Tips for Playing Escape Rooms in Japan as a Foreigner

As one of the last major tourist destinations to re-open, there’s a lot of pent-up interest in travel to Japan right now. You may be surprised to learn there are escape room games available in English! If you’re planning a trip to the land of the rising sun and would like to work some escape rooms into your itinerary, here’s what you need to know to book yourself some games and be set up for the best possible experience, along with a peek into the Japanese industry. 行きましょう!(1)

Kiyomizu-dera temple in late fall.

How to Find Games in Japan?

Fortunately for us anglophones, the term “escape room” also sees use in Japan, so a simple search for “escape room <place you’re visiting>” will yield results if there are any. Most Japanese escape rooms are not playable in English. However, as of March 2023, there are at minimum English games in Tokyo (Shinjuku, Asakusa), Osaka, Fukuoka, and Okinawa City.

Websites Will Let You Know if Games are Playable in English

Locations offering English content will have an English button on their Japanese website. Look for either a JA / EN or flag button. It is advised to book online in advance. When booking, be sure to choose options or tickets which designate you wish to play in English, or in some cases, choose the tickets not marked Japanese. Like many tourist-orientated businesses in Japan, escape room companies will be happy to accept your foreign credit cards online. In person, some locations can handle credit cards, but others can only accept cash.

Some Locations Have Public Booking

Games in Japan can be public or private by default, so be sure to read carefully when booking. Public games offered a buyout option at a discount for those who prefer private experiences. Unlike what you may be used to, some games have multiple groups participating at the same time, but separately and without the need for interaction.

Getting Around – Take the Train!

Japan’s famed mass transit systems will get you within striking distance of any game location you’re headed to. In Tokyo, train stations were just a few minutes walk away. In other cities, walk times may be more in the 15 minute range. Calling a car or a cab is an option, though it’s very expensive in Tokyo. 

Use Your Getabako (Shoe Cubby)

Japan is currently still masking heavily as of March 2023 and you may be required to wear one, even as the government has lifted its recommendations on the subject. Games also requested arrival just a few minutes early to avoid interaction with previous players. 

As with other places and homes in Japan, you may be asked to remove your shoes at the entryway and use provided sanitized slippers, so wearing or having socks is recommended. 

Games having their own dedicated, themed lobby space was a common, fun feature.

Mt Fuji viewed from across a lake.

Game Lengths for All Schedules

There is a wide variety of game length in Japan, with prices adjusted accordingly. You can find experiences from a super-short 10 minutes to 90 minutes, and plenty of degrees in between. Keep in mind the advertised time is typically only the time limit for the main gameplay section. Many of the games have extensive intros and outros and other things which would be spoilers, so keep this in mind or ask beforehand if you’re trying to run on a tight schedule. One game had nearly 30 minutes of additional content!

No Translation Required

The game material will be completely adapted to English. “Adapted” because directly translating some puzzles, especially language-based ones, would yield a poor experience for English players, so some puzzles may be quite different. For further discussion of adapting Japanese puzzles to English, and more from a Japanese creator’s point of view, read this interview Room Escape Artist did with the Japanese company SCRAP in 2021.

For most games, all of the Japanese content was seamlessly replaced; we couldn’t tell it had ever been there. In just one case, there were two puzzles present for the same progression step: one English, one Japanese, and the gamemaster quickly intervened when we started considering the beginning of the Japanese puzzle.

Many of the games were able to deliver pre-defined hints in English, either on-demand or by gamemaster initiation, but not all of them. Despite excellent adaptation of the game itself, you should be prepared for your gamemaster to potentially have very limited English skills. One location charmingly prepared for this by giving their staff a giant flipbook with an English briefing and debriefing in a large, friendly font. The primary consequence of this is receiving additional hints from your gamemaster may be a challenge. So be prepared to hang in there if necessary!

Accessibility Needs? Contact Before You Book

If you have accessibility concerns, you should contact locations prior to booking to be sure they will be able to accommodate you. Japan is notoriously compact in general and some games were in buildings without elevators, had chambers which required a step-over to enter, or required crawling, to name a few.

Only in Japan

Some of the games we played in Japan did things we hadn’t seen before, and used novel formats we had not previously considered. We were shocked by a set movement on an unprecedented scale, dazzled by a game built entirely around projection mapping, startled by the physical consequences of breaking a link, and astounded by our favorite scene transition ever.

An 8 story glass building with lit letters on three floors that read, "TOKYO MYSTERY CIRCUS."

High Throughput, Low Friction

Speaking of astounding, Tokyo Mystery Circus (TMC) is a huge tower with over 20 games and puzzle hunts inside (as of March 2023), which is a sight to explore and behold, even if most of the games are in Japanese. The bottom floor doesn’t even have any game rooms; there’s a puzzle game box office, cafe, and shop.

All the content at TMC is designed for high-throughput unlike any other facility we’ve been to that isn’t fully open-world: always multiple teams at once, but in a way fitting for each game, and while making sure other teams aren’t detracting from your experience. This is enabled by both space, as in the amount of space to have ballroom-type games permanently installed, or multiple instances of games or parts of games, and a veritable legion of lovely and professional staff members, assigned to individual games with themed uniforms, who make the whole thing work in a way not possible with just one gamemaster.

Didn’t Finish in Time? Get Revenge!

Another unique concept from the team at TMC is the “revenge ticket.” The game Escape from the Runaway Train is a series of 9 rooms, and many teams fail at the climactic ending. If you are one of those teams, you may then choose to purchase a much cheaper ticket to replay just the final challenge. This occurs in a complete, stand-alone replica of the final area, so teams get the same puzzle and finale experience as if they had completed it on their first try, but without having to disrupt the main flow of teams.

3 Games to Check Out

The Dame and the Diamond at Studio Escape in Osaka

Studio Escape says they don’t make “Escape Rooms”, they make “Interactive Cinema.” Through high-quality sets, props, and voice acting, we really felt like we had stepped into a noir mystery, but laced through with comedy to keep things fun. We walked out of this one with huge smiles on our faces, which were not solely the result of the themed celebration mocktail and cocktail we had.

Spellbound Supper at Tokyo Mystery Circus in Shinjuku, Tokyo

This remarkable and unique projection-mapping experience can now only be found in Japan, but once it was available at the now-closed San Francisco Real Escape Game (SCRAP) location, where Room Escape Artist reviewed it in 2019. This also featured our favorite gamemaster of the trip; she was an absolute joy and we couldn’t help but have more fun because of her enthusiasm.

Escape from the RED ROOM at REAL ESCAPE ROOM Asakusa in Asakusa, Tokyo

This game contains no words at all outside the hint tablet, making it completely language agnostic! Despite being 7 years old, Escape from the Red Room still has some impressive tricks up its sleeves the likes of which we have not encountered elsewhere. Our best advice is to forget everything you think you know about how to play an escape room and also to strap in for some classic SCRAPness.

Go and Come Back

Japan has some remarkable escape room talent and I hope more people will get to enjoy their work, with the knowledge there are experiences out there to be played without having to understand Japanese. Personally, we can’t wait to go back and see what new, unexpected things the Japanese teams will have cooked up while we were gone, and we hope you find these tips useful in your travels. 行ってらっしゃい!(2)

(1) 行きましょう: Let’s go!

(2) 行ってらっしゃい: A term without a true English equivalent, 行ってらっしゃい is a mixture of “see you later,” “have a good time,” and “take care” said to someone who is leaving.


  1. Perfect timing! I’m planning a trip to Japan this fall and am thrilled to get some solid recs!

  2. I am learning Japanese hopefully one day I can understand and do a Japanese escape room =D

    1. This is a goal of mine as well. がんばりましょう!

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