The Meaning of Ukiyo
Ukiyo, translated in Japanese to mean the ‘floating world’ is a studio which focuses on the creation of story universes which are made to be experienced and explored. Similar to an escape room experience, you are transported into a tangible, out-of-this-world narrative where your decision making has an active role on the characters and environment.
The word ‘Ukiyo’ was used to describe a way of life during the Edo period of Japan where the arts was highly celebrated. Nobles, merchants and the growing middle class of Japan would escape from daily life to a land filled with Kabuki theatres, tea houses, sumo wrestling, puppet shows and other cultural performances. ‘Ukiyo-e’ which literally translates to “pictures of the floating world” is much more well known in current culture. Famous Japanese artists from that period include Hiroshige, Utamaro and Hokusai who created the famous ‘The Great Wave’ woodblock print.
In the same way that people would escape daily life to a land of the arts, at Ukiyo in Melbourne the immersive ‘floating worlds’ we create are universes that you can journey to and explore with your friends. So far, our worlds include the Deep Space and The Crumbling Prince universe with a Cyberpunk world soon to come.
Step into Ukiyo’s ‘The Crumbling Prince’, a Japanese themed escape room inspired by the Legend of Zelda series and Studio Ghibli films: Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle and Princess Mononoke. Played by 2 to 4 players, The Crumbling Prince is an immersive, intriguing adventure from beginning to end.
The Japanese Inspirations of Ukiyo
The Legend of Zelda
“When I was five I began playing The Legend of Zelda games Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask on my Nintendo 64. They are games both renowned as coming-of-age narratives where Link starts as a child and matures to adolescence all the while exploring deeper and darker themes. Playing Zelda first sparked my interest in fantasy world building and exploration – from there it became a creative basis for the innovation of Ukiyo.
I really wanted to bring some some of the game elements from The Legend of Zelda into the room which is both wind and music themed. Some clear parallels exist between the chime puzzles that exist in the room and the ocarina melody puzzles from Zelda. There’s even a little Song of Time easter egg in the game if you play it on the chimes but it’s very very rare for anyone to try it.
Animal masks are at the heart of The Crumbling Prince and bestow special abilities, allowing one player to communicate with nature spirits, one to see hidden illusions and one to hear the voices from the spirit world. This was a giant nod towards my favourite game Majora’s Mask, where you can don different masks for an array of transformations and abilities. It was such an awesome concept that I wanted to bring to life and share with Melbourne.”
Creative Director of Ukiyo
The works of Studio Ghibli, specifically the films of Hayao Miyazaki provided much inspiration for The Crumbling Prince. Michael was first introduced to their anime during his mid high school years and from the first time he watched Howl’s Moving Castle, he realised that there was something unique and intriguing about Japanese storytelling that differed to traditional Western storytelling arcs.
“There’s this feeling you get after a Miyazaki film that is quite hard to describe in words. It’s this strange emotional torrent of nostalgia, sadness, joy and a longing for the childhood that has now passed. It’s something I really wanted to pass onto people through The Crumbling Prince. To me, that feeling and atmosphere is so important.”
Similar to Hayao Miyazaki’s animations that wrestle with environmental issues and break down social barriers and prejudices through often quirky and unique characters, the Ukiyo universe too looks to explore deeper issues such as grief, death and war through fascinating and inventive character development.
The title character of The Crumbling Prince is based on a character from Japanese folklore of which there is little remaining information. One of the oldest literary works of Japan contains a brief section about Kuebiko – a scarecrow demigod who stands still over the rice paddies and has knowledge over the heavens.
Japanese folklore is also renowned for featuring foxes as magical creatures, which The Crumbling Prince noticeably adopts. Foxes as magical beings and spirits feature in the later episodes of The Crumbling Price and also Ukiyo’s first board game.
Additionally, the tree in The Crumbling Prince is named Hikaru which means “to shine” in Japanese. The animations that can be observed throughout the game involve the use of traditional sumi-e painted by Junko, Ukiyo’s Japanese ink artist.
You can check out her artwork at:
Upon entering the world of The Crumbling Prince, you will find Japanese screens on the walls, a calming zen-like garden, a gentle stream that flows through the garden and most significantly, a vibrant cherry blossom tree – elements all inspired by Japanese nature and culture.
The language created for The Crumbling Prince is a written language for the Children of the Grove characters and the idea for it was based on a historic form of Japanese characters.
The distinct and often tranquil music of the world is specially crafted with a hybrid of Japanese and culturally unique instruments, setting the mood for various scenes in the narrative. Traditional Japanese drums, flutes, kotos, plus an ocarina among other instruments are masterfully layered to create the harmonious sounds for The Crumbling Prince.
The Crumbling Prince draws upon a combination of Japanese themes, capturing a sense of childhood nostalgia while exploring a variety of emotions and ideas in its storytelling. This intricate, interactive and mysterious experience will leave you pondering about the story and experience long after you’ve left!