Public bathrooms are predictable. Wherever you are, you know what you’re going to get when you step inside of one. Sure, small details (and cleanliness) will vary, but they all follow a similar template. However, a restaurant chain called Seiryumon bucked this curve by having utterly terrifying bathrooms.
Yes. “Terrifying”. The last word you want to hear when someone describes a lavatory.
Seiryumon was a chain of novelty Taiwanese restaurants that had several locations around Japan. Here, novelty didn’t just mean simple décore elements. Each restaurant took theming to a whole new level of detail. They also stood out by having totally unique themes, quite unlike any other restaurant on the planet.
The chain had five main locations, and each of these had a different theme. For instance, the Ikebukuro location was themed as a Chinese castle. Those who went to the one in Shinjuku were treated to an underground Opium den, complete with a strange animatronic door-guard. The location in the VenusFort mall was made to look like an old opera theatre. The Ikspiari venue was made to look like a mysterious house, and finally, the Minatomirai location was decorated to look like an old sewer.
Each of these restaurants had unique design details that, while weird, were utterly impressive. For instance, the Shinjuku location was split into two floors. One floor was themed around heaven and the other around a hellish reflection of Earth, with each side building on the old-fashioned Opium den aesthetic with its own unique touches.
On top of this, each restaurant would have shows of some form. These shows would feature music, lights, and the mechanical figures scattered throughout the room coming to life. Some of these figures were actually seated at the tables, meaning you could eat next to them as they sang. Often the serving staff would be involved in these shows. Some shows even required audience participation from the diners. This was both an impressive sight and, according to some reviews, a major annoyance if you had come for a quiet family dinner (though I’m unsure why you would do that).
According to designer Yuji Hirata, the Minatomirai location featured an hourly show where 5 tonnes of water was released from the sewer pipes and sent trickling across channels that covered the restaurant’s floor, creating a stunning kinetic effect. This was accompanied by the whole restaurant shaking to simulate a train passing by overhead.
But, it is the toilets where Seiryumon plumbed the depths of strangeness. See, these rooms didn’t contain your average Armitage Shanks. In fact, each one featured odd and interactive toilets that, aside from their weird shapes, also moved and made sounds when you attempted to use them.
Those who visited Seiryumon WEST were treated to male urinals that featured large men straddling them. And, when you flushed these toilets, the men flapped their mouths like possessed ventriloquist dummies. And, behind a door ominously labeled “Fun Hunters Only” was a toilet, with a large, mustachioed man standing atop it, cymbals clasped in his hands. When you did your business, this man would loom over you and bang his little cymbals in what can only be called a strange display.
The Shinjuku venue contained the best (or at least, most confusing) toilets of all. For instance, a man with a Snidely Whiplash-like mustache is poking out of the wall in the men’s room. This man has many arms, and in the lowest two, he is holding a urinal shaped like a pair of huge lips. His other hands hold other items, including a camera and a bar of gold.
When you attempt to, uh, use this fine gentleman, he starts to sing as the lips begin to swing. Thankfully, the lips are decently big so missing would be difficult, but it still makes you pity the cleaner. Also, in a slightly disturbing touch, the camera will flash as the song ends, suggesting that this man has less than savory intentions.
But the worst is reserved for those who want to use the stalls. In one of them, there is a giant face that takes up the whole wall. This face, apparently nicknamed Tenchi, has sunken eyes and puckered lips, so the idea of having to do your business while looking at it is eerie enough as is. But it gets worse. Once you sit on the toilet, loud yodeling starts to play, and the face moves towards you. It doesn’t stop moving until it hits your knees, making this toilet into something pulled from your darkest nightmares.
However, the chain did have its fans, with many people having fond memories of strange dining adventures. In fact, most people who visited these restaurants actually fondly remember the food. Many online reviewers say that the food is some of the best they’ve had at the price point.
If you’re curious and want a glimpse at the general interior, the Ikebukuro location was immortalized in Kamen Rider Kuuga, where it acts as the meeting place for the villains. This gives you a fun sample of the location’s weird architecture, though none of the villains venture into the bathroom.
It is hard to not be impressed by Seiryumon as a concept. The company’s attention to detail really is superb. The firm’s approach to themed dining is much more off-kilter and creative than many later attempts at the format. While the name is still in use, the venues have become much more standard and now feature ordinary bathrooms. Maybe one day we’ll see another restaurant chain try and be as creative as Seiryumon, but let’s hope they let us use the restroom in peace.