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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Skateboarding in Japan

Skateboarding in Japan. One of the most refreshing skate clip I have seen in a while...
Skateboarding in Japan

We have known for a long time that even if skateboarding was born in empty pools in southern California, it quickly spread to Florida, northern California, France, Germany, and UK. The last countries where skateboarding is picking up big time are Australia, Brazil, South Africa, Spain, Mexico and Japan. Japan is a place apart from the rest of the world. The country was poised to have its GDP surpass the US some time ago, then, they were structural shocks and what was called a lost decade where all the gains were reversed during between 1991-2000. Just when Japan was supposed to get out of the slump, the country was hit with another economic decay and a second lost decade (2001-2011) hit the country and wiped out the GDP when the government decided to bailout companies that were too big to fail (no we are NOT mistaken with the US). Add to this that Japan experienced net population loss in recent years due to falling birth rates and almost no immigration and you find a downtrodden country where the youth has little to no prospect in the future.

With this background, it is crazy that skateboarding even picked up in Japan. But a company like Burton saw it all before everybody. They just announced a couple of days ago that they will discontinue their 2 brands Analog and Gravis (insofar Based in California) in the US-Europe and relocate Gravis in Japan.

So, what’s up with skateboarding in Japan?

Whether you believe it or not, skateboarding has achieved unprecedented popularity in japan. So if you’re a skateboarder, and you happen to be lucky enough to be traveling to Japan, the escalating skateboarding opportunities there deserve your attention.

The major difference between skaters in Japan and skaters in the U.S. is that Japanese skaters don’t seek out and wear the countercultural laid-back attitude of their American equivalents. Japanese skaters are neat, tidy and well-groomed. They don’t adopt the ambivalent bad-boy, semi-punk, or surfer nonchalance of skaters in the U.S. Even though the Japanese police have cracked down on skateboarders and where they can skate, the skaters remain courteous and respectful.

In the U.S., skateboarding is considered an outdoor sport. Vast skate parks may be found even in smaller cities. Not so in Japan, where they are landlocked and land goes for premium prices. Most skate parks in Japan are located inside warehouses, and then only in the largest cities. For the most part, the warehouse skate parks are concrete, while anything outdoors is temporary and made of plywood. Limited space is the obstacle holding back skateboarding in Japan. The kids think skating is totally cool, but the simple fact of the matter is there aren’t enough places to skate.

Skater equipment – boards, trucks, wheels, bearings, and wax – is available in Japan, but only at exorbitant prices compared to similar items from U.S. skate shops. And there are a few exclusive Japanese brands, however, a lot of the best and most popular equipment is imported from U.S. manufacturers, which explains the high cost. Sadly, very few skate shops exist in Japan, a fact that forces many Japanese skaters to purchase their equipment online, through outlets like eBay.

On a happier note, skateboarding is popular enough in Japan to have generated glossy skater magazines and the All Japanese Skateboard Association, which works diligently to promote the sport. And just like skaters in the U.S., Japanese skaters speak their own special dialect and here's a short lesson on speaking skateboarding in Japanese:
· The word SKATEBOARD in Japanese is "Suke-tobo-do". The dashes are for stretched out sylables (you could also write it "sukeetoboodo")
· SKATEBOARDING in Japanese is "Suke-tobo-dingu" (or "sukeetoboodingu")
· Skater is a little tough to translate. You can say "Suke-ta-", and they might get it, but probably not. It's best so say "Suke-tobo-do yatteru hito", which means "a person who skateboards"
· Skateboarding is sometimes shortened to "Sukebo", but there's a great chance that the average person won't understand what you mean if you say it!
· "Sugoi" is how you saw "Awesome" or "Sick"
· "I love to skateboard" is "Suke-tobo-do ga dai suki"
· "Godzilla ate my skateboard!" is "Gojira ga ore no suke-tobo-do o tabeta zo!"

Skateboarding has grown in interest in Japan, and there are full-blown Japanese skateboard companies, magazines, and everything. If you are planning on visiting Japan, you should check out the Japanese skate scene! Here are some websites that will help you find Japanese skate shops, places to skate in Japan, and more.

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posted by Xavier Lannes @ Sunday, October 28, 2012 


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