Have you ever wanted to experience firsthand what it would be like to try to escape from Godzilla? As fans, I think there are a lot of folks who would love to experience (safely!) an encounter with Godzilla beyond just another video game or even yet another VR experience. People wish they could feel the experience, not just get dizzy with a heavy electronic headset blocking your vision. And that experience was sort of what was promised by Tokyo Mystery Circus in 2018 in their Godzilla-themed escape room.
Tokyo Mystery Circus is a sort of escape-room indoor theme park in Shinjuku, and opened just in 2017 by escape room pioneers SCRAP. They feature both English-language and Japanese-language escape rooms, as well as “stealth games” and projection map games. As of this writing, some of the escape rooms that are currently running include a Yu-Gi-Oh themed room, a Lupin the 3rd themed game, a Hunter X Hunter themed game, and many more… including an attraction with an English-language option called “Escape from the Toilet of Despair” (I think I have to sign up for that one… it just sounds too wonderfully stupid).
The Tokyo Mystery Circus building
Now I don’t have much experience with escape rooms, but I was always curious about them because growing up I loved solving what my family called “note trails” wherein first my mother would create elaborate puzzles that I had to solve, following a series of clues until I found a gift somewhere around the house or the nearby area. These puzzles were often ciphers or word puzzles and etc, and eventually I started making my own, trying to get more and more creative each time. The fact that folks are now creating their own puzzles on a grander scale within “escape room” puzzles makes me kind of excited. I love it when people use their creativity in such interesting ways to bring regular folks a new and exciting experience, and the fact that here in Japan we got an escape room experience about Godzilla was even better!
The escape room, called “Shin Godzilla kara no Dashutsu” (Escape from Shin Godzilla), was available for anyone to experience from April of 2018 and continued for a just a few months unfortunately. It was also only available in Japanese, so most kaiju-loving tourists were kind of outta luck.
The poster of the Godzilla escape room
I have some Japanese ability, though, and I wanted to give the experience a shot. So I wrangled a friend into going with me, and one weekend we wandered on over to Shinjuku to have the experience. I went with an American friend who, though his Japanese is far better than mine, still does not really possess native-level Japanese, and thus we were in for a pretty big challenge. We arrived and were ushered into a basement area with a series of tables and a décor predominated by red. We then were given booklets similar in shape and size to restaurant menus. These booklets sort of gave background details about the story—Godzilla appears and we have to stop him, basically. The staff were friendly, and they even said they would try to keep things simple so we could understand.
They also paired us up with a Japanese player. I felt sorry for him immediately.
Along with our “menu,” we received documents we weren’t allowed to open yet, as well as a big booklet of laminated cheat-sheets if we needed hints to overcome the puzzles, and a box attached to the table had some props inside. We dumb foreigners were not the only ones who got those cheatbooks—every table got them. I guess the idea is that they don’t want you to feel cheated in your experience. They don’t want you to just get stymied and miss out on the experience of half the game or something.
The packets given to participants of the Godzilla escape room
And it’s quite an experience. The staff running the game basically double (or triple) as actors playing various parts in the drama to fight against Godzilla. One lady, for example, seemed to be the daughter of Dr. Serizawa and she was also the commander that we would later report to as we solved puzzles and learned things about Godzilla and his approach.
That experience started with a narrative/lecture delivered by some of the actors, as well as footage of Godzilla approaching Tokyo. The Godzilla footage featured the Godzilla design from Godzilla Resurgence (2016), albeit I think some of the shots were original—I didn’t recognize some water shots of the fully-formed Godzilla wading towards the shore.
And then we had to open our envelopes and start doing the puzzles. There were often multiple puzzles to complete at any one time, and so I can’t comment on all of them—I didn’t do all of them. I can’t even clearly remember all of the ones that I did—the process was chaotic as we struggled to blaze through each puzzle as fast as possible (our Japanese partner immediately referred to the cheat sheets over and over again). So I will just give a few highlights to the madness.
One of the screens showing information about Godzilla’s approach
One of the early memorable puzzles was about tracking where Godzilla would be moving across the landscape—his predicted path. We had a big color map, and on separate paper we had images from the map minus key details (such as landmarks and building names) that we had to match to the actual map and then, after finding the matching images, paste transparent stickers with lines embedded in them to indicate the monster’s path, matching the lines together across the map. My explanation kind of sucks, but it was memorable, and after completing the puzzle and getting a check from the staff to make sure we didn’t bungle it, we went into another room to announce to the press (a bunch of staff with cameras and flashing lights) where Godzilla would be attacking.
And there were a lot of great moments like that. Breaking a code about some part of the nature of Godzilla and reporting it to the female Serizawa (who graciously acted impressed every time), or delivering a bottle of water to a thirsty staff member (who graciously pretended to drink the water every time), or just receiving updates about the monster from the staff and from videos—it was a totally unique experience. The game included some fan-service such as a clue featuring the number “1954.” As I recall, at one point the lights flickered as Godzilla came close to the building. The realization of the situation was excellent and really, really fun… even though I was often really lost as to what was happening.
But frankly I was pretty dang lost, and there is little chance I could have finished the puzzles without the hapless Japanese guy. The puzzles were sometimes just nigh impossible for my friend and I with our inferior Japanese. If we had been given ample time (that is to say, all day) to complete the puzzles, maybe we would have been fine… but with the tight time frame, it was really freaking hard. Some of the puzzles were language based, such as a kana chart with missing bits you had to put together to find some specific words, or a couple dozen copies of a report and we had to find the mistakes in each copy to spell out a clue (which sounds much harder than it was). There were a few times when, even with the help of our Japanese partner, we just took too long and the staff of Tokyo Mystery Circus dropped by to help us out. This particular game must be completed all the way through, and you don’t know if you lost until the very end.
The conclusion of the game dealt with placing a bomb and chemicals to take out Godzilla around Shinjuku as a trap. We had to consider the best places to position the equipment to get the electricity where it needed and the bomb where it could do the most damage to Godzilla by placing overlays on a map of Shinjuku—kind of similar to the previous map activity. It was really tricky, though, working through all the vague hints and placing the equipment for the final trap. Only ONE of the tables actually guessed everything right, and I am not sure how they did. To actually win, not only did you have to put the overlays on the right places for the trap to go off, but the bomb had to be placed in an area not clearly marked on the map—as I recall it had to be placed in an elevator in the very room where we were playing the game.
I would be lying if I said I knew why.
I don’t know why.
Neither do I know how the one team knew the answer. I wondered if they had played the game several times previously.
Anyway, our team utterly failed. Personally, though I was really confused, I had a good time. And after the event was over, there was yet more to experience in the café and goods area. The café had several Godzilla-themed foods. I was tempted to try all of them, though it would be too much on my poor stomach probably and my friend wasn’t interested so I didn’t want to force him to stick around all afternoon. So I picked the most ridiculous Godzilla treat I could find at the café—a big flavored ice treat (chocolate) with big googly eyes that was apparently supposed to look kind of Godzilla-ish. It tasted pretty good, but I felt pressure to eat it quickly.
My friend and I posing after we failed. The sign says “Escape Failed” in Japanese.
Unfortunately I wasn’t quick enough to avoid one of the most embarrassing incidents that has happened to me in Japan. To give context, you have to picture this café with lots of small tables and chairs jam-packed together. It was difficult to find a place to sit or stand because there were too many chairs and such, and they were too close together. Also, you have to understand in Japan very frequently Japanese people will reserve a chair or a table by putting something on those tables and chairs—even sometimes very valuable things, such as their bags. Then they go and purchase something and have a seat to return to.
Some lady had reserved a seat at one of the tables with her purse. I was awkwardly standing nearby, trying to eat the Godzilla ice and feeling crammed in. Suddenly the ice of the Godzilla treat collapsed a bit and parts of the flavored ice splattered across the woman’s purse and on the table.
And I just stood there mortified.
I didn’t know what to do. Run? Clean up the table and purse? Just wait and apologize? I couldn’t just leave—my conscience wouldn’t allow it. And I didn’t want to clean up her purse for fear she might thing I was trying to steal from her. So I waited for her to return so I could apologize to her.
Those few minutes were truly agonizing. I felt so bad. The woman was gracious, but my friend was convinced she was really ticked off. She didn’t stay at her table that she had reserved, if that is any evidence!
Also while I was at Tokyo Mystery Circus, I also bought three sets of Godzilla puzzles which, together, apparently complete something, like maybe a secret message. I am not sure, I haven’t done the puzzles yet, but I am curious to play with them in the near future.
The Godzilla escape room experience was very memorable and fun. I love the space was developed by people passionate about Godzilla and about customer service, and the puzzles were top notch and fun. The main downside was the cramped and uncomfortable café. And I wish the escape room was open year round! Definitely one of the more unique experiences I have had in Japan!