ESCAPE FROM THE MYSTERIOUS SHRINE

Escape rooms have recently taken North America by storm, rapidly appearing in many cities around the continent. If you are unfamiliar with this popular and alternative form of entertainment, here’s how it works: You assemble a team of your favorite friends, coworkers, or family members-pretty much anyone you’ve always wanted to be with when locked in a small, unfamiliar room. The room contains clues to puzzles, although the immediate use for these clues is not evident-careful examination of your surroundings, creative thinking, and maybe some trial and error is crucial to getting the puzzle series started.
One puzzle’s solution provides a clue to the next puzzle. If you are able to solve all the puzzles in the room within the allotted time frame, you will find a key that unlocks the exit door, and your team emerges victorious.
In the true spirit of an escape game, none of the puzzles have instructions, but everything you need to solve the puzzles is provided within the room. Many of the clues will need to be used in combination with another clue in order to solve a puzzle.
Examine your clues carefully and think creatively and you just might escape the mysterious shrine!

THE DESCENT…
An otherwise enjoyable day of hiking your favorite mountain trails is about to take a turn for the worse. You and your friends discover an overgrown path leading through the foothills. Giving in to curiosity, you follow it, only to slip down a steep gravelly hill, and find yourself dumped into a deep pit. Following the only path out of the pit, you enter a mysterious cave. Judging from the paper scraps with unusual grids of letters, and the sun, moon and star carved into an altar, you think you stumbled into an unidentified cult’s house of worship, or perhaps a secret meeting place of the Illuminati. Whoever occupies this cave isn’t here at the moment, and you’d better work on finding the exit before they return. Perhaps the eclectic assortment of items laying about the room can help you. On a bookshelf, there’s a large square of cardboard with 16 holes meticulously punched out of it, along with a skeleton key and a small battery powered clock. A wooden desk presents a spread of face up, lettered cards, in a seemingly random, yet intentional, order. The cards sit next to a computer monitor and keyboard. A variety of Japanese symbols are framed and displayed on the desk. There is a locked safe in a dark corner of the cave. A few scraps of paper with various codes and puzzles lay about the cave. The only viable way out is via an exit which is blocked by an enormous slab of limestone.

HINT