Legos not Lagos
Tell another visitor the truth about street skating in Tokyo and the response is between an eye-roll and defensive denial.
The truth: Tokyo is [deep breath] …not that good for skateboarding.
Ok, wait! Don’t start yelling! Are there spots? Yeah, some. Are there tons of incredible skaters from there? Yes, a lot. Is there a vibrant skate scene? Yes, yes, and yes. Does it have quite literally the friendliest, most amazing locals on earth? Good God, a million times yes. Tokyo has incredible skateboarding culture, but when you find yourself a tourist there, you soon realize this previously unfathomable truth: you’re more likely to come home with five expensive jackets you don’t actually need, rather than five tricks you’re happy with for a video.
This past October was one of those great groupthink travel moments where many diverging crews all happened to be in Tokyo at roughly the same time (a la that one January when literally every New York skater was in Barcelona at once.) As we’d cross paths with newcomers, the following interaction became commonplace.
“Have a you guys been skating a bunch since you’ve been here?”
“Er, um, not really, no.”
“What do you mean?”
“It’s um…kind of hard to skate here.”
Cue the “You guys are probably just hungover everyday,” or worse, the proverbial “We’re more ‘core’ than you” subtext that assures the denying party will have an easier time being productive in Tokyo than you have.
Until you run into them the next time, and they concede to reality.
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Japanese culture is well known for its attention to detail. They seem to master everything they pursue, sometimes even surpassing original versions of things indigenous to other places. Why else do Americans fly to Japan, convert dollars to yen, and spend money on superior Japanese versions of traditionally American products? So in hindsight, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to learn that the most impressive D.I.Y. spot I’ve ever seen — save Burnside, FDR and places that have been around for twenty-plus years — was in Japan.
There is minimal English information about Yume Farm on the internet. It is an actual farm and campsite, serving as a hour-away escape from Tokyo life for anyone willing to make the drive. The skatepark though — …doesn’t make a lot of sense. It’s a smooth island of concrete in the middle of the woods. It sits on a mellow slope and there is no sign that it was ever a building foundation. The only story behind how it came to exist was “three years ago, the park gave it to the skaters and said they could build whatever they want on it.” The people who brought us here had last skated it three months prior, and in that time, the entire tall transition section got built.
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Re-discovered this gem after Eli’s all-Tokyo part came out yesterday. Why are all-Japan parts totally chill, while all-China parts are totally “boring?” Do people just pack way sicker fits when traveling to Tokyo? Is it because Ricky said Japan was cool?
Sidebar: Pretty sure the problem with skateboarding in China isn’t China. The third biggest country on earth isn’t somehow devoid of the cutty sort of stuff that you see in the Eli part, Quim’s Overcast Broadcasting part, or Silas’ Adidas thing. It’s just pretty tough to pay any attention to some cutty wallie spot when there are ten flawless plazas a block away. Send Polar, Traffic or probably any Theories-distributed brand to Shenzhen or Shanghai, and every commenter will be lauding the “new way to skate China!”-narrative for a straight month. All it took was the GX dudes to skate the Universitat benches the wrong way for everyone to say all those “blown out” Barcelonian spots look “fresh” again.
Leave China alone, guys. They have enough problems without you telling them their flawless public spaces look “boring” on the internet.
ANYWHO, Japan is having a moment this week, and this Traffic clip from 2010 — described as Ricky’s “last hurrah” in the final episode of his Epicly Later’d — is a fun watch. Happy Thanksgiving.
“I don’t try hard tricks anymore.” — Jack Sabback, 2012
P.S. Ricky hates surfers
This is perhaps the most glowing example of “How-did-I-not-know-this-existed?” in recent QS history. Our 2011 re-edit was somewhat of an unofficial addendum to Quim’s section in Non Fiction, but this part is the closest you’re going to get to an official sequel, and quite obviously put together with that original video in mind.
Overground Broadcasting is a Japanese video from 2008, edited by Morita Takahiro. Some word of its existence made it over to the States, except they didn’t promote the fact it had a five-minute Quim Cardona part nearly as much as they should have. The footage comes from two month-long Tokyo trips made in 2003 and 2006, with some bits of early-2000s, Zoo York-era Quim footage sprinkled in towards the end. (Some of it wound up in issues of E.S.T.)
As a guy whose more-discussed stylistic hallmarks have always been oddball spot and trick selection (e.g. heelflip body varials), pop, and “drunken monkey” arm gestures, it has been easy to forget Quim does some of the best-looking flip tricks in skateboarding. Even with three candidates for “Best Switch Flip Ever Done” to his name (off the curb cut in Non Fiction, over a concrete barrier off the curb across from Union Square, and the one where he was the only dude to get air off the bank at Riverbank Park), he still gets left out of the “Best Flip Tricks” conversation, which, as you may notice, we have on this website a lot. The fakie flip on flat, not to mention the backside flip and switch flip over the metal bar in this part, are reason-enough to merit more frequent inclusion alongside Kalis, Stevie, J.B., etc.
Nice of this to surface a week after we discovered Quim was originally supposed to have a full part in Eastern Exposure 3.