“You will shortly get locked into a room for one hour”, explains Lisa from Escape Hunt Tokyo. As someone who suffers from light claustrophobia this announcement caused me severe discomfort. However, despite my fear I wanted to give it a try. I have heard a lot about Escape Hunt, a real life escape game, but I have never experienced it myself. The principle of this adventure game is quite simple: You (and your friends, colleagues, family) find yourself locked into a room and you have to escape within one hour by solving puzzles, cracking codes and finding hidden items.
Luckily in the end my curiosity defeated my anxiety – because not only is this activity a lot of fun, it is also interesting in a psychological manner: you will discover new characteristics of yourself while being stuck in a room, running out of time, feeling the stress spreading all over your body. However, the inner triumph once you found a clue, solved a puzzle, etc. is reward for all the effort and hassle. “For me it’s in a way very refreshing”, tells Lisa, who as a staff member plays regularly.
Escape Hunt was founded in Thailand two years ago, and just recently opened a branch in Asakusa, just a stone’s throw away from world famous Buddhist Temple Senso-ji. Escape Hunt Tokyo offers different games tailor made for a Japanese audience, that change every month in order to create new challenges for regular customers. We could choose between “Runaway Bride” (advanced level), where you have to find the kidnapped bride, “Samurai Espionage” (suitable for teams of three to four people), where you must protect the Shogun from the assassin and “Zen” (Basic Level), where your Zen master challenges you to a personal mission. We opted for the latter one as we were only two of us – and both of us absolute beginners.
“If you panic, you can always get out” reassures Lisa. Due to security reasons the rooms are never fully locked – knowing this made me right away feel more comfortable. Equipped with a scribbling pad we were being escorted to the Zen room. And then the door shut and my friend Kristin and I were left alone with nothing more than one hour of time, the notebook and our untrained brains.
Revealing too much at this stage would completely kill the mystery, but be assured: During these 60 minutes you will be using every single brain cell. Despite the fact that it’s just a game, the inner fighter in you will develop a strong will to escape in time. The ability of logical, straightforward thinking is definitely a plus – unfortunately both my friend and I are journalists, our skills are located rather on the creative side. So basically our brains blanked out, we literally had no idea where and how to look for the first clue. Thankfully the Escape Hunt Team is prepared for debutants like us: a short knock on the door suffices and a staff member appears to provide some hints – in our case after only ten minutes. We reckoned this to be the better option rather than staring in despair at each other and the clock.
To make it short: with a little help of staff member Po, who later admitted that he initially experienced the same difficulties, we made it through the first door just to find the next unsolvable task. However, after the first couple of challenges we were able to establish a certain skill set which helped us understand the logic of the exercises – which did not mean that we were able to accomplish them without further help though (thankfully Po at no point lost patience with us helpless clients).
Unbelievable but true, exactly after 59 minutes, just one minute prior to the deadline, we unlocked the last door. We made it! Just in time! What a great relief! How proud we were, almost as if we had escaped from Alcatraz! “Congratulations! You are now eligible to stick your photo on our Escape Hunt wall”, explains Tina as we were changing into a Sherlock Holmes costume for the picture. I had a quick glance at the wall of fame. Most people had put down the time it took them to escape. I could not believe my eyes when I spotted the record time for the “Zen” room: 22 minutes!
“We have many pros coming to our branch”, consoles us Lisa. Especially Otaku people who are spending a lot of time in virtual escape rooms. The clientele is very mixed: 50 percent of the participants are Japanese, the other half are foreigners, and many companies book the activity for team building sessions. “Training helps”, says Po, “after a while you get familiar with the game.”
When we stepped out into sunny Asakusa district, Kristin turned towards me: “I would actually like to go back straight away and try out the other rooms. Even though I felt a bit like in a horror movie it was huge fun!” My newly developed ambition will definitely bring me back. I heard that there are promising things occuring at Escape Hunt Tokyo: In the “Runaway Bride” room a woman was confronted with a rather extraordinary hint, hidden in a treasure box – a ring. It turned out to be an engagement ring from her real life fiance. She said yes!
Web: Escape Hunt Tokyo
Address: KN Asakusa Building, 6th Floor, 1-10-5 Asakusa, Taito-ku
Hours: 11:30 am until 9 pm
Stations: 1 minute walk from Asakusa Station, 4 minute walk from Tahara-cho Station and 6 minute walk from Tokyo Metro/Toei Asakusa Line Asakusa Station
Price: Two people pay 4200 Yen each, three people pay 3800 Yen each, four people pay 3500 Yen each.
20 Percent discount during happy hour (3.30 pm until 6.30 pm), 10 percent off with promo coupon.