The Yakuza series of games, (known as Ryū ga Gotoku, or, Like a Dragon) in Japan, has a long history of blurring the lines between fantasy and reality. With various games in the series having taken place in cities across Japan like Tokyo, Osaka and Sapporo, players are able to lead a double-life as a crime-hardened member of the Yakuza, getting into all sorts of antics from serious street brawls to goofy karaoke sessions.
One thing that has always set the series apart is its dedication to a realistic portrayal of the cities it takes place in - even going so far as to feature dozens of real-world locations and products. With the arrival of Yakuza 7 in the west slated for sometime this year - I've decided to take a look at some of my favorite places to grab a bite to eat in the game - and real life!
that feeling when you’re ready to destroy a beef bowl
Matsuya is a staple across Japan. Serving beef bowls, known as gyu-don in Japanese, as well as curry and hamburger steak (hanbagu). This chain is a fantastic example of Japanese style “fast food”. In the west, the idea of fast food tends to evoke imagery of greasy burgers and questionable nuggets. I personally love Matsuya because although it is indeed a quick and easy choice, the quality of the food provided ensures its a guilt free experience every time. Besides, most Matsuya locations are open 24/7, so it's always there for you when you need it.
This image was plucked straight from the game. Looks good enough to eat, right!?
2. Ikinari Steak
Seeing my favorite restaurants while playing Judgement really gives me a sense of deja vu!
Ikinari Steak (appearing in the Yakuza spin-off game, Judgement) literally means “sudden steak” in Japanese - A reflection of the restaurant's mission; to provide a quality steak dinner that’s quick and easy without formalities. The real draw of Ikinari Steak is the fact that you are able to order your choice cut by the gram, allowing you to control exactly how much you want to eat with precision! This also makes sampling various cuts a totally viable option.
Kunio Ichinose, President of Ikinari Steak appears in Judgement!
Get this - the majority of the locations across Japan are standing only! Yup, you stand while you eat - a rather common thing for sushi or drinks in Japan, but have you ever eaten an entire steak standing up? In order to keep prices low, Ikinari has to keep their turnover rate incredibly high, meaning there’s no time to waste! You won’t get a better steak at a better price anywhere else, so despite its odd set up, I highly recommend giving this place a shot during your next trip to Japan!
Zuboraya’s in-game storefront
Specializing in the poisonous puffer-fish fugu, dining at Zuboraya could be a matter of life and death! Located on the iconic Dotonbori street in Osaka, it’s unmistakable fugu shaped lantern contributes to the iconic imagery that the city is known for, making it hard to miss among the madness.
While fugu does in fact contain Ciguatoxin (stronger than cyanide!) In its liver, chefs must complete 3 years of specialized training before they’re able to serve up the mild tasting fish - so while it's fun to imagine a thrill - there’s really no worry in giving it a shot. Due to its excellent reputation and death-defying cuisine, Zuboraya has become quite popular with tourists, so while it may put off those who want to avoid the crowds, I still think that when it comes to fugu, Zuboraya is among the best options available.
Try fugu sashimi, hotpot or tempura at Zuboraya
Believe it or not, there’s a ton more restaurants and other real-world Japanese locations littered throughout the Yakuza games. Would you guys like to see us cover more real-life video game locations and foods? Let us know in the comments below!
Have you been to any of these places on your travels throughout Japan? Be sure to tag us Facebook, Instagram or Twitter and show us where you’ve been! I'm getting hungry just thinking about your photos…