Escape room

Japan's Escape Room Games

Many people who have had the pleasure of visiting Japan, even for a short trip, will comment that the country and its people are like no other...

Many people who have had the pleasure of visiting Japan, even for a short trip, will comment that the country and its people are like no other. It feels as if you have been transported to an alien planet. Apart from a totally indecipherable language to the western ear, the modes of behavior and the rich culture make for a very interesting time. 

Though we could probably trace the history back to Greek mythology and the story of Theseus and the Minotaur, the modern version of the game started online in 1988 with John Wilson's "Behind Closed Doors", which was a simple computer game with the idea of escape rooms built-in. Then in 2004, Toshimitsu Takagi took the formula a step further with his "Crimson Room". Today the word "Takagism" is used among escape room game fans and refers to this type of game.

But the first real-life escape room, from which the games we know today originated, was credited to Takao Kato, who designed his escape room after seeing his classmates playing the concept online. In 2007 he started to host live events which took place in bars and clubs. Within a very short space of time, the games started to sell out at each venue. Kato formed the company SCRAP  and with it, he trademarked the name of this genre as "Real Escape Game " (リアル脱出ゲーム). The company has three locations in Tokyo being in Shinjuku, Asakusa, and Kichojoji, along with another in Osaka.

One thing that can e frustrating for the foreign visitor is the fact that it is very little in the way of effort made to translate or even bother with putting basic things into the English language. Of course, why should they? But we westerners are slightly arrogant with the idea that English is THE world language, and so expect to hear it as the default foreign language setting for all countries around the world. But, as far as escape room games go, SCRAP has decided to buck the trend and offer their escape room games in both Chinese and English.

We should point out that SCRAP and escape room games are extremely popular across Japan. Apart from a constantly changing menu of interesting and absorbing games, SCRAP also hosts many live events around the city. you can go to their Asakura location for these dual-language games. The actual games are "Escape From The Red Room" and Escape From A Haunted Manor". tickets cost 1,800 yen in advance and 2,300 at the door (US$14.50/$18.65).

The first game, Escape from the Red Room, looks very simple. Up to 6 players are locked in a room completely painted red. There are 2 padlocked doors. The clock is set for 30 minutes. What's interesting is that the game remains so popular, and yet the success rate of solving the game within the allotted time is a mere 3%! For an extra 800 Yen, you can buy a time extension of another 10 minutes. With the extra time, the success rate improves to 15%. 

The second game is slightly more involved than the first. Escape from a Haunted Manor has a backstory about a murdered child! Not something you'd ever find in a western room. The game is pretty much geared up for Japanese horror fans, and if you've seen any Japanese horror movies, then you'll know that they don't hold back on the gore or weirdness. There are elements of a carnival, haunted house, and treasure trove all set with a background of creepy music. The costs are the same as the Red Room.

SCRAP also runs a collaboration with the Tokyo Metro to create the "Underground Mysteries". This is a game involving the solving of various problems around the Tokyo underground or subway. You have to travel around looking for the clues, and once you have them all, then there's a final question to be answered on SCRAP's website. This game is now offered in Chinese and English as well. 

The Underground Mysteries aren't a race. You can solve it at your own leisure. There's a game kit that includes a special edition one-day Metro travel pass. On the whole, the whole game should take around 4 hours to complete. It's pretty cool in that it takes you to some far-flung Metro stops that you have probably never visited before. you can buy the kits for the game at Ueno Station pass Office. They cost 2160 yen (US$17.50). 

Real Escape Room Asakusa
1-17-2 Azumabashi
Sumida-ku, Tokyo 130-0001
11:00 – 21:00

You can play a number of SCRAP's games online at https://realescapegame.jp

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