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The Emerging Popularity of Skateboarding in Japan

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When most people think of skateboarding, they think of sunny southern California, top of the line gnarly equipment, like those from Element Skateboard, and vast outdoor skate parks. And indeed, the sport was brought into being in the Big Bear state, in the 1970s. What most people don’t know is this: that the activity has spread worldwide since its inception. Skateboarders can be found in Uganda, Somalia, and Australia, along with everywhere else.

Skateboarding is global.

Even in Japan, it has achieved unprecedented popularity. 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 the 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 bad-boy, semi-punk, 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. “Sukebo” is slang for skateboarding; “suke-ta” is the insider term referring to a skater; and “sugoi” is the equivalent of sick or awesome.

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About Randall Radic

  • bradox

    You could have at least chosen a picture of skateboarders. It’s not like there aren’t a million of them available online. Instead you had to post a picture of a bunch of people riding rip-sticks. They may look like skateboards to the uninformed (or poorly researched) but they are very much different. If your goal was to try and tap into the ‘emerging popularity of skateboarding in Japan’ you have failed miserably. Actually, the picture shown will actually alienate them.

  • Tuna Ghost

    So basic Japanese is considered hobby-specific lingo now? How silly

  • Arturus

    Wow, has this author actually encountered any skaters in Japan? In the two years I skated in Japan, I encountered a vast spectrum of skaters. Sure a good number of them were polite and respected other skaters, pedestrians and police. But there was just as large a segment of scofflaw punks as I’ve met growing up skating in the U.S. There are plenty of beautifully-made outdoor skateparks of the concrete variety all over Japan, and those seem to be representative rather than the indoor variety. Not as many as in some parts of the States, but there were at least 4 within a 30 minute train ride from my place. Even for the non-skater, all you’d have to do is a bit of research on the Internet to find them. And just off the top of my head I can think of 4 skate shops in Harajuku alone. What a strange and uninformative article.