Ryo is 18 years old and when in need he rides a motorcycle. That sounds perfectly normal.
The game makes the situation about his license not nearly as straight forward as that, however.
First we need to delve into the requirements for a motorcycle license in Japan.
As in many other countries it is split into more than one category. The first one is called "Ordinary Motorcycle" (普通 普通自動二輪車) and can be obtained at the age of 16. It allows holders of this license to ride bikes with engines as big as 400cc. That's pretty lenient and open for people at that age but it may still not be quite enough to allow the bike that Ryo eventually rides.
|A Honda Shadow 600 VLX, also known as VT600C|
The above pictured bike is something that Naoyuki's hawg is probably based on.
A rather beefy V-twin chopper. A bit like a Harley, just not as big and more Japanese.
As the name implies it has a 600cc engine, so it's definaltey too big for this license.
While there are similar looking motorcycles with only 125cc and 250cc they don't quite match the performance of Naoyuki's bike. It is shown to reach speeds up to 160 km/h in the game and no chopper with a engine of the afformentioned sizes is designed to go that fast.
So it is save to assume that Ryo needs something more.
Wich brings us to the license called "Heavy Motorcycle" (大型 普通 普通自動二輪車).
This one allows the holder to drive any kind of bike without any limitations.
Unlike the smaller one it can be obtained at the age of 18, wich makes perfect sense.
That finally brings us to the all important question: When did Ryo pick up his license?
A fact that is very easy to forget when it comes to Shenmue or rather Ryo himself is that the game and thus the story starts on the very day that he turns 18.
So was Ryo actually on his way back from pickig it up at the office in the intro?
Or did it happen, like so many other things have to, in the three days between the murder and the actual start of the investigation?
Unfortunately there is no definitve answer but I hope the post got your interest and made you think yourself. If you have any thoughts, insights or other things to add please feel free to do so in the comments.