Is it possible to locate a man given only his photograph and first name? The answer is YES!
In 2006, UK-based game company Mind Candy tested the theory of six degrees of separation as part of an Alternate Reality Game (ARG). They gave us a photograph of a man, a name, and the Japanese characters that translate to “Find me”.
In 2020, thanks to the power of community, that person has been found!
Thank you everyone who helped participate in the quest to find Satoshi!
On July 31, 2006, an alternate reality game (ARG) called Perplex City released foil packs of puzzle cards ranging in difficulty from easy (“red”) to impossible (“silver”). Players could solve the cards and enter solutions into the website, to appear on a leaderboard. The game ended in 2008, and the website is now defunct. (You can read more background about the game and silver-level cards here.)
Puzzle #256 was a silver card titled “Billion to One”. It features a man’s photograph and the Japanese characters 私を 見つけなさい (watashi o mitsuke nasai, “find me”). A Perplex City hint line gave the clue, “My name is Satoshi.”
Perplex City players identified the background of the photo as being in Kaysersberg, Alsace, France. (View the exact location on Google Streetview here.)
The FindSatoshi.com website was started in November 2006 by Laura E. Hall as a way to consolidate information about the search for Satoshi for quick sharing. (There were also several other sites by enthusiastic community members, as we all were eager to solve this puzzle!)
Laura was coincidentally near Kaysersberg in December 2007 for a work trip and was able to visit the town, standing on the same spot that Satoshi stood on for his selfie.
Mind Candy confirmed additional information about the hunt:
- First, Satoshi had willingly agreed to participate in the game.
- Second, he had to be contacted directly. If he saw the site, he wouldn’t reach out.
- Third, he had been told a password, which he would reveal to whoever contacted him.
How Satoshi Was Found
Early on, there was some great news coverage, including a television interview on ABC and a writeup in The Guardian and The New York Times. The Internet was very different in 2006 and we attempted to get as much spread as possible, but relied a lot on word of mouth and link-sharing. (See FAQ for more on how the puzzle was intended to be solved.)
Over the years, Laura received many emails and tips about Satoshi’s identity, but none resulted in a connection. (There was one notable email early on that pointed the search at Los Angeles—but the person didn’t reply to follow-up questions. Laura contacted them a couple of years later and they said that at that point, they had no way to contact the person they knew, who knew Satoshi.)
The trail was cold, with occasional surges of interest when people found the site for the first time and shared it.
In 2018, Asher Isbrucker created a podcast about the project, interviewing Laura and Mind Candy co-founder Adrian Hon.
In December 2020, Reddit user th0may, Tom-Lucas Säger from Hamburg, Germany, used AI facial recognition image search PimEyes and discovered a photograph of a man holding a beer, which had been posted online in 2018.
Further searching revealed more photographs of this man, who lives in Nagano, Japan.
His freckles match up exactly! But we still had to get in touch with him directly—remember, he wouldn’t contact us, even if he saw the site.
His email was on his company website, so with the help of a friend in Japan, Laura composed an email in English and Japanese. And a day later, she received a reply confirming that this was indeed “our” Satoshi! (See below for his message, shared with permission.)
The creator of the puzzle, a former employer of Mind Candy, then confirmed that it was correct.
14 years after the hunt began, Satoshi has been found!
Thank you for contacting me.
You said you have been looking for the guy named Satoshi.
I am Satoshi,,,,,,,,,
I am Satoshi, who you have been looking for!!!
Wow! I had forgotten about this card game altogether, and I never dreamed that someone was still looking for me.
Originally, I was supposed to tell a message to someone if they found me, but … Goodness !! It has been more than 10 years! I completely forgot. I’m so sorry.
Actually, I didn’t know much about Perplex City. Fourteen or fifteen years ago, one of my best American friends asked to use my photo for the game. It sounded interesting for me. I had a recent picture from a trip I had been on and I like this kind of things so I said “why not!” immediately.
However, after that, I didn’t hear much about the game or what it was. I never even saw the card itself.
I didn’t care, and I gradually lost my memory of this, and a year later I had completely forgotten it.
And of course, since then, no one’s found me.
When you got in touch with me few days ago, and I learned that “Findsatoshi” was still going on, I laughed a lot! And I was very happy.
Anyway, you found me! From only one photo, and one photo taken in a small town somewhere around the border between Germany and France, and even as I was in Nagano, Japan when the Card released.
With only the first name information, “Satoshi”
My name is very common in Japan. From the name of hundreds of thousands of people, it took 14 years but I’ve finally been found!! It is really amazing!
Congratulations on solving puzzle #256!
And may your 2021 be a wonderful year!
Happy New Year !!
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Is this related to Bitcoin?
A: No. Satoshi Nakamoto is the pseudonym used by the person who created Bitcoin, but it’s not the same Satoshi.
Q: Did Satoshi consent to the search?
A: Yes, this was confirmed by Mind Candy at the start of the search:
“Satoshi has agreed to appear on this card and, of course, knows you’re looking for him. He isn’t hiding, but he isn’t looking for you either. If you track him down, he will happily provide you with the information required to solve this card, and will also be able to prove his identity as The Real Satoshi – you don’t need to coerce or harass him into co-operating, you just need to find him. Satoshi has no connection with any employee of Mind Candy or Mind Candy’s business partners – pursuing them for information will be of no use. Finally, Satoshi possesses no information regarding the location of Perplex City’s $200,000 Cube, so you needn’t interrogate him about that either! As always with Perplex City, you needn’t (and mustn’t) break the law – or be mean! – in the course of your adventures. With all that said. good hunting, one and all….”
Q: Should I contact Satoshi?
A: Please don’t! His agreement to participate in the game was limited to this one puzzle, and that is now complete. We are very grateful to him for allowing Mind Candy to use his image for the puzzle!
Q: What was the password that Satoshi was supposed to share?
A: It was a question in Japanese that he would have spoken to whoever found him. The answer to the question was the puzzle’s answer. The creator of the puzzle, Jey Biddulph, has posted an audio clip of the question on Twitter. Can you solve it?
Q: What was Satoshi’s connection to the game makers?
A: From Jey Biddulph’s thread: “Satoshi was a friend of someone who worked at a game-focused PR agency Mind Candy worked with, who were based in LA I believe. So there weren’t too many steps involved but quite a few leaps around the world.”
Q: How was the puzzle supposed to be solved?
A: Ideally, through “six degrees of separation”, the hypothesis that each person is connected to everyone else in the world through six or fewer social connections. Remember that this came out in the early 2000s. The shape of the internet was very different then—Facebook started in 2004, Youtube and Reddit started in 2005, Twitter and Google Translate started in 2006. We think it’s great that the solution happened because of the strengths of the Internet today.
This wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work of thousands of people. Everyone who read about the project, shared it with a friend, and chatted about it online made this possible.
Thanks to James at Inside A Mind for making the video about the Find Satoshi project and sharing it with your audience.
Huge congratulations to Reddit user th0may for finding the photo and making the connection to Satoshi. You did it!!
Thanks to Yanis Deschamps and Mt. MELVIL for help with translation and support.
Cheers to Chris Warren, who created the Billion2One website back in the day.
Many thanks to all of the Perplex City players, a very special and fun community.
Thanks to the entire Mind Candy team for creating Perplex City, and to Jey Biddulph, creator of the puzzle, who has been Laura’s partner for over 10 years and who did not reveal anything about the answer the entire time.
- ARGN, Satoshi Found: Perplex City Just Got A Little Less Perplexing
- BoingBoing, After 14 years, a puzzle to find a man has been solved
- The Escape Room-er, Find Satoshi – How a 14 year old online puzzle was finally solved in 2020
- BBC Radio 4 – The Digital Human, Series 22: Find
Interested in learning more about ARGs?
Laura has written a book about the history of immersive entertainment and how to play escape room games, “Planning Your Escape: Strategy Secrets to Make You an Escape Room Superstar”.
Pre-order it now from your favorite bookseller in time for its release in August 2021!