Skateboarding in Japan: From Cultural Underground to Mainstream Skateboarding in Japan: From Cultural Underground to Mainstream

Concrete bowls for skateboarding have long been a part of the Californian landscape

Skateboarding in Japan: From Cultural Underground to Mainstream


2022.05.30

NAVITIME TRAVEL EDITOR

Skateboarding in Japan: From Cultural Underground to Mainstream

Skateboarding’s roots can be traced back to California sometime in the late 1940s to early 1950s. It started as a pastime for local surfers who had the desire to continue riding boards, even when the waves were flat.

  • 01

    Tracing Skateboarding’s Roots

    Skateboarding’s popularity grew across the USA in the following years, before suffering a sharp decline in the late 1960s – thanks to a slew of negative press, the general American public began to view it as a dangerous activity and as a fad that would soon disappear.

    However, during the following two decades, it experienced somewhat of a comeback. It was around this time that those who are credited with originating the modern version of skateboarding began to really go mainstream in both the United States and indeed around the world.

  • 02

    Skateboarding's Initial Impressions in Japan

    As this was happening, the first seeds of skateboarding's cultural influence began to spread in Japan. Skateboarding began to appear in American movies and the sport was seen as a part of a number of influential trends and icons that reached Asia, such as Coca-Cola, rock music and roller skating. While it could have easily been dismissed as just a passing fad in Japan, similar to its early days in America, it somehow managed to make a lasting impression on what would become the first generation of Japanese skateboarders.

    Skateboarding in Japan has remained a popular pastime with an ever-growing number of fans

    Skateboarding in Japan has remained a popular pastime with an ever-growing number of fans

    Skateboarding is a sport that is, for the most part, done in the street, meaning it utilizes obstacles found in public spaces. As a result, its image is often tied to rule breaking and delinquency. In Japan, where consideration of how your actions impact those around you, especially in public spaces, is held in high regard, skateboarding's culture of chaotic creativity immediately clashed with Japanese values of mindfulness and order.

    Since Japan's first generation of skateboarders first started popping up in the 1970s and 1980s, this negative image never waned. Skateboarders were written off as a nuisance to the general public, with few redeemable qualities as a legitimate sport.

  • 03

    Legitimizing Skateboarding in the Olympics

    In August 2016, Skateboarding officially became an Olympic sport, scheduled to make its debut at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
    In the run-up to the games, the International Olympic Committee said that their goal was to expand their reach to younger athletes. In addition, they said that they specifically wanted to include new sports in the 2020 games that were more “youth-focused" and "popular in Japan".

    "The five sports (baseball, karate, skateboarding, climbing and surfing) are an innovative combination of established and emerging, youth-focused events that are popular in Japan and will add to the legacy of the Tokyo Games," said IOC President Thomas Bach, at the time.

    Tokyo 2020, the first time Skateboarding has been included in an Olympic Games
A.RICARDO/Shutterstock.com

    Tokyo 2020, the first time Skateboarding has been included in an Olympic Games A.RICARDO/Shutterstock.com

    The inclusion of skateboarding sat well with Japan as the sport has not only grown in popularity over the past few decades, but the skill level of Japanese skateboarders had also risen extremely quickly, gaining respect around the world. The first generation of skateboarders have now given way to the next, who have excelled in the sport, despite skateboarding's negative image in mainstream culture.

    The Tokyo 2020 games were officially the first to include skateboarding, and it was now time for Japan to stand up and show the world what talent they have been nurturing!

  • 04

    Japan’s Wins and Changing Perceptions

    Out of the 12 gold, silver and bronze medals up for grabs in the four skateboarding events, Japan took an unprecedented 5 of them in the 2020 Summer Olympics. Yuto Horigome, who was 22 years old, took gold in men's street while the other four medalists were all female. In women's park, Sakura Yosozumi, 19, won gold and Kokona Hiraki, 12, won silver. Hiraki became the youngest Japanese athlete on record to participate at the Summer Olympic Games. In women's street, Momiji Nishiya, 13, won gold and Funa Nakayama, 16, won bronze.

    Celebrating wins. Japan takes gold and bronze, while Brazil takes silver
A.RICARDO / Shutterstock.com

    Celebrating wins. Japan takes gold and bronze, while Brazil takes silver A.RICARDO / Shutterstock.com

    While many who watched the skateboarding events took notice of how young many of the winning athletes were, the main thing many were surprised by, was the camaraderie, mutual respect and support, the skateboarders expressed to each other during the event — especially during one particular moment in the women's park event.

    15 year old Misugu Okamoto only barely missed out on winning a medal by not landing a single important trick in her last run. Audiences around the world were impressed however, to see she was immediately surrounded by the other competing athletes to pat her on the back and lift her up on their shoulders in a show of spontaneous support.

    For skateboarding, it seemed this moment became a significant step that had been taken in the Japanese public's minds to see this unexpected positive aspect of the sport, which traditionally had been associated with only negativity.

  • 05

    New Parks and Public Support

    According to the non-profit Japan Skate Park Association, there are around 240 public skate parks across Japan. Following the Olympics, Tokyo's Koto Ward, where the skateboard events took place, said that they plan to set up a new skatepark in the area this November. In addition, the local government in Matsubara in Osaka prefecture said that they will set up a new section of the skateboarding facility used by Momiji Nishiya who won gold in women's street.

    Skateparks of all sizes can be found across Japan and they are only set to increase in number now that the Olympic Games have further popularized the sport
DPeterson / Shutterstock.com

    Skateparks of all sizes can be found across Japan and they are only set to increase in number now that the Olympic Games have further popularized the sport DPeterson / Shutterstock.com

    These days it has become quite common to see entire families engaged in the sport of skateboarding in Japan. Japanese parents who were of the first generation of skateboarders in Japan are now skateboarding with their children and even their grandchildren in parks around the country.

    While a negative stigma still remains with skateboarding in public streets, the Olympics seems to have widened the public's perception of the sport to its more positive aspects and local authorities are actively working towards supporting skateboarding by building new skateparks throughout the country. We can certainly dig that!

  • 06

    Skateparks in Japan

    If you’re looking for a place to skate in Japan, we recommend checking out these well-known skate parks in Tokyo:

    Miyashita Park Skate Park
    Address: 1 Chome-26-5 Shibuya, Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-0002
    Website:
    https://www.seibu-la.co.jp/park/miyashita-park/facility/sports/


    Komazawa Skate Park
    Address: 1-1 Komazawakoen, Setagaya City, Tokyo 154-0013
    Website:
    https://www.tokyo-park.or.jp/park/format/index040.html


    HLNA Skygarden
    Address: DiverCity Tokyo Plaza 7F, 1-1-10 Aomi, Koto-ku, Tokyo 135-0064
    Website:
    https://hlna.jp/skygarden/

    MIYASHITA PARK
    place
    Tokyo Shibuya-ku Jingu-mae 6-20-10
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    Komazawa Olympic Park
    rating

    4.0

    293 Reviews
    place
    Tokyo Setagaya-ku Komazawakouen 1-1
    phone
    0334216431
    opening-hour
    Grounds are open at all time…
    View Allarrow
    HLNASKYGARDEN
    place
    Tokyo Koto-ku Aomi 1-1-10 Diver City Tokyo Plaza 7F
    phone
    0355796991
    View Allarrow

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