurant. To non-religious-fanatic Western eyes, the whole thing is just hilarious.
From outside, the Christon Café looks like any other Western-themed restaurant in Japan, right down to the not-quite-English name. When you first walk in, you’re greeted by a sign in Japanese with the standard not-quite-English translation that explains the rules: basically, no slobs and no kids. I guess the ambiance is just too frightening and potentially traumatic for minors.
Once inside, the place opens up into a cavernous dungeon, dimly lit by electric candles, large multi-colored, stained-glass chandeliers and a disco ball—just like any standard church. The branch I visited in Fukuoka had fake stone walls, but pictures from some of the other branches look quite different. With white walls, wooden floors and blood-red draperies, they seem to be moving away from the cold, gloomy dungeon atmosphere and toward the slightly more warm and cozy Japanese Gothic-Lolita look.
Everywhere you turn, you’ll find Christian artifacts brought over from churches in Europe: statues of Jesus and Mary, stained-glass windows and anything else you could think of. And crosses. Lots and lots of crosses. And then you’ve got gargoyles and devil statues, a painted ceiling and countless chandeliers. To complete the ambiance, organ music flows from the speakers.
The menu is filled with Japanese takes on western food, mostly Italian and French. Like any good theme restaurant, they also have an extensive drink list filled with cheesy, theme-appropriate drink names. Some of the food has also been given appropriate names (God-hand-made hamburger, for example), but everything we ordered tasted great, which is what really matters.
You’re definitely paying extra for the theme though, as everything is pretty expensive—relatively speaking, of course. You’ll still pay much less than you would in the US for similar food. And you won’t have to wade through a sea of protesters with misspelled, nonsensical picket signs to get in the door.
Originally started in Osaka, Christon Café now has locations in Shinjuku and Shibuya in Tokyo as well as the one I visited in Fukuoka. It was pretty busy when we went and apparently it is also a relatively popular venue for weddings. If you find yourself in Japan, this place is definitely worth checking out for a unique experience. That said, if you’re in Japan, you’ve likely had plenty of those already.