A Visit to a Prison Themed Restaurant in Tokyo

August 1st, 2013By Category: Uncategorized


Japan is well known for its themed restaurants, there is nowhere in the world that you would find a restaurant based solely on Alice in Wonderland and then another one that makes you feel like you have just landed in Space, all in one city. But that is exactly what you will find in the truly magnificent but absolutely bizarre city of Tokyo.

I had the misfortune of visiting one of these themed establishments recently, named The Lock Up, when my sister came to visit, and all I can say is that it is not for the light hearted. The Lock Up has based its restaurant on Alcatraz, an island in San Francisco which held prisoners in the early 1900’s. There are a couple of these restaurants dotted around Tokyo but the most famous is in Shibuya, not too far from the famous central street crossing.

The last person who didn't pay their bill.

The last person who didn’t pay their bill.

The restaurant itself is not hard to find but first we had to brave a steep, dark entrance into the basement, where we were met by ghouls, skeletons, and chained prisoners who jumped out at us with no warning. Flashing red lights greeted us at every turn (along with my screams) and there were various doors to push before we eventually found the right one. Stepping into the unknown was terrifying, it is so difficult to see even one foot ahead but then finally a prison guard appeared who handcuffed my sister and led us to our table.

Handcuffed and led to my cell.

Handcuffed and led to my cell.

Walking through the restaurant, looking at the dark closed cells, I felt a sense of doom overcome me. I am easily terrified and somehow knew that eating in a cell was not going to be the only scary event of the evening. I tried to push my fear away, stared ominously as the cell door was closed behind us and looked at the menu, trying to find the strongest drink I could.

The Lock Up is very similar to a Japanese izakaya, typical bar food and drinks were on the menu, but the only difference is they are presented in a rather horror movie-esque way. Drinks are served with a choice of syringes, multicoloured test tubes or eyeballs. The food, though, is quite tasty with a combination of Japanese and Western treats on offer. The staff, all dressed in prison guard outfits by the way, were prompt and took their role quite seriously. Before long though, my fears were to be realised in the most horrifying way. The lights went out and a surprise prison break took place.

Drink or potion?

Drink or potion?

I don’t want to ruin the surprise for anyone who plans to go to The Lock Up, but I will say that I felt like I was taking part in a true life horror movie and the ordeal, which probably only lasted minutes, felt like hours to me. My sister, on the other hand, laughed her way through the whole thing, she enjoyed every second and wanted to wait around for more.

After a couple of hours, we left the restaurant. We had two drinks each and felt quite full with a bill of Y5800, not too bad in my estimation. Walking up the stairs on our way out, I was still shaking and my sister still laughing, but of course, a final ghost jumped out of nowhere, it simply had to get the final fright of the night.

The Final Fright of the Night.

The Final Fright of the Night.

In hindsight, (as in a few weeks later, I now feel fully recovered), I can honestly say that The Lock Up is a lot of fun especially if you are not a wimp like me. If you are in Tokyo or plan to visit Tokyo, I would highly recommend it for a fun but frightening experience, not to be missed.

Have you ever been to The Lock Up? Or any themed restaurants? How did you find it?

Author of this article

Ciara Lynch

Ciara Lynch is a teacher, writer and enthusiast of all things Japanese. Readers can find more of her experiences about living abroad in a country so very different to her own. Travels, ramblings, photography and expat advice make up a lot of this blog: http://www.travellingtalesofciara.com

Related articles that may interest you