Sunday, January 1, 2017

2017 New Year's Greeting from Yu Suzuki & Team | Cultural Notes

2017 New Year's Greeting from Yu Suzuki & Team

A short New Year's message from Yu Suzuki & the Shenmue III team has appeared on the official website.

[Update: the official message is now available in English on the site, which I have inserted below in place of my translation.]
New Year’s Greetings Everyone!

We hope you are having a holiday season. The development of Shenmue III has stepped into its second year, and our team is in high spirits.

Without your support, we would not have been able to make it this far. We thank you again for all you have done to make Shenmue III a reality.

We look forward to continuing our journey with you in 2017, and wish you a wonderful year ahead.

From Yu Suzuki and the Shenmue III Team
The message is accompanied by a cute New Year's animated "post-card" illustration featuring Shenmue characters!

Shenmue III New Year Illustration
The kanji at the bottom read 迎春, a New Year's greeting literally meaning "Arrival of Spring".

Regarding New Year's postcards, in Japan it is much more common to send these than Christmas cards. People send them not only to friends and family but also coworkers, business partners and customers. If you post them by a certain date in December, the Post Office makes a huge effort every year to ensure that they will be delivered on exactly January 1st. Also, if you receive such a post-card from someone it is polite to send one back in return, if you have not already sent one to them.

Illustration Details

In any case, let's see what interesting details are hiding in the illustration.

There are a number of small details that are specific to Japan that are interesting to pick up.

In each of the top corners is a cherry plum blossom, signalling the coming arrival of Spring.
Plum blossom

Sun rising behind Mt Fuji
In the background is of course Mt Fuji, Japan's highest mountain, with a large orange sun rising behind it (the color red or orange is often used to denote the sun, whereas yellow might be more popular in other countries). Every year, swarms of people make the trip up to the top of Mt Fuji to catch the first sunrise of the New Year.

There is also a pair of birds flying past the tree in the foreground - perhaps an oblique avian nod to this year being Year of the Rooster according to the Chinese Zodiac calendar (something which Japan also employs)...?

We see that Ryo and Shenhua are dressed in traditional Japanese kimono. In Japan, traditional dress is often worn on special occasions such as when visiting the local shrine in the New Year - although many people these days also wear Western-style dress.

The decorated bat that Ryo is swinging is a kind of wooden paddle, which is used to hit a small shuttlecock (the object with green, yellow and red feathers with which he rather clumsily whacks himself in the eye). This is a traditional game similar to badminton called hanetsuki which is often played at New Year, particularly by girls.

"Hanetsuki": a traditional game similar to badminton
And hello - who's that on Ryo's paddle, like a sort of Shenmue version of "Where's Wally" (or "Where's Waldo", depending on your country)? To dispel any doubt, there's a small word written next to him that spells out his name:

Wooden paddle with a fiendish face
On Ryo's face can be seen some marks, namely a circle and a cross. With the game of hanetsuki, depending on the rules that the players decide among themselves, when somebody loses a point their opponent may have the option to mark the score on their opponent's face using charcoal black ink. It looks like Ryo has been losing to Shenhua!
Ink-faced Ryo

Happy New Year from Phantom River Stone

Let me take this opportunity to wish all blog readers & Shenmue fans a very Happy 2017!

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  1. Excellent article once again. And the official logo has been used again! :D iyapol

    1. Thanks Iyapol. I'm also liking the use of the original logo :)

  2. Allways interesting to see those details!
    Happy new year!