June 1, 2012
From the moment I stepped off the express train I was excited. It was time to see what the game Shenmue looked like in real life. And by Shenmue I really mean Dobuita, the shop filled street I’ve walked numerous times (virtually) via the Sega Dreamcast. Luckily the train station only had one exit/entrance so it was easy to find my friend Ko.
We immediately began walking and talking about the history of Yakosuka. It’s home to a huge US military base, which has a big influence on the area. My first real example of this was our first stop. There is a place in the game called “Funny Bear Burger” but it’s actually a real burger spot named “Honey Bee”. We sat down for a drink in Honey Bee and Ko began to tell me how he frequented the base often as a child and even learned some English there. The Honey Bee (which called itself an American Diner) has been in Yokosuka almost as long as the base. They serve only American food and play American music. If I still ate beef maybe I would have tried one of their burgers.
Once done with our drinks, we continued walking and suddenly I no longer felt like I was in Japan. Seeing so many Americans was very strange. There were Americans everywhere and I thought I would hear English before Japanese at one point. However, before we knew it we were at the foot of Dobuita street and none of that mattered.
The street was narrow just like it was portrayed in the game. I saw the army supply store right where it should be. It was quite a surreal experience. As we kept walking we saw the parking lot where the main character of Shemnue, Ryo would practice his martial art techniques. Many of the shops I wanted to see were now either replaced or just closed down, like the Game Room where Ryo would go to play the Sega game Hang On. But a very important part of the landscape does remain, the pathway to Ryo’s home. I walked up the steep hill leading to his residence with a shrine off to the side just like in the game. It was a great feeling. However, in reality where the house should stand was only a hospital.
All in all I had a great trip. Ko told me that in the evening Dobuita is filled with soldiers influenced by liquor looking for some fun, and Military Police to keep them in check. No day is the same in Yokosuka, especially when the sun goes down. Looking at some of the remaining structures in Yokosuka I could see why modernization is taking place. The steel beams used for construction in the past have plenty of rust and have become eyesores. However, the memories of these old establishments are priceless. I am happy to have experienced this city before I can no longer recognize it.
Thanks to Ko for being a great guide and host. Also, thanks to Sega for creating a great game like Shenmue.
May 31, 2012
I’ve played the game Shenmue so many times over the last ten years I can’t keep count. It’s one of my favorite games and an example of what Sega’s Dreamcast system was really capable of. The main reason I loved it was, it allowed me to experience Japan from my own home. I could walk through the streets of Yokosuka, talk to random Japanese people, go to a game center and even use a vending machine. All of these are normal activities for everyday natives of Japan.
As I write this I sit on a train headed to Yokosuka. The neighborhood I thought to be fictitious actually exists. I made a friend (Ko) the other night who lives there and agreed to show me around. This is really a dream come true for a game nerd like myself. He told me some of the shops I saw in the game still exist there. The city is changing but there is still evidence of the inspiration for Shenmue there.
I’ll add an entry on what I thought of the city next.
May 18, 2012
Due to my late night packing and listening to Patrice Oneal clips, I fell asleep quickly on my 14 hour flight to Japan. Most of my waking hours were spent reading the amazing comic book DMZ and listening to the new Ab-Soul project Control System. My row mate Shawn an architectural student on his way to study abroad mostly slept. My kind of trip. My fifth time going to Japan an it feels like sort of a homecoming. After reading a book like DMZ (I read about 40 issues on the flight) which focuses on the feelings of new yorkers about their city, I wonder what Tokyo holds for me this time. How has Shibuya changed?
Dj Spinna will also be in Japan during my time here. How much has the club scene changed since my first time getting on the good foot in Shibuya back in 05? I would imagine as much as NY has changed, which is quite a bit. Change is constant, and I welcome it. Even when I don’t like the outcomes (see Williamsburg) I’ll check it out. Isn’t life about new experiences anyway?
What hasn’t changed is my struggle with Japanese. One of the flight attendants saw me studying on the flight and threw in some help for proper pronunciation. The help was for words I already know but the intent was appreciated.
I’ll try to continue to report as the trip moves along.
February 3, 2012
I was recently blessed (thanks Shino) to interview one of my favorite pianists Robert Glasper. We got to discuss his thoughts on Jazz and it’s relationship with the black community, as well as his new project Black Radio (In stores Feb. 28th). The interview will be published soon on the BMR website http://www.bmr.jp
In the meantime enjoy the EPK letting you know what to expect from this dynamic project.
December 23, 2011
I had the privilege of interviewing this ill lyricist straight from California a few years back. It’s been a while since I’ve seen something new from him, and Fashawn is about due for a new full length project. His debut album “Boy Meets World” was a great introduction to his take on many things (his hood, upbringing, people). If this new song Generation F is any indication of what he has stirring in the pot, I can’t wait to taste the full meal. (pause)