Tag Archives: Shenmue locations

Searching for sailors in Yokosuka: Real life Shenmue locations

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Back when I was a young fella, and still had hopes and dreams that hadn’t been beaten into submission, I spent my days wandering the streets of Yokosuka, Japan. I got into fights, rode motorbikes, chased crooked travel agents, and collected toys from capsule machines with my much younger friend Tatsuya Yamamoto. They were dark days, as my father had recently been murdered by a Chinaman and I was struggling with my sexuality, but I made it through it all with the help of my friends Fuku-san and Guizhang, as well as my girlfriend Nozomi.

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I should probably point out that this is all part of the award-winning Dreamcast video game Shenmue, which I played a lot back in 2001. My father is still very much alive and currently renovating Port Macquarie’s Fantasy Glades amusement park, and my sexuality has never been in question. But as a kid I loved living the life of Ryo Hazuki in the midst of a sprawling martial arts quest, so when I visited Japan it was, in part, to visit Yokosuka. Even though it wasn’t really my father who was murdered, I needed to find Iwao Hazuki’s killer – and that meant heading to the seediest streets of Yokosuka in search of sailors.

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A few years ago I visited the locations from Shenmue II, including Aberdeen, Kowloon and Guilin, and loved seeing the similarities and differences between the game world and the real world. Yokosuka is a little over an hour from Tokyo, and the buildings never stop the whole journey. A sea of grey slid past the window until, finally, I rolled into Yokosuka and stepped out into a land that I’d never been to, but which I had spent so much time in. It was pouring rain, but nothing could dampen my spirit as I walked past the harbour that plays such an important role in Shenmue.

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The bulk of the game takes place around Dobuita Street, and it’s only a short stroll from the station. When I got there, it felt incredibly familiar. The game was made 16 years ago and set 14 years before that, but the feel of Dobuita carried through all of that and welcomed me. Yokosuka has long held an American military base, and Dobuita Street is where Japanese and American cultures melt together to create something truly unique. Jacket shops and bars are clustered together to create a place unlike anywhere I’ve been before.

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Any place full of American culture must have huge, heart-wrecking fast food, and Dobuita is no exception. There are plenty of burger shops, but one serves a meal that would stump even the chunkiest Yank. The 7th Fleet Burger costs around $60 Australian and has more meat in it than my ex-girlfriend did while I was at work. I’m sure if I’d waited around long enough I would’ve seen some poor bastard get wheeled out of there on a trolley, but I had a murder to solve.

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I figured the best place to find sailors would be by the water, so I headed to the harbour, where the legendary battleship Mikasa floats proudly. Built in the late 1890s and first put to use in 1902, it remains an impressive ship, but it was an absolute beast back in the day. The pride of the Japanese fleet, she rumbled with the evil Russians for years, causing all sorts of problems for the vodka drinkers. According to signs on the ship, the Mikasa basically destroyed Russia without any trouble – I’m not sure that’s quite true, but the ship is still an incredible sight.

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I didn’t find any sailors out there, however, and trudged dejectedly into a nearby disable toilet. To my surprise, I found a number of sailors in there and they were quite pleased to see me, but it was at that point that I realised I didn’t really want to find sailors after all.

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As day turned to night I headed back towards Dobuita street, and when I spotted an empty carpark I decided it was as good a place as any to work on my karate moves. I was a martial arts prodigy in my younger years and could’ve become a master if I’d pursued it, and it felt good to bust out some roundhouse kicks and dragon punches. Then a Japanese woman came over and asked me if I was having a seizure, so I stopped.

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One of Shenmue’s most-loved characters is Tom Johnson, an African American stereotype who spends most of his time dancing out the front of his hotdog truck. I was gobsmacked to find a truck that was strikingly similar to Tom’s, selling delicious kebabs instead of hotdogs. Tom wasn’t grooving in front of it, but I didn’t let that deter me, and cruised over to throw out some of my best moves. Just as I was getting into ‘the orangutan’, a very angry man poked his head out from the truck and told me to go fuck myself, which is certainly not something that happened to Ryo. I assumed I’d misheard him and kept shakin’ my groove thang, but when he pulled out a large knife and thrust it in my direction, any miscommunication was cleared and I left.

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On the train ride home, I reflected on how much fun I’d had in Yokosuka. I’d spent 16 years wanting to come to this place, for no reason other than a video game. And it was everything I’d hoped it would be – for a few hours, I was able to feel like I was in the world of Shenmue, without getting my head kicked in. Sure, Yokosuka doesn’t offer too much for the average tourist (although there are worse ways to spend a day – and it’s certainly better than Kyoto), but to me it was the most special place on the planet. I didn’t get to root Nozomi and no children asked me to wrestle, but I loved Yokosuka!

You put your right foot Guil-in, you put your right fot Guil-out

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For a city of five million people, Guilin is simply stunning. Its natural wonders of green hills and sparkling rivers meld perfectly with housing blocks and busy streets to create a completely unique city unlike any other on the planet. So today I decided to get out there and explore it.

First stop was Guilin’s underground markets, which are kinda like Paddy’s but with less Asians. There’s 800 stalls tucked away under the streets, and each sells the same set of Asian-style T-shirts with wackily-misspelt English words, and seeing as I’m not Asian and don’t like wearing shirts that are misspelt, I bought nothin’. I did, however, purchase a bag of pohokey, which are these delicious meat snacks that aren’t really called pohokey. They’re covered in really hot chilli powder that must always be washed off one’s hands before one attends the bathroom. I didn’t, and my penis was burning like I’d just chucked one up Candice Falzon.

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“Hey, I can see popular basketballer Yao Ming from here!”

I then swaggered up to Solitary Beauty Peak (isn’t that the best name of any place ever?), which is a big fuck-off mountain that jumps right out of the ground in the middle of town, and doesn’t live up to its name at all. Yeah, it was certainly beautiful, but it was absolutely infested with tourists – it was busier than that time I took my trousers off at Hyde Park at lunchtime, only this time I didn’t get arrested.

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Solitary Beauty Peak is the little hill by itself on the far left of this photo. Not pictured: Paul ‘Fatty’ Vautin

It was a real hike to the top, straight up narrow stairs, and I got to laugh at the many fatties as they collapsed to the concrete. One big bloke with plenty of tatts and a mohawk cracked the shits when I laughed at him and said he was gunna bash me, so I just took three steps towards the top and told him to eat my arse. He found my words tough but fair, and wished me all the best for the future.

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It’s really quite geographically similar to Mount Druitt

The top of the mountain had extraordinary view over the city. It’s such a strange place, with five million people (a relative village, by Chinese standards) stuffed in between mountains and lakes and parks. From there I could see another, similar mountain not far away, and it seemed deserted, so I scrambled back down and went over there. I never caught the name of this other mountain, but it was deserted and provided an epic view out over the countryside, and I wasted an hour or so just looking out in wonder.

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Crossing the river to Guilin’s wonderful Seven Star Park

Then I went hiked over to Seven Star Cave which is, of course, the setting for the final scene in the video game Shenmue II. With visions of floating swords dancing in my mind (that’s something that happens in the game – it’s not like I was on the drugs or anything), I made my way along ta stone bridge and into the park. Birds sang sweet songs from the treetops as I walked through glorious gardens… and then I FELL INTO A CAVE.

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This is not the cave I fell into. As you can see, this one was very nice, and I could see myself living there

It was down a steep slope with heaps of mud and I actually slid right into it, cutting myself quite badly. It was cool once I got down there and was able to enjoy the cool quietness, but I had no way to get back out. And then Norm came along.

Why would an Asian be called Norm? Well, he was wearing a shirt with Norm from Cheers on it, and appeared to have an afro wig on so he would look like Norm. I guess he idolised Norm or something but who cares, he threw me a rope down and pulled me out. I thought he seemed like a pretty good bloke but he tried to kiss me when I got out, so I left. I’m more of a Cliff Clavin man, really.

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“Another beer, Norm?” “Sure, Woody, right after I try to molest this Aussie guy.”

I made it to the top of a big mountain with a little pagoda at the top and sat there for a good hour by myself, looking over rivers and lakes towards a scarlet sunset, just thinking about what an adventure it had been to get to that point. From sitting in my room at Green Point, playing Shenmue II on my Dreamcast 12 years earlier, to actually experiencing the place for myself. Guilin is a part of the world that simply needs to be seen and experienced to be believed – this mesh of nature and dense population shouldn’t exist, but it does. This place is magical and inspirational, and to visit is to feel like an alie on your own planet. I just sat and felt inspiration and peace flow through me as the sun sank and the world went dark.

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A flower

And then I heard a panting, and looked around to see Norm with his dick in his hand and a lustful look on his face. He was hungry for love, and to him I was an all you can eat buffet. He had the only path off the mountain blocked, but I ran at him, jinked off my left foot and then stepped off my right, adding a fend that knocked his wig off into the bush. I ran away and didn’t look back, leaving Norm lying on his arse, his attempts to block me from getting through as effective as a Josh Dugan tackle.

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The Chinese love decorating things. They’d put colourful flowers on a dead dog if given half a chance

After a stroll along Guilin’s famous Two Rivers and Four Lakes (guess what they were), marveling at them as they glowed by the power of neon lights, I ended the night by having a romantic dinner for one overlooking a river, and drank so much beer that I had to urinate by the side of a path. I was photographed by a Chinese man. He’d need to have a very, very good camera to be able to see anything.

This was originally written on May 4, 2012, which was the National Day of Dancing in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.