I’m slightly claustrophobic. So you might wonder why I would volunteer to have myself locked into a small room with a bunch of strangers. The truth is that I can’t resist a puzzle.
This is an escape room, an immersive puzzle-solving experience that will test your lateral thinking skills and problem-solving, and for the first time in Japan, it’s being offered in English and Chinese.
An escape room is basically a real-life version of the video game trope where you are trapped in a room and must explore your surroundings to find the key to escape within a set amount of time. Some escape rooms are pure problem-solving, while others have an atmospheric backstory to drive the action.
In the past few years, the games have exploded in popularity. Since the first escape game events were held in the mid-2000s, the number of permanent facilities has ballooned to about 3,000 globally going by registrations with Escape Room Directory, with the number of participants estimated at over 1.6 million.
Here in Japan, SCRAP Corporation pioneered the genre and has enjoyed a lot of popularity among Japanese puzzle fans. In addition to offering a changing menu of traditional escape games at their permanent locations, they also host special large-scale events. For example, they once held an escape event at Tokyo Dome.
Starting this month, SCRAP has begun offering two of its popular escape rooms, Escape from the Red Room and Escape from the Haunted Manor, in English and Chinese at its Real Escape Room Asakusa location. Both cost 1,800 yen in advance and 2,300 at the door (US$14.50/$18.65).
Escape from the Red Room looks deceptively simple. Up to six participants are locked into a room painted red floor to ceiling, with nothing but two padlocked doors in it. They have 30 minutes to figure out the code that will unlock the exit, something only about 3 percent of groups manage to do. Luckily, participants are allowed one 10-minute extension for an additional 800 yen, though this still only brings the success rate up to 15 percent.
▼Frustratingly, our group managed to figure out the code, but just as the 40-minute buzzer sounded, so we were not able to join these hallowed ranks.
Escape from the Haunted Manor has a spooky backstory about a murdered child and strange disappearances that horror fans will love. The gameplay is more involved than Red Room, combining elements of carnival haunted houses, treasure hunts and problem solving, plus low light and loud, creepy music to distract and frighten. The cost and time rules are the same as Red Room.
▼Despite my cowardly refusal to leave my friend’s side throughout—Did I mention the murderous ghost?—, we managed to solve the puzzle within 40 minutes. Without wetting our pants, no less.
For the second year running, SCRAP is also collaborating with Tokyo Metro to offer The Underground Mysteries, a problem-solving game that takes you around the Tokyo subway system to find clues. If you can complete all the puzzles, you can enter the final answer on SCRAP’s website to complete the game. This year it is offered in English and Chinese as well.
▼Follow the arrows to find a clue?
▼Or perhaps search the streets of Tokyo?
Unlike the traditional escape room format, The Underground Mysteries allows you to solve the puzzle at your own pace, using the kit provided. In addition to the game materials, it includes a one-day Tokyo Metro pass so you can move freely between stations, and takes about four hours to complete if you work straight through it. One of the nice things about the game is that it takes you to stations and places that you might not otherwise visit, so participants can make a day of exploring new neighborhoods and stop to do the puzzle-solving at local bars and restaurants.
▼ The game kit, including a special edition one-day Tokyo Metro pass
▼ The bag becomes a clear file you can use to show others how clever you are
The kits can be purchased at the Ueno Station pass office for 2160 yen (US$17.50). Unfortunately, it is only available until January 31.
With multiple languages and a variety of different games now available, there’s nothing to stop you from pitting your brain against SCRAP’s puzzlemasters, except maybe a little claustrophobia. But even then, you’ll be so engrossed, you won’t feel like the walls are closing in on you. Unless, of course, they actually are…
Real Escape Room Asakusa
Sumida-ku, Tokyo 130-0001
11:00 – 21:00
▼ Real Escape Room Asakusa
Top image: Scrap
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