By Naomi Hastings: As I write this, it’s been ten days since I moved into my apartment in central Tokyo, where I will be living for the rest of this year, as part of a two semester exchange program at Meiji University. It’s also been ten days since I unpacked the four wheels, two trucks and single wooden deck from the bottom of my oversized backpack, reassembled them to make up my skateboard and began skating down the back streets, side alleyways and main roads of this exciting city.
The first place I headed to was FTC Tokyo, a skate shop in the heart of the scene in Shibuya. FTC (For The City) Tokyo held strong appeal to me, as it is Japan’s distributor of Pass~Port, a stylish Sydney-based skateboarding company. In 2015 the Pass~Port team visited Tokyo, documenting the skate scene over there as they were toured around by the FTC crew. When I visited FTC, I gave the staff copies of an Australian skate zine which featured some of the Pass~Port skaters and it was cool to see their excited reaction to the zine.
Just around the corner from FTC is Tokyo’s most central skatepark called Miyashita*, where I’ve been spending a large portion of my time since arriving. The bowl and transition sections of the park are a lot of fun to skate and it’s great that the park is lit up until 10pm. The park attracts many Japan-locals and visitors and there has always been a strong mix of skaters each time I’ve been. The skatepark was set up by Nike, and is part of a larger park containing mini soccer (futsal) fields, rock climbing walls and a dance space. Being privately owned, it has more rules than the public parks I’ve been used to skating back in Oz, but overall the atmosphere is very friendly.
What has really surprised me is how popular skate culture is in the Shibuya/Harajuku area. It seems like every second person is carrying a board and almost everyone is wearing skate-branded clothing. I’ve come across at least 10 skate stores within the one kilometre radius. There also seems to be a really high proportion of female skateboarders here, which is exciting.
Over the weekend, I was going through a park that was filled with people picnicking under the blooming cherry blossom trees, when I came across a group of guys and girls skating and filming tricks in the foreground of the flowers. They were really friendly and invited me to join them at their picnic, and soon we were heading to another nearby skatepark together that I hadn’t had the chance to visit yet.
Skateboarding has been a really fun way of meeting new people and learning more about the Japanese culture and language. I still have so much more of the city and country to explore, but judging by how it’s gone so far, I know it’s going to be a good ride.
*Yes, these kinds of places names are common in Japan. Don’t get me started on Takeshita Street.
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