“Handsome” Itaru Orikasa, like many in Japan, has a passion for fighting games. With a background playing in the Virtua Fighter series, he went on to author Diago “The Beast” Umehara’s manga, before working behind the scenes at the DiagoTheBeasTV Twitch channel. Since its release, Street Fighter V has become Orikasa’s game of choice: like many of his peers, he’s spent countless hours practising and fine-tuning his skills.
But Orikasa didn’t see getting better in the 'normal' way, which is to say through online rankings or in the numerous arcades throughout Japan. Instead he decided to embark on an on-foot journey across the country he named “Street Fighter on the street”, encouraging any new challengers to find and fight him wherever they could. This 450km journey from Chusonji Temple to Tokyo started back in May and has had every step streamed by Orikasa on his personal Twitch.tv channel.
This fighting game pilgrimage of sorts — amongst other things — is an attempt to refine his skills in an unusual way. Orikasa explained via email: “There are all sorts of interrelated reasons, but if I had to give one it would be that I want to do things skilful players get to do (like win tournaments and travel abroad). I want to obtain the skills they have to make that a reality, and ‘Street Fighter on the Street’ can help me do it.”
From the very beginning of the trip at Chusonji temple, there was plenty of competition from local players, who leapt at the chance to fight him on stream. “‘Buchi o’ – san and ‘Shūkin’ san were the first to play me, they had been waiting for the start of the Street Fighter on the street stream for a while.”
These dedicated fans of Orikasa were the first of many that would appear on stream and established how exactly the ‘on the street’ aspect of his journey would work. Setting up a tarp on the ground, Orikasa played any and all players who found him on a laptop he packed for the journey. This meant that literally anywhere could act as the arena for friendly games of Street Fighter.
Over the next month of travel, Orikasa made it all the way to Sendai; travelling 100km from the Iwate prefecture and battling numerous people on the way there. These matches happened in parks, fields, roadsides and playgrounds, all of which were streamed to viewers watching live. At this point many great players had appeared, but the toughest opponent turned out to be one he wasn’t expecting. “There were players that I fought in an underground tunnel between Chusonji Temple and Sendai that were both very strong. However, My PC also kept on running out of power in the middle of matches, so you could say that was my biggest rival of this entire trip.”
Occasionally a friend or player would give Orikasa bed and board – as well as play a few matches while he stayed over. Even at this early interval ‘Street Fighter on the street’ was taking its toll. After initially finding it bearable, “tremendous fatigue” soon affected the walk according to Orikasa.
For three weeks, Orikasa stayed in Sendai; a bustling city with a large and passionate fighting game community. His first stop once arriving was House Bar Yu, a small gaming bar where he would challenge manager Yakatori in a first-to-five competition, acting as a sort of boss fight for the first stretch of his journey. After a tense 5-4 to Orikasa, “House Bar Yu was reincarnated as ‘Handsome Bar yu (named after his online alias). After that, we played a lot of matches with people who came for the stream.”
Not wanting to waste time in Sendai, Orikasa appeared on DaigothebeasTV in order to further improve his skills with great players such as coach Fuudo. According to him the best of these players, and the strongest he’s played so far, was without a doubt one known as Gori Kage. “He’s a famous Virtua Fighter player. He was certainly the best so far, his anti-air reactions were extraordinary.” When not playing Street Fighter, Orikasa hosted alongside Daigo Umerhara in a streamed cosplay tournament, where he later took part in a 3v3 table top game against a team of cosplayers.
At the start of July 'Street Fighter on the Street' began again as Orikasa continued his venture to Tokyo. Moving south from Sendai into the Fukushima prefecture, he would continue playing against any Street Fighter players who met up with him during his video game odyssey. After this 90km stretch, the stream was put on a short hiatus caused by the largest hurdle of the trip so far. “Above all the struggles and strong players, my toughest opponent was the heat. It was a worldwide heat, but it undermined not only our bodies, but also our spirit”.
Orikasa has thus far, to be fair to the guy, travelled around 190km on foot. That's just under the halfway point for his planned route, but this world warrior has an optimistic outlook about completing the remaining 250km, citing the people who want to watch it happen. “The trip is finally approaching it’s second half, and we can only manage with the support of the stream’s viewers. We are looking forward to it and hope everyone watching enjoys it as well.”
With the norm of competitive gaming being online without this face-to-face aspect, the dozens upon dozens of players that showed up to fight was heart-warming every time I watched the stream. Orikasa feels similarly: “My favourite moments have been ending segments of the trip in Sendai and Fukishima. I was happy to see all the people gathered there waiting for us to arrive, wanting to play”.
Apart from the obvious physical feat, ‘Street Fighter on the street’ impressed me as soon as I first saw it. The soul of fighting games has always been in competition, be it between two siblings in front of a T.V, or two strangers at an international tournament. As a result, the many fighting game scenes around the world are built on a foundation of self-improvement and community, all for the sake of ‘upping their game’ and striving for success. With Evo – the largest fighting game tournament in the world – just around the corner, this spirit is put on display for the whole world to see in the thousands of players all fighting to be the best at their respective titles.
‘Handsome’ Itaru Orikasa and his journey embodies these fundamental values. The lengths he has gone to for the sake of progression, his eagerness to challenge himself, and his love for fellow players highlights everything it means to be passionate about these games. If there was ever such a thing as a real world warrior, it might look something like this.