After decades in Japan’s underground, skateboarding experienced a global breakthrough in 2015. As part of an initiative that sees host countries propose new sports for the Games, Tokyo 2020 organizers included skating on its shortlist. But when it comes to mainstream acceptance in Japan, there’s still a long way to go, according to Daisuke Hayakawa, coach of the country’s Olympic skateboarding team. While the excitement around the Games has encouraged more parents to take their kids to skateboarding class, he said, skating in public areas is still frowned upon.
Japan adheres to strict, unwritten rules of comportment. It is a culture of courtesies and public reserve, a land of order, where people line up to board subways, where they rarely eat or drink in public, where trash and graffiti are virtually
absent. Skateboarding is none of that. It is disruptive, noisy, messy. That is the main reason it has, for decades, been relegated to the unkempt shadows of Japanese society, far more hidden and distrusted than in other places around the globe. Signs prohibiting it are everywhere. Part of the reason is practical: Tokyo’s streets and sidewalks are crowded. But bicycles are welcome, often seen zigging through pedestrians. The main difference is that bikes are quiet. Skateboards grind and clatter. Skateboarding on the street is considered “meiwaku-koui” — bothersome behavior.
In 2021 Japanese riders like Yuto Horigome, Aori Nishimura, Kokona Hiraki, Sakura Yosozumi, Leo Takayama, and Momiji Nishiya… just to name a few … are taking over the skate scene. dropping parts and smashing contests, this new group of elite Japanese skaters look like the future of skateboarding. Perhaps with the success of these young riders, the culture will shift and Japan will become more of a destination for skateboarders. Only time will tell!