Halloween is fast becoming a fixture on the Nagoya calendar — it’s a great excuse to put on a costume and dance the night away. But though every bar in town will be themed for the night, there are some establishments that are in character all year round.

You may not think that a mock prison is the most appetizing of dining locations, and you’d be right. However, people don’t go to Kangoku in Shoku for the food — what it offers is far from fine cuisine. Patrons come for the atmosphere, which more than makes up for what the food lacks. After reading (or willfully ignoring) an ominous warning on the front door, you venture down a dank corridor, where you are greeted by severed hands and tortured faces. You will then be led to your “cell,” which is big enough for a large group but still manages to feel claustrophobic.

There are several courses to choose from that range from ¥2,000 to ¥3,500 per person. If you order one of these set meals you can also indulge in the all-you-can-drink deal (¥1,000 for the basic plan and ¥1,500 if you want a larger selection). Instead, it’s worth ordering individual items off of the menu. The pace of drinks in the all-you-can-drink might also disappoint some: I went with a group of thirsty gentlemen and there were more than a few complaints that beers were a little slow coming.

For the more adventurous among you, there are some oddities on the menu that are worth trying, such as the chrysalises of silk worms and deep fried treats including frog legs and crocodile feet.

It may seem odd to recommend an establishment where both the food and service are average on a good day, but what makes it truly worth your time is that at set times during the evening (Sun-Thurs 8 p.m., Fri-Sat 7 p.m. and 10 p.m.), the lights are cut and you are left in absolute darkness. Doors bang, keys clatter and, with the infrequent pulsing of strobe lights and camera flashes, you’ll see robed figures skulking outside the cells. Soon you’ll hear other customers screaming in fear, and as the tension reaches fever pitch, a masked maniac invades your cell and tries his very hardest to make sure the wet patches on the floor are not just from spilled drinks.

The performances last from 10 to 20 minutes and during this time you cannot order any food or drinks — nor are you able to go to the toilet. Luckily the staff will give you a 10-minute warning before everything kicks off, so that you have a little time to get yourself organized.

You may not find yourself becoming a regular here, but it is definitely a theme restaurant that you should try once, especially if you are bringing someone who doesn’t know what’s in store.

In line with COVID-19 guidelines, the government is strongly requesting that residents and visitors exercise caution if they choose to visit bars, restaurants, music venues and other public spaces.

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