Japan is the one place that hasn’t completely adopted the “industry standard” style of skating seen everywhere else. They’ve been known to create their own signature versions of our customs as seen in their style of pornography and TV. Maybe it has to do with its geographic and historically cultural distance from “the West,” or maybe there’s something special in the instant ramen noodles, but even today when I think, “Japanese skateboarding,” I picture their quick-ollie, curvy-power-sliding, mini-spots-centric style.
And while I enjoy their skating, I have no idea who the scene’s major players are or how to navigate it to find good parts to watch.
To attempt to remedy this, we reached out to our Japanophile friend, Nino Moscardi, and asked him to educate us all on the scene. He put together this definitive list (in no particular order) of the most important Japanese video parts, with descriptions to help us understand how all these amazing skaters fit into Japan’s skate history. Watch and read and you might learn something, Jenkem-san.
“LENZII” – Seimi Miyahara (2014)
The whole library of “LENZ I” and “II” parts should be on this list because they’re so deeply entrenched in the Japanese skateboarding consciousness, but the one standalone part is Seimi’s. His style looks like it came from a surf video, and his control to pop over and out of tricks that no one else would even think to try sets him apart from his light-footed brothers, Koichiro Uehara and Hiroki Muraoka. With its tight urban spots and stylish trick selection, this part was one of this decade’s greatest influences on Japanese skateboarding.
“Overground Broadcasting” – Gou Miyagi (2008)
Gou’s part in the Far East Skate Network’s (or FESN) “Overground Broadcasting” is largely responsible for Japan’s reputation for unorthodox skateboarding. It was released long before Heroin’s “Video Nasty”, in which both Chopper and Gou continued the streak, so “Overground Broadcasting” didn’t make a splash abroad until YouTube took off and the “CRAZY JAPANESE SKATEBOARDER!!!” video launched him into a strange limbo of popularity and complete obscurity. Gou’s skating was unlike anything the world had ever seen before. Japan’s isolationist history seemed to rub off on Gou because he skated like he had never seen, or maybe just didn’t care about, a normal skate video.
“2nd to None” – Shin Okada (2001)
Shin Okada, or “Oka-shin” as he’s more affectionately known by his Japanese brethren, is one of the principal persons to thank for first bringing Japan’s skate scene to an international audience. He was featured in 411 when he rode for Prime, but his part in Deca’s “2nd to None” helped put Japan on skateboarding’s map. Although he never officially went pro for Deca, it was one of the first full-length parts by a Japanese skater for a large brand to show off both hometown spots and internationally recognized locales. To the millennial Japanese kid just learning to put down the Playstation and pick up a board, Shin Okada was the truth.
Chatty Chatty 3 – Yoshiaki Toeda
Toeda is the most recognizable head of the Chatty Chatty crew out of Shonan, and he deserves more recognition from the international scene. Putting in work since the early 2000’s, Toeda and the Chatty Chatty videos set a standard for all the young Japanese kids trying to rip. They were some of the first well-produced domestic videos and they reached into Japanese street culture through of their connection to underground music and art (I’ve met Japanese chicks who’ve never touched a board but grew up watching these videos). Chatty Chatty 3 is the pinnacle, and Toeda’s part was a perfect precursor to his future moves to SF’s Western Edition and FTC.
“Goin’ Bananas” – Maru (2007)
For people familiar with Japan’s skate scene, this one’s easy. Maru is an OG scene builder and one of Japan’s rawest transition skaters. While he currently skates for Evisen, he originally left his home in Sendai to ride for Consolidated in San Francisco. He’s fun to watch because he doesn’t give a fuck. Whether it’s a steep bank or a 12-foot deep pool, he’s down to skate it. If he was born in the States, Maru would have made a perfect addition to the Anti-Hero squad. He’s back in Sendai now and running his own shop, Bridge, but that hasn’t stopped him from releasing a full part with Evisen and shredding any curved surface he can find. Kickflips? Who cares.
“The Evisen Video” – Shinpei Ueno (2017)
Anyone who knows anything about Japanese skateboarding has been expecting Shinpei on this list. He’s not only a veteran Japanese skate scene builder and OG frontman of the Tightbooth Production crew, he’s also Evisen’s resident manny technician. 4 minutes of manual to ledge combinations might sound boring, but Shinpei’s style and boss attitude keep you glued to the screen. Back lip to nosegrind a C-ledge? Yes please. Few skaters can make pushes and powerslides look as badass as Shinpei.
“Overground Broadcasting” – Takahiro Morita (2008)
Takahiro Morita is the founder of the Far East Skate Network (FESN), which has been pushing the creative and artistic side of Japan’s skate scene for over 20 years. Although most of his skating now is low impact ingenuity, few in the West know about his 30-year history of ripping. He deserves much of the credit for getting Japanese skateboarding as much exposure as it did in the early internet ages. Following the devastating earthquake and tsunami in 2011, his slogan, SKATERS MUST BE UNITED, brought together the domestic skate scene and still brings skateboarders together today.
“Video Nasty” – CHOPPER (2013)
If Gou’s FESN part established Japan’s skateboarding identity as an exercise in unorthodoxy and creativity, Chopper’s part in Heroin’s “Video Nasty” solidified it. Chopper is also the front man for an entire band of merry outcasts, The Osaka Daggers, based out of Osaka’s hectic Triangle Park. If his child-sized board isn’t indication of Chopper’s fun and silly style, it’s evident as soon as you see him skate.
“In Relationen” – Toriotoko (2017)
Toriotoko, which means “Bird Man,” is one of the most interesting underground videographers from Japan. He’s a mild-mannered businessman by day, but once the sun goes down and Tokyo’s crowds thin out, Toriotoko hits the street to film the gnarly and absurd. His videos are more like mini art pieces that combine the weirder side of Japanese culture with raw skating from OG’s (Yuzo Kudo, Yuichi Ohara, and Deshi) and young guns alike (Haruka Katagata, Shin Sanbongi, and Shogo Zama).
*Toritoko’s older videos are also great but unfortunately YouTube removed many of them.