Tag Archives: Shenmue

Searching for sailors in Yokosuka: Real life Shenmue locations


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!

So long, Hong Kong (and hello, creepy Malaysian perverts)


After thee days in Hong Kong I was ready to get out of the place, but I had a full day to kill till my flight at 8 o’clock. I slept in, then thought about taking a ferry to the ancient land of Macau, then decided to just catch a ferry to Wan Chai, then was pissed off because it was busy and hot and I had chafing between my legs that made it feel like my balls were going to catch on fire at any minute. I grabbed a beer and wandered aimlessly, ending up at the Happy Valley Racecourse. Which was closed.

I can see the Hong, but where’s the Kong?

Luckily, there was a bus stop advertising trips to Aberdeen, which was the only major place from Shenmue II that I hadn’t visited. It’s funny, I saw every place backwards – in the game, Ryo goes to Aberdeen, then Wan Chai, Kowloon and Guilin, and I did it the wrong way. Still, that’s better than wearing my shirt the wrong way or something. I remember my father did that one day, and even though I told him about it he still went to the shops with his bloody shirt on backwards. He’s a lot older now, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he now goes along to Bi-Lo without any pants on or something. Still, at Green Point Bi-Lo that would probably make him most fashionable person there.

Aberdeen there, Aberdeen that

Aberdeen was a nice place, relatively quiet and with a pleasant harbour to walk along. There were heaps of those junk boats floating around, some pretty sailing ships, and all up it made for a pleasant way to spend a day. And then my Hong Kong adventure was over, and it was time to move on to my next port of call – Malaysia!

Well, it sure beats swimming

The plane to Penang was almost empty, but a young Chinese couple still had to sit next to me the whole way. I was annoyed at first, but then I noticed they were very nervous, like they had drugs stuffed up their blurters or something. The the girl went off to the toilet, and the bloke headed off a minute or two later, trying (and failing) to act cool. The cheeky bastards were trying to join the Mile High Club (incidentally, both me and my brother are members of the Metre High Club, which simply involves masturbating on the train from Central to Gosford. Uh, we didn’t do it together).

Yay! A plane!

Anyway, a couple of minutes after old mate’s tottered off, I hear a scream from the back of the plane, and rushed up there with a couple of hosties. I forced the door open, and inside was the Chinese couple, all twisted around each other like they’d been in a car accident. They were screaming like they were being stabbed, and even though I couldn’t understand them it wasn’t hard to work out what had happened – they’d popped in for a root, and doing the dirty in the cramped Air Asia brasco had caused thee fella’s back to lock up, and the girl to get stuck between the sink and the wall. They had to stay that way until we landed an hour later, and some firefighters raced on to save them and probably have a good laugh.

Penang Airport was about as technically advanced as a Down Syndrome person’s lunch, but I raced through it and into a taxi, and was soon burning through late-night Malaysia. It was such a change from China – quiet, with clean air and English words written on buildings everywhere. It really felt like home after being in such a strange place. And then I got to my hotel, and it didn’t feel like home at all.

Palm trees in paradise

I was only using this joint as a flop house for about six hours till I caught a ferry out to the island paradise of Langkawi the next morning, but it was horrendous. When I walked in the front door, two old men were sitting in filthy chairs watching a hardcore porno on a black and white TV, joined by about half a dozen rats. The whole place smelled of rotten cabbage and sweat. Paint peeled from the walls, the carpet was ripped with patched of what looked like dried puke, and a dim corner of the room held what appeared to be a dead prostitute. It was like something out of a horror movie but fuck it, I had to sleep somewhere.

I called out to one of the perverts and he jumped up and walked over to a counter without putting his pants on or taking his eyes away from the TV. He threw a key at me, pointed up the stairs, then went back to jacking off with his mate. I went up the stairs as quickly as I could go.

My room smelt like piss. There were blood stains on the walls, and I’m pretty sure there was a peep hole drilled in the wall of the toilet, so I didn’t use it. I just pissed in the corner, figuring it would only improve the stench in the room.

The grundies on the floor weren’t even mine

I tried to wash my hands in the tap, and something that looked like black tar drizzled out, so I didn’t bother. I slept fully clothed, with a shirt between my head and the pillow, only waking up when someone in another room would scream in either ecstasy or terror. Around four, I woke up with the sensation of something sitting on my chest, and opened my eyes to see the biggest, meanest rat sitting there. I threw it off, and spent the next couple of hours crouched on my bed, kicking at rats, squashing cockroaches, and wondering if it’s possible to catch AIDS just from spending enough time in a horrible room.

When I left the next morning, the perves were still there watching porn, so I chucked a mandarin a one of their heads and ducked out the door… But it was all worth it, because a few hours later I was in Langkawi, and it was beautiful.

Sunrise over Penang – see, it’s not so bad after all!

I originally wrote this on May 8, 2012, which was the day the Earth stood still.

The King of Kowloon


When I stepped out into the streets of Hong Kong I expected to see Oriental dudes doing flying kicks and those big, ceremonial dragons dancing down every laneway, but there was none of that. It turns out that’s just a cliche and the Chinese don’t really… oh wait, that’s exactly what I saw as I left my tiny hotel room.

Luckily, I don’t think it’s a real dragon

After escaping the madness, I made my way to the train station and caught the subway up to the northern end of Kowloon. The train system really is fantastic – turn up to the station and within two minutes you’re on your way to your destination. I can’t imagine what international tourists think when they jump on a Sydney train and have to deal with constant delays, rare services and blokes crapping themselves in the aisle.

Hey, come on, I had food poisoning!

A few minutes later I was walking through the gates of Kowloon Walled City Park, which stands on the site of the former Kowloon Walled City, which was the world’s most densely populated place until it was torn down in 1994. How densely populated was it? Thirty-three thousand people in a space the size of four football fields – or 200 times as populated as the rest of Hong Kong, which is simply mind-bending. They wouldn’t have been able to fart without giving their nextdoor neighbour written notice.

A model of the Walled City of Kowloon. I felt like stepping on it and pretending to be Godzilla

The city served as a major location in the greatest video game ever, Shenmue II, so walking through the remnants of it was a lot of fun, but it’s as far removed from what it used to be as possible. The walled city was a melting pot of crime, prostitution and poverty, a lawless place full of rotting buildings and extreme violence. The park, on the other hand, is incredibly calm, with water features, carefully-prepared gardens and temples taking the place of the home-made towers and drug ghettos that had been there. All up, it was pretty bloody cool.

The trains are packed tighter than an AFL player’s short-shorts

From there I strutted over to Kowloon’s shopping district, which is famous for its video game stores. The Golden Shopping Centre was dirty and busy, with aisles between stores as thin as a Labor Party policy. I tried to bargain my way to a cheap PlayStation Vita, wasn’t able to find one that was remarkably cheaper than the price back in Oz, and soon cracked the shits with all the people and noise and Indians trying to sell me drugs. I hate shopping at a place like Erina Fair, so this was a nightmare for me. So I escaped south to… Wan Chai, which was even busier.

I want a Slurpee!

Wan Chai, which is across the water on Hong Kong Island, was even more packed, and the beating sun made it a pretty unpleasant place. Still, it was a featured area in Shenmue II, so I walked around asking about the four wude and generally making a nuisance of myself for my own amusement. That’ll be a lot funnier if you’re a video game nerd. I also discovered that there’s a bakery selling hotdogs every few metres. Yep, there are delicious dogs everywhere, so I barely went five minutes at a time without having a sausage in my hand – but enough about my sex life!

I love sucking Asian sausages

Next stop was Man Mo Temple, up the road in Schen wang. It’s a fairly run-of-the-mill temple, but featured prominently in Shenmue II, so it was a must-see for me. And it was great! Unlike the other areas I’d been to, Man Mo was very similar to how it was shown in the games. I really felt like I was wandering through a video game. And then I got thrown out.

The Man Mo Temple. The bloke in the green shirt is my life partner, Trent Wu

Why did I get thrown out? Well, I was happy and a bit drunk, so I started dancing around inside the ancient temple. And the more I danced, the more I became lost in the moment, throwing my arms and legs this way and that, singing and thrusting my pelvis in a way I’d seen Elvis do. Wild dancing is probably frowned upon in Buddhist temples, but I think what really pissed them off was when I kicked over some big alter thing full of flowers and incense sticks. A bloke immediately grabbed me by the arm, and I turned around, ready to fight him. The only thing that stopped me was that I didn’t know if he was Master Man, the master of literature, or Master Mo, the master of martial arts and kicking heads. I could take the book nerd any day, but if he was the kung fu dude I was in for a world of hurt, so I ran out of there like a girl.

Can you blame me for mistaking it for a nightclub?

It was getting late, so I contemplated going home, but decided instead to catch a tram to the top of Victoria Peak and check out the city. I love looking out at wonderful views, but there was nothing wonderful about this, ‘cos it was absolutely packed up there. Like, hundreds of people crammed onto a platform, jabbering away and pushing and shoving for position. It was about as relaxing as getting sucked off by a cannibal.

“Hey, I can see my rickshaw from here!”

Alright, the view was incredible, especially as the sun set. The skyscrapers stretch out forever, and as the sky darkened and the lights came on, it was like looking out over the future. But I soon tired of it and raced out of there looking for some peace and quiet. Luckily, with such good public transport I was back in my room half an hour later, with a bag full of assorted beers to keep me company. I just couldn’t face another night of fighting through the crowds and telling curry munchers to fuck off, so I watched some Californication and wrestling, listened to some music, wrote, and passed out in my cell. Yeah, I really, really need a day at the beach.

Sunset over The City of a Million Ping Pong Balls

This was originally written on May 6, 2012, the day that Princess Diana died. Do you remember where you were? I was in Hong Kong, trying on hats. A stranger on the street, Dudley Wong, broke down in my arms. We’re now best friends.