This winter season, get excited for a new bilingual adventure!
Winter is upon us, which means ’tis the season for cozy sweaters and curling up on the sofa. But if you’re looking for a chance to get outside and breathe some fresh air while having fun, then look no further. Spend time with your friends and family, check out the sights of Nihonbashi, and get taken on a magical puzzle journey with Nazotabi: The Tale of the Undersea Palace!
What is Nazotabi?
Nazotabi is an outdoor puzzles scavenger hunt game that lets you explore hidden nooks and crannies, discover secret back streets and alleyways, and examine enigmatic statues and monuments. Each version of the game takes place in a specific area or neighborhood (like Nihonbashi, Tokyo). Using the game map and puzzle book, you are guided to specific locations, where you look to find the clues that will allow you to solve each puzzle (on signs, storefront, building facades, statues, etc.) And the best part is, it is 100% bilingual.
Nazotabi is designed and created by Nazobako Tokyo, which until 2020 ran an escape room in Asakusa, and Invite Japan which produces team building activities and events based on puzzles. Nazotabi takes this same basic idea and brings it outside, turning the real world cityscape into an interactive puzzle playground.
Nazotabi, like all of Nazobako Tokyo’s games, can be played by anyone and is completely bilingual (Japanese and English). That means any kind of family and group of friends can have fun exploring the city and solving puzzles together. And don’t worry about puzzle-solving abilities. Nazotabi uses a QR code and online-based hint system that can help you if you get stuck. Anyone from puzzle beginners to puzzles masters can have fun.
“Nazotabi” is a combination of the Japanese words nazo meaning “secret” or “puzzle”, and tabi which means “journey”. It is a journey in both senses of the word–both a passage from one place to another but also a mode of growth and exploration. Nazotabi encourages you to communicate and learn, to discover new facets of yourself and the world around you, and to engage your mental skills. It is a fun game, yes, but it can also help you grow as a person too.
Explore Nihonbashi’s present
Nazotabi: The Tale of the Undersea Palace is based around the Nihonbashi/Mitsukoshimae area. The iconic Renaissance-style Nihonbashi bridge, with its fantastical statues and European-inspired lamp posts, is the heart of the area and provides the perfect backdrop to the game. The bridge is a great sight to explore and walk around. But while the bridge and the famous Mitsukoshimae department are what most people imagine when they think of Nihonbashi, the area has a rich and interesting history with many other interesting aspects to experience.
Nihonbashi was a bustling mercantile center since the capital of Japan moved from Kyoto to Edo in the 17th century. The bridge was the terminus for a bunch of different roads that crisscrossed the country, bringing people and goods to and from the capital. The main fish market of Edo, was also found near the bridge, right by the river, until it was moved in 1923 after the Great Kanto Earthquake.
It is no wonder then, that Japan’s first department stores developed in the area. Mitsukoshi, which still stands today, was first started as a cloth store. Even today Nihinbashi continues its commercial heritage, with new stores and shopping complexes sprouting up. The Coredo complex, which just opened a new section last year, is the latest addition. And the Muromachi area just got a nice revamp, including a courtyard and shrine. There are also a variety of “antenna shops” (stores that feature goods and foodstuffs from regions around Japan) that you can peruse to your heart’s delight.
…And its past
The heart of our new game is of course the puzzles and story, and we’ve really cooked up a good one this time. You get to become the hero in quest to save a magical undersea kingdom that is under threat from a mysterious evil force. As you go on your journey through Nohonbashi, you will “encounter” various different mythical characters and creatures from Japanese folklore who will help you on your way.
With Nihonbashi’s shiny commercial face, you’d be surprised that the area has a strong connection to Japanese folklore. However, Nihonbashi was part of the shitamachi, or Low Area/Downtown of Edo, where the commoners and craftsmen used to reside (as opposed to the Western part of the city where the daimyo had their estates). This is the birthplace of Kabuki, Rakugo, and other forms of entertainment and arts that took their cues from folk culture.
So folklore and commerce really merged together in interesting ways that are still noticeable today (look around and you will see images from folktales and myths being used in advertising and marketing all over the place in Japan).
Edo was also a city much more connected to water than Tokyo is now. Canals used to run through the city, and were a major mode of transportation. In fact, old Edo was a lot like Venice, a city of waterways and canals that felt intimately part of the sea. Starting in the Meiji period and continuing through subsequent periods of reconstruction and development, Tokyo filled in its canals and reclaimed land from the bay, pushing the sea ever further away from the city.
Inspired by Japanese tales of a dragon palace, or ryūgūjō, under the sea, we have attempted to reconnect Nihonbashi, and Tokyo, to its older watery roots.
Bond over puzzles
Maybe it’s the cold or the holidays, but winter is the time of year when you want to spend quality time with your loved ones and families. And there’s no better way to do that than bonding over puzzles.
Nazotabi: The Tale of the Undersea Palace features fun and interactive puzzles for everyone, from young kids to older adults. Plus the puzzles are all bilingual, so really any type of group can play together.
These puzzles will challenge your mind and make you think differently. Along with the magical story mentioned above, the puzzles will carry you away and immerse you in an entirely different world. And who doesn’t want that this year?
But ultimately, our puzzles are focused on getting people to communicate and create memories with each other. These are the building blocks for relationships, both old and new, and for spending real quality time with people. There’s a lot to distract us and a lot to worry about. So maybe as this year closes, and as a new one opens, we can take the chance to really focus on what’s important–the people in our lives who, no matter what’s going on, make it all worth it.
Enjoy the winter season and holidays, and please stay safe.
Nazotabi: The Tale of the Undersea Palace is available now! To purchase a game kit or find out more information, please click on our Shopify page link here. The game can be played whenever you want, and there is no time limit (although it would be safe to block around 2~3 hours to play, take breaks, and have snacks).