Tuesday, January 28, 2020

A Chat With the Knock Motorcycle Shop Owner | Shenmue in Real Life

This topic was selected by Phantom River Stone members in our monthly poll and was available for early access. More info on our Patreon page.

Many of the places in the Shenmue series are modeled or based on actual places, and this is especially true for the first game which features locations that are very similar to ones that actually existed at the time the game was made. In recent years, SEGA has even worked with Yokosuka City to produce an official Shenmue Sacred Spot Guide Map that highlights several of these.

Alas, some of these that were around in the early 2000's are no longer here today, such as the large gantry crane at the harbor, dismantled in 2013, or the Jupiter jacket shop in Dobuita that no doubt inspired the in-game Jupitor's Jackets shop, which closed in 2015.

One of the most memorable shopfronts in the game is the Knocking Motorcycle Shop, with its large sign above proudly proclaiming "YOKOSUKA JAPAN", the show window crammed full of parts and several motorbikes scattered about outside in various states of repair.

In fact, the Knocking Motorcycle Shop was also based on a real-life bike shop called Knock Motor, which used to be located just off Dobuita Street. As you can see from this photo in a March 2000 edition of the Weekly AM2 online magazine, they are remarkably similar, right down to the design and lettering on the shop sign.
The real Knock motorcycle shop in Dobuita (March 2000).
I wanted to find out what happened to the Knock motorcycle shop - did it close down completely or possible move elsewhere? There wasn't a lot of information available online, but I eventually struck the jackpot upon learning that the shop is still running today, and located just one train station away from the Dobuita area. So I decided to pay the shop a visit to see if I might be able to talk to someone who could tell me a little about its history.

And so, few weeks later, I took the Yokosuka line train down and walked along for about 10 minutes from the station. And, sure enough, a familiar name came into view...

Walking past the line of motorcycles (including Harley Davidsons), I pulled open one of the shop's front doors and stepped inside to a rather cramped shop area filled with racks of parts and accessories. A customer was being attended to at the shop counter so I spent some time browsing.

After a few minutes, an elderly man who had been watching TV in a corner of the shop called over to me to ask what I was looking for, and this turned out to be the owner of the shop himself, Takehito "Knock" Nagashima. He was happy to spare me some time to talk and answer a few questions about himself and his shop.

The main store window. The lettering on the neon sign matches the Dobuita shop one.

The Shenmue Connection

For Shenmue fans, of course the Knocking Motorcycle Shop is an iconic part of Shenmue's Dobuita. I asked Mr. Nagashima whether he has heard of Shenmue, or if he was approached at all by SEGA in the course of the game's development during the late 1990's, but the answer was negative on both counts.

I brought up a screenshot from the game on my phone to show him, and he was surprised to see a recreation of his shopfront there on the screen.

The Knocking Motorcycle Shop in Shenmue

History of Knock

Knock Motor Ltd is a well-known name among veteran motorcycle enthusiasts in Japan for its wide range of parts for customizing motorbikes. It has a long history, having been business for over 50 years.

The Dobuita shop was in fact a branch (with the main shop being the one that is still running), and catered to the US servicemen stationed at the Yokosuka Naval Base. Back then, the exchange rate was favorable for the US dollar, fetching an impressive 360 yen to the dollar, making purchases of items such as export-model Japanese motorcycles very cheap for those paying with dollars.

However, over time the exchange rate balance shifted towards a stronger yen which affected the demand. Sourcing export models from the Japanese motorcycle manufacturers also became difficult. Factors such as these eventually led to his decision to close the Dobuita branch in the 2000's.

Aside from running his shops, Mr. Nagashima also used to test motorcycles professionally, and he showed me some of the many magazines in which he was featured. However, an accident that occurred just a few years ago has left him with a debilitating back pain and he is no longer able to enjoy his favorite past-time of motorcycle riding these days.

A magazine photo of Mr. Nagashima test-riding a motorcycle.
Regarding the purple shop from the Dobuita shop with the illustration of a motorcycle on it, Mr. Nagashima confirmed that he hand-painted it himself. Sadly, it was disposed of with the closing of the shop.

Origin of the Shop's Name

I asked Mr. Nagashima the reason for naming the shop "Knock". He explained that this was the nickname given to him by his American friends, who found his real name challenging to pronounce properly. He also mentioned with a smile that he used to be fluent in English, but has forgotten most of it now.

The owner of the Knock motorcycle shop: Takehito "Knock" Nagashima.

One thing I wondered was whether he ever used to mend motorcycles out the front of the Dobuita shop, like Ono-san does in the game, and I put the question to him.

"Yes, I did," he nods. This shouldn't really have come as a surprise, knowing the depth to which Yu Suzuki's team carried out their research.

Before I left, Mr. Nagashima gave me some words of advice with a twinkle in his eye: "It's best not to make your hobby your job. You won't make any money out of it". But it's easy to see that he is more than satisfied with the path on which his love of motorcycles has taken him.

The Knock motorcycle shop is a ten-minute walk from Kinugasa station on the JR Yokosuka line (address: 3-chōme-20 Kinukasa Sakaechō Yokosuka).

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  1. I see. This is really interesting. I really want to go to Yokosuka, Hong Kong and Guilin. When Shenmue is finished i want to do same path Ryo did. Your blog is awesome, Switch, thanks.

    I have a Shenmue Channel if you want to see, the name of the channel is Shenmue コレクション this is the link https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCs1Ao1pR9ubcXcje_kkgigg In this Channel i want to upload everything about Shenmue, and i want to upload me playing Shenmue songs on piano, i want to upload me talking about the games, i want to upload my collection and much more.

    I don't have much support on this channel, i shared it on Shenmue Dojo and Shenmue500k but few people saw my channel, can you share my channel here on your blog? maybe this will help, if you don't want to share i will understand, thanks.

    1. Hello Hiki, your ideas for original channel content sound great. Would you be interested in writing a guest post for the blog about for one of your videos? Drop me a line through email (link in my profile) or Twitter DM etc and let's chat.