In August, Valo will release the Soichiro Kanashima tv. 2, the first pro skate from a Japanese skater. It’s surprising it has taken so long, as Japan has always had a strong scene and been a part of skating’s progression since the very beginning. No further proof
of that is needed than looking at the names of two of our most basic tricks: the Mizu and Makio.
According to Chris Mitchell, the mizu was invented by Chris Garrett. “Back in the good ol’ days, Team Rollerblade skater Chris Garrett went to Japan on a Groove Tour. The only word he knew in Japanese was mizu, for ‘water.’ Not sure why he couldn’t remember ‘biru’ for beer, but anyways… so when he and the locals came up with the grind, he called it the mizu.”
The makio was invented and named after the first skater to lift up his front foot while doing a soul grind, Makio Miyazaki.
“I am not skating anymore, I am 43 years old.” — Makio Miyakashi
I could be wrong, but all the evidence seems to point to both of these tricks being invented on the “Dare to Air Tour” through Japan in 1993, which was a pivotal moment in r
ollerblading’s young history.
The Japanese have always been able to flip an American idea or invention into something dope with a style that is uniquely Japanese. Rollerblading and hip hop are no exception, as the Tokyo, Japan section in VG 5 illustrates. The song in the section is “Code
Number 0117” by Japanese hip hop group King Giddra, off of their 1995 album, Sora Kara No Chika. The group was named after the 3-headed monster King Ghidorah, the villain in Godzilla movies. Their style has been described as heavily influenced by Public Enemy. King Giddra helped create a genre of Japanese hip hop that went beyond imitating American hip hop and spoke about issues facing Japanese society.
The skating in the section is as steezed out and technical as any other section in the video. Even thousands of miles away from the epicenter of the skating industry and media of the ’90s in California, Japanese skaters like Hideaka Kojima, Tekashi Sato, Chiaki Ito, Akira Sakai, Hiro Kojima, Hiroshi Kataoka, and Kazuya were progressing at the same speed as American bladers.
My old friend Kenny Owens traveled to Tokyo, Japan last year to film for the next video in the Say Word trilogy. I asked him to tell me about the scene he saw in Japan, and why he thought Japan has always produced ill skating. Kenny took a break from editing “Say Word 4” and messing with his new Canon 7D to reminisce about his trip. Be sure to cop “SW4” when it drops to see plenty of new Japan footage.
Kenneth Owens June 22 at 2:30am:
Ok, I’ll just write to you some random thoughts about Japan.
Mainly just about the skating, because I could write a lot about Tokyo.
Tokyo is made for skating, an urban playground that goes forever in every direction.
The skating scene there is strong, not huge, but strong. I was fortunate enough to go to Nagayo for a competition. Skaters from up to 10 hours away came, which showed the bond of rollerblading across Japan. Soichiro and his crew ripped it.
As far as Tokyo, the skaters are all characters. I chilled with the SKB crew, who are the younger crew, but still been in it for a minute. Shintaro, Shiempei, Kuni, Yuto, Sho, and a few more. They reminded me of my crew. Each one, even if they weren’t the illest, dopest, skater ever, they had life in their hands. Graf, design, film, culinary, business. They drink, play darts, go out to bars, and skate when it seems right to.
The older heads were Chiaki Ito, Shushi Baba, and Tomohisa.They don’t seem as die hard about skating anymore, but they play a major influence in the scene there. Tokyo is def one of the best places to enjoy life on this planet. I’m trying to go back asap. Ken Lee, the OG from cali lives there, still rips shit. I had the pleasure of introducing him to the SKB crew.
All the skaters there took good care of me, got me wasted, and gave me presents when I left. It was amazing. Even if skate sales aren’t huge in Japan, every company should be touring there.
Quest for the Holy Rail (Japan Section at 26:30)
United Front 2: Trash B-2 Razors Japan Tour
Chiaki Ito has been holding it down in Japan for years, on some Jon Julio longevity type shit, having skated for some of blading’s most prestigious companies over the years like Salomon, Medium, and Fiction. Skating needs more people like Chiaki who have remained a part of their community.
The graphics for Chiaki’s 1998 Medium wheel pay homage to the popular Mortal Kombat character Raiden. Raiden was named after Raijin, the God of Thunder and Lightning in the Japanese religion Shinto. Raiden had the ability to teleport, fly, and harness lightning rods. I can’t think of a more fitting wheel graphic for the most iconic skater to ever come out of Japan. It should be noted though that Raiden’s appearance in the game resembles the Taoist Chinese God of Thunder, and many of his costumes include the Chinese Character for Thunder.
I might as well talk about the Liu Kang air while I am on the subject of when China, Japan, rollerblading, and Mortal Kombat collide. The blurring of Japanese and Chinese culture by the American rollerblading community has been happening forever. There was the Senate Buu-Tang wheels that were supposed to be for a fictional Japanese skater, but came in a Chinese food box, and recently the song chosen for Soichiro’s skate promo was Kung-Fu fighting. Kung-Fu is a Chinese fighting style. I’m not sure who named the Liu Kang air, but it was clearly named after the flying kick special move of Liu Kang in the original version of the game.
In the game Liu Kang is a Chinese Shaolin monk, but he was originally supposed to be a Japanese Mythological character with the name Minamoto Yo Shin Soo. The character was changed because the name was too much. 360 Minamoto Yo Shin Soo air doesn’t quite roll off the tongue so easily either does it?
I hope the videos, articles, and pictures in this piece have helped show that skating is universal. Skating, and the travels I have taken with my blades, has definitely changed my worldview and made me a better person. Skating has introduced me to people from many different backgrounds and cultures, and I have learned something from all of them. Peace and respect to Japan. We will continue to see dope skating coming from Japan until that sun stops rising.