By Scott Robson
Although skateboarding may seem like a purely American invention, and in fact the sport was created in sunny California, this activity has spread worldwide since the 1970s. In fact, skateboarding is quite popular in Japan. The burgeoning Japanese skate scene is definitely worth checking out if you are a skateboarder who happens to be travelling to Japan.
Skateboarding in Japan is absent much of its “counterculture” edge. In fact, most skaters in Japan are clean cut, not “punk.” Some have noted this attitude to be the biggest difference between Japanese skateboarders and those in the west. Still, skateboarding in Japan still has some of its “bad boy” image, especially as cops begin to crack down on skateboarders, but even the punk or tough-looking Japanese skateboarders tend to be polite and well-mannered.
Unlike in America, where the vast majority of skateboarding takes place outdoors, in Japan there are quite a few indoor skate parks. Land is very expensive in Japan, and many of these skate parks have been set up in warehouses. These large warehouse skate parks can only be found in the largest cities; elsewhere, there just aren’t many areas where skateboarders are allowed, though there is plenty of concrete to attract them. Many wonder if Japan will begin providing public skate parks as skateboarding becomes more and more popular there.
Another downside is that many large Japanese cities, especially Tokyo, are very congested. Even if you were to find an interesting area to skate, it’s not likely to ever be deserted enough for you to be able to skate there. Plus, “no skateboarding” signs are showing up all over the country, and police are cracking down on this trend. In Japan, there just aren’t that many places to skate.
Another factor making it more difficult for Japanese skateboarders getting involved in the sport is the price of boards, wheels, bearings, and wax. Though there are a few Japanese skateboarding brands, most skateboarding products still cost more in Japan than they do in America. You are actually more likely to find a board by looking in a second-hand shop than you are by looking for a skate shop.
Skateboarding is quickly growing in popularity throughout all of Asia. Still, it has a ways to go before it reaches the same level as American skateboarding. In fact, many high school students in Japan don’t recognized skateboarding as a popular sport, while in America one survey ranked it as the 3rd most popular sport. While it is still catching on among youth, skateboarding has already spawned skateboard companies and magazines in Japan, including an official association known as the All Japan Skateboard Association, which was founded in 1996.
In Japanese, a skateboard is known as a sukeetoboodo. Skateboarding is sukeetoboodingu, though within a group of skateboarders it might be referred to simply as “sukebo.” A skater is a Suke-ta, or a “Suke-tobo-do yatteru hito,” which is literally translated as “a person who skateboards.” The American slang terms ‘awesome’ or ‘sick,’ often heard from skateboarders, translate to ‘sugoi.’
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