Monday, July 8, 2019

Yu Suzuki at Japan Expo 2019: Childhood Anecdotes

Yu Suzuki attended the recent Japan Expo in Paris last Saturday, July 6th. In this post, we'll recap the part of his "Masterclass" presentation where he spoke about his childhood and gave several amusing anecdotes.

Signing Session

In the morning, Yu held a signing session, and at which these gold-and-red Shenmue III fans featuring dragon and phoenix motifs were distributed:
Shenmue III fans were distributed
The main event was in the afternoon, with Yu Suzuki's stage "masterclass" during which he covered topics such as his childhood, his career and of course Shenmue.

Yu Suzuki's Masterclass

The on-stage host was Florent Gorges, one of the founders of Pix'n Love (who in the past have released a book entitled L'Histoire de Shenmue as well as a Collector's edition of Shenmue I & II), and he did a fantastic job handling on-the-spot translation of the questions and Yu Suzuki's responses between French and Japanese.

Yu Suzuki's Childhood

The first main topic was about Yu Suzuki's early years and he described growing up as a child in a small town.*
* Sanriku, in Iwate prefecture on the coast in the north-east coast of Japan.
During the talk, two photos of Yu Suzuki with his family as a young boy were shown, which I had not seen before. Here is the first:

Yu Suzuki (right) as a child with his mother Taka and younger sister Yuka at the shore. (Names from Gamepedia).
Here is a summary of the anecdotes that Yu Suzuki shared (I've translated them from his words, although the on-stage translation was very close).
  • As a child, Yu said he enjoyed building things like cars, spaceships and rocket-powered aircraft out of Lego blocks - the larger the better.
  • Living in a provincial area, he like to make up his own games. One of these was competing with friends to make balls out of dirt and dropping them to see whose would last the longest. He'd even bake them to strengthen their surface.
  • Yu also played with kitset models, but he wouldn't make the object prescribed in the instructions. He'd collect all the individual parts in a large box of parts and create something of his own liking, for example attaching motors directly to the wheels to make an all-powerful car. Yu's parents scolded him for not building the models each kit was meant for.

    "One time I built the model as instructed, and showed it to them. Then after that, I disassembled it all and tossed the parts into my parts box".
  • Yu's parents loved classical music, and his mother was a piano teacher. She taught Yu to play the piano and used to encourage him to take an interest in classical music too, but - as he noted children tend to do - he rebelled against this and jumped into rock music instead. He even replaced the strings in an acoustic guitar with steel strings and hooked up a microphone and speakers to play it like an electric guitar. At that time in Japan, electric guitars were associated with delinquent behavior so his parents didn't want to buy him one.
Suzuki family portrait: mother Taka, father Yuzuru, younger sister Yuka and Yu. From the kimono attire, this photo may have been taken on the day of celebrating Yuka's Coming of Age ceremony (at age 20).
  • When Yu was young, he figured that not many people worked in jobs they enjoyed, meaning it was unlikely he would be able to find something he would actually like to do. Right from the start, he counted on being someone who would use his days off for hobbies. So he focused on jobs that would provide many days off, such as a teacher with summer and winter vacations. Then he considered being a dentist because you can choose your own days off. In the end, he went with Sega because they offered two days off per week.
  • When Yu was in junior high school and thinking about his future career, he thought professions that had English names sounded really cool, like "illustrator' or "programmer", which fostered an aim to become one of those.
  • The profession of programmer in particular sounded appealing to him because he imagined it was derived from the prefix "pro" (which must be short for "professional") and the word "glamor" (which conjured up an image of a curvy lady)*. He wasn't sure if this was a career that men could do as well, but it sounded cool!
* Note from Switch: in Japanese the word "glamour" (グラマー) can have the meaning of voluptuous or full-bosomed, hence the association!

Next Part

In a following post we'll look at a number of concept sketches of Ryo Hazuki that Yu shared when he was talking about Shenmue's development.

Source: Yu Suzuki's Masterclass presentation at Japan Expo 2019 (video)
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