I just spent two days in Tokyo, and the most fun I had was playing “Tokyo Metro The Underground Mysteries,” a game that sends you around the city by Metro to solve puzzles.

It took me three hours of hopping on and off trains, heading from place to place. I would not call the game a great way to see the city–although I did see some parts of the city I wouldn’t have otherwise–because you spend most of your time underground; instead I am recommending it to puzzle enthusiasts who are seeking a unique cultural experience.

The Puzzles

You get a folder that was meticulously crafted, so that everything included comes into play multiple times in sometimes unexpected ways.

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You race around the metro system solving puzzles. The puzzles range in difficulty from “Show Up and Look Where They Told You to Get the Answer” to “Hopefully You’ve Memorized Every Item in the Folder Because You Need to Find a Green Star Somewhere” to “Read Carefully the Exact Words That Were Written, Not What You Think Was Written” to “Really Hard.”

Screen Shot 2015-12-29 at 8.59.28 PMThe experience was fun for me, and I kept thinking how my 9-year-old niece would have loved it too. I’m convinced that anyone who enjoys similar things like crosswords, award booking, and riddles would have a blast playing this game.

The later puzzles are very difficult. I never would have finished if I hadn’t latched onto a pair of Japanese women from the fifth puzzle on. We were a good team. They did most of the solving, though I had two key breakthroughs on the last puzzle that sped up their solution.

 

 

I saw several Japanese people playing the game in groups during the day. I didn’t see any other foreigners. Apparently the company behind the game, Scrap, has many such games available throughout Japan and the world, and my teammates had played another one in Tokyo the day before.

How to Play

Go to the Tokyo Metro Pass Office at Ueno Station between 7:40 AM and 8 PM, and ask for an English language game. The cost is ~$18, including an all-day metro pass. The game’s website says it runs through December 27, but I played it December 28, and I think the sign I saw said the game had been extended until January 31, 2016.

If you don’t get to Tokyo until after the Metro game ends, there is a different, permanent game by the same company that you can play. Be warned: my teammates said they had failed in their attempt at that game the day before.

The company also has upcoming events in New York and San Francisco.

Hints (Not Spoilers)

When the puzzle book says “alphabets,” it means “letters.” That was the only place where the English wasn’t perfect.

When you get to the “public art display” puzzle, they tell you to play a well-known Japanese game but don’t tell you the rules. The only rule of the game is that you have to move in a continuous path from left to right and every time you come to an intersection, you have to turn. (The answer is the rice ball, if you still don’t get the game.)

When you have down time in transit between puzzles, look through everything in the folder for unnecessary shapes, colors, holes, etc. They aren’t unnecessary. You just don’t know how you’ll use them yet.

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