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Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Metron Stamp Rally '99: Shenmue Journey | Tokyo Metro, Japan

Today we welcome back contributor James Brown (visit his channel SkillJim on YouTube) with another guest post on a fascinating topic, this time talking about the Shenmue promotional stamp rally that was held in Japan back in 1999. Not only that, but he has obtained an actual rally book that is packed with stamps and information, and scanned its pages to share with everyone. Over to  James!

Back in 1999, prior to the release of Shenmue on the Dreamcast, Sega of Japan really went full force with various marketing campaigns to advertise Yu Suzuki's open-world epic. Along with events such as the Shenmue Premiere, tie-in's with brands like Timex and even convenience stores such as Lawson's was another event that took place that has never really been well-documented - at least not in English.
An article in Dreamcast magazine (July 1999) detailed the upcoming event
This event was known as the Metron Stamp Rally '99: Shenmue Journey, and was based around the Eidan subway network (which we'll refer to here as Tokyo Metro, to which it was renamed in 2004).

Events like these are quite common in Japan, and collecting ink prints made by rubber stamps is still quite a big thing today - you can find stamp and ink stations at many of the locations and tourist spots around Japan. These stamps are usually themed on the location in which they are found, and you can stamp your book, or sometimes with the provided paper, as a memento of your visit.

There were a whole bunch of unique Shenmue-themed items found at the event, ranging from the obvious, such as various stamps bearing the shapes of caricatured cartoon versions of characters from the game (which appear to have been based on the VMU animated character designs released later), through to various promotional items such as advertisement posters, pens and mechanical pencils branded with Shenhua, coloring-in illustrations of Ryo and Shenhua, separate adult and child themed day pass train tickets, and the biggest item of all: a 90-page full-color Stamp book, filled with character & game information, and also information about the trains and train lines!

The stamp Rally book

An adult day pass train ticket

Shenhua coloring-in sheet
Ryo blotting card
If you are new to the concept of a Stamp Rally: basically, stamping points are dotted around an area which participants must hunt down by following a guide, and after successfully locating each one they stamp their book as proof of their visit. It's all in the name of fun really, and usually there are possibly prizes or certificates handed out at the end of the event.

In the case of the Shenmue stamp rally, the stamp book detailed at which of the stops along the Tokyo Metro lines a stamp would be found, and handy empty squares on its pages indicated where to stamp the relevant stamp.

Each metro station each had its own themed stamping point that were easily recognizable as being for the Shenmue event. They really went all-out on the creation of these, with some awesome Shenmue artworks and scenery, and with some even resembling Dreamcast Visual Memory Units!
A cool stamping point decorated with Shenmue-themed artwork

Another Shenmue-themed stamp point, in the shape of a giant VMU
The prize for completing the Shenmue Stamp Rally was one of a cool Shenhua-themed pen or mechanical pencil. Here is a short video showing off one of these!

A page in the book detailed the steps for calculating your rally score and overall success (as demonstrated by the Tokyo Metro system's mascot, "Metron"):
The rules for calculating your score, based on the stamps you collected.
If you reached a total score of 50+ points by the end, you qualified for a prize; or alternatively you could also qualify by visiting and stamping at 15 stops. Depending on your luck, you might be able to fulfill the conditions for a prize quickly or slowly!

A special page in the Stamp Rally book had 49 scratch panels on it, and under each scratch panel was an image of a game character, each worth a certain number of points - or even none at all! (None of the panels on my page shown here have been scratched off).

Point Sheet: each square is a panel that could be scratched off to reveal a character
Each stamp you collected during the rally allowed you to scratch off one panel, to see how many points you had earnt. There also existed a few "lucky" stamps that let you scratch off two of the panels.

You then used the chart below to calculate the number of points you earned for the character images you uncovered under the scratch panels:
Chart showing the points value of the characters that could be found under the scratch panels
The chart in my book has not been filled out, but hopefully you can understand the system!

Each train line of the metro had designated stops at which stamping points were located. Here is a map of all of the lines at the Tokyo metro system in 1999:

Whilst that looks rather daunting, for a regular user of the Metro, I'm sure they could navigate around rather easily to find the corresponding stops!

Take the green (Chiyoda) line for example:
Here this shows 8 large circles at stops 3, 9, 17, 23, 26, 27, 33 and 35 respectively.

At each of these stops a stamp would be found for pressing onto the page in the book for the corresponding station:
The page for stop 17 on the line map, stamped with Ryo!
The stamp rally seems to have been another fantastic promotional and marketing event for Shenmue in Japan. I wonder how many people took part? A lot of the items seem very rare to find in the wild these days, and it's a shame to think, but I assume that a lot of the promotional material was probably thrown away back in the day.
From the 2nd to the 8th of August, Shenmue demo kiosks were added to the rally. It's unclear whether Shenmue itself was playable on them, or perhaps just the What's Shenmue demo?
It's nice to see that even today, with the recent release of Shenmue 1 & 2, SEGA still occasionally put on similar events to be enjoyed, such as the Shenmue coaster collecting down on Dobuita Street (which unfortunately ended at the start of the year).

Hopefully we will see more cool events like this in the future. I'm looking forward to the Shenmue 3 stamp rally event along the mountains of Guilin later this year :)

If you would like to view more photos of the Stamp Rally event, and for the first time ever check out the full Stamp Rally book (and every possible station stamp!) , you can find it over on the Shenmue Dojo Media section found here.

Thanks to Phantom River Stone for providing some translations for this blog post.
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