Every time I find a new, crazy place to try, all of my friends are just like “Well, that’s Japan for you.”
Last week, I reached an all-time high on the level of weirdness when I found “The Lockup,” a prison-themed restaurant in Shibuya (Tokyo). And by prison themed, I mean that the restaurant was in the basement of a building that made you go through a labyrinth of horror to just get to the door, the staff all either wore stripped prison suits or sexy cop outfits with handcuffs (only the women), and all of the food was “prison-themed.”
The sign was in Katakana – so if you can’t read Japanese, watch out!
And, if you want to eat there, it’s probably best that you go in with just a little bit more information than I had.
And why, exactly, did I want to go to a prison-themed restaurant? First of all, bragging rights. Second of all, it’s Japan. And third (most importantly), for as long as I have known Ryosuke, he always wanted to visit a jail. Not be imprisoned, just visit. I, personally, think he watchs too many American cop movies… but who am I to crush someone’s dream? So I took him the closest thing I could find to prison: “The Lock-Up”
If you want to go too, here are some tips.
1. Call in advanced to make reservations. I couldn’t find the Lockup website (but I’m fairly certain it doesn’t exist- at least in English), so I got the information off other people’s blogs. We went on a crowded Friday night; I was so glad we had made reservations and were able to skip the line.
Contact information is:
(just off Center-gai, Shibuya Grand Tokyo Bldg. B2F)
Tel: +81 (03)-5728-7731
Monday to Friday 17:00～01:00
2. When you get to the building, don’t take the elevator. They probably won’t let you, anyways (at least they didn’t in the Shibuya branch). We had a nice woman come up to us and ask us if we were looking for the Lockup (when we were waiting for the elevator). She directed us to a small flight of stairs that led to the basement.
It was incredibly sketchy.
3. Open the ominous looking door. Watch out for people coming out. The entrance and exit are the same passageway. It was dark and scary in the tunnel, so Ryosuke and I got stuck next to the door – both too afraid to open it.
When he finally mustered up the courage to open the door, it was flung open by another couple on the way out.
4. Sneak past the motion-sensitive man in the electric chair. I don’t think there is any way around this guy – so on the way out Ryosuke and I just ran.
It was still scary.
He was shaking in the chair and screaming (due to the fact, you know, that he was being electrocuted).
If I had to walk by this guy every day to work, I would quit. Quickly.
5. Give your name at the front desk and wait for the “Sexy Cop” to handcuff you and bring you to jail. Like I said, it was a crowded Friday night at the prison-themed Lock-up, so I was glad we had made reservations. We got to skip past a pretty long line.
(The women in the sexy cop outfit about to handcuff Ryosuke. They are pretty strict about you NOT taking pictures of the workers, so watch out. I didn’t know that when I took this picture, though. Oops.)
Only one person in your group (if you’re in a small group, at least, gets to be handcuffed. The female cop wearing a sexy outfit will ask you “Who’s been a bad boy/girl and needs to be punished.”
We volunteered Ryosuke.
Handcuffs scare me.
6. Figure out what kind of cell you were assigned. It doesn’t actually matter, I just found it interesting. They had several different cells – all of different sizes.
We got a “traditional Japanese prison cell” – whatever that means. Ryosuke was explaining to me that unlike American prison cells, Japanese prison cells don’t have bars. Only small openings. It makes it nearly impossible to escape, touch, or really even see other people.
Our cell was a little claustrophobic inducing, but it had a door and windows – so we could get out at any time.
7. Order drinks. The Lockup is an Izakaya – which means it’s like a bar that serves small plates of food. Be careful, though, because things can add up fast.
They had several interesting drinks.
I liked the look of the drinks that came in small vials (like a mad scientist); the drink with the floating eye also looked interesting.
I wanted to drink ALL the drinks, but we each decided to just pick one (since drinks range from 600 – 900 yen, or about $7.50 – $11 dollars). The alcohol content was next to each drink (represented by the number of skulls), which was very convenient.
Ryosuke got the syringe of blood and beaker drink.
The bloody syringe was strawberry flavored, and the beaker was full of lychee juice. I thought it was good, but not great. Ryosuke agreed.
In the end, we decided that the drinks were meant to be interesting, not delicious. The Lockup focused so much on the appearance that they end up sacrificing quality for great presentation. And I was ok with that. Both of our drinks were good by all means, and definitely nothing that I would have ever thought of. And they were much better than you could get in a can.
Speaking of drinks, I got the “Mystery drink” for the mad scientist in me.
When I mixed them together, it became a sort of apple ice tea. The bottom, main beaker started out dark and gradually became lighter.
And we ordered water. It came in a cute little beaker. When I said that everything was prison-themed, I guess I was wrong. It was more “Mad Scientist” themed.
8. Order food. We both ate a convenience store Onigiri about an hour before-hand because Izakaya’s are always expensive (and we had been on a date all day and were tired and hungry).
Ryosuke got the Taco rice (nothing mad sciencey themed, but delicious and heaped with melted cheese – a rarity in Japan). I got the nachos because it was the first time I had seen any sort of Tex-mex in Japan.
Some of the other contestants were:
While these were adorable looking and would probably be delicious to eat, anyone who knows me knows that I’m not the biggest fan of fish.
Like, at all.
I wasn’t sure what these really were, but they good. If I wasn’t full from the Tex-Mex then I would have gotten it.
9. Realize you drank too much and try to find the bathroom. Like everything else in this restaurant – it’s a maze. Good luck!
The Lockup bathrooms, surprise-surprise, were also horror themed. Everything was stainless steel and concrete. It screamed “prison-themed restaurant,” but I’m glad they didn’t skimp on any of the decorations…
I was incredibly impressed with the attention they paid to detail. The entire basement had been renovated into a series of corridors, with awkward steps, and different themed prison cells.
This prison-themed lockup restaurant was everything I had hoped it would be – and more.
10. Wait around long enough for the “show” to start.
And the best (or worst part, depending on how you look at it) came near the end of our meal. Off to the side of the menus they had a sign that basically said “Our hard-working wait staff is sometimes off fighting monsters and escaped criminals, so if you push the button (to get service, order, ect) and we don’t come right away – we are sorry! We are probably off catching criminals to make you safe.”
I thought that sign was adorable and creative – albeit a little unnecessary, since whenever we pushed the button, one of the wait-staff served us within a couple minutes.
But it turns out they were serious.
Right when Ryosuke and I were about to pay and leave, all the main lights went out and back-up black lights turned on. The walls of our cell that used to be rusty were now shining in awkward blotches and heavy death-metal came blasting out of the walls.
(In the blacklights, before we knew what was happening)
And then a man in a long black cape wearing a scream mask stuck his head in our cell.
I, well, screamed. A lot.
In a matter of minutes, all sorts of monsters – wearing all sorts of scary, disgusting, and horrifying costumes – had passed by our cell. Some of the monsters kicked the door, some stuck their head or claws in, and the unlucky (or lucky) birthday group next to us had two monsters invade their room.
This went on for two songs. Then, our wait-staff (dressed in sexy cop outfits) appeared, guns in tow. They used pop guns (like the ones I played with as a child that used gunpowder and made sparks but shot no bullets) to kill the criminals.
Then they handcuffed them and drug them away.
Pretty soon the lights came back on and everything returned to normal. Soon after there was a mad dash to the bathrooms – for people who were too scared to go during the “show.”
11. Pay and leave (if you can find your way out again).
The whole meal (two drinks, food, appetizers, and cover charge) was a little over 4,000 yen (about $50 dollars). I didn’t think that was too bad considering it was an izakaya. And we got a “dinner and a show.”
The normal cover charges at most Izakaya’s is about 500 yen (this one was 550 yen – about $7 per person). Keep that in mind when you visit.
And I highly recommend you do visit. It was fantastic – and I would definitely go again soon!
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