Chris Haslam, Cooper Wilt, Greg Lutzka, and the almost team headed east to slay the urban architecture of Japan and Taiwan. We sent Seu Trinh along to document the antics.

Intro and Photography by Seu Trinh

When I got invited on almost’s trip to Tokyo, Japan and Taipei, Taiwan, I had to think it over. I’m probably the only photographer in the business who hates to travel. (I haven’t been on a trip in over four years.) Most of the time, I’m in too much of a hurry to stop and think about what I’m doing- or what I’m looking at, for that matter. The world’s bigger than just what’s in front of you. Sometimes you’re lucky and you might be in the right spot at the right time and get to experience or witness something great. That’s what I got to do on this trip-just relax and enjoy the fun. I guess on every road trip there’s going be a lesson-for me, the lesson learned was to chill the f-k out and stop to enjoy my life a lot more.

COOPER WILT
When we stayed in Tokyo, we all got our own separate hotel rooms that were actually just like little apartments. They had kitchens and were pretty comfortable even if they were a bit small. Now, after being in a foreign country for a few weeks, we were all feeling a little homesick. That’s why we got so hyped when we found a 99-yen store right around the corner from the hotel. Anybody who knows Seu Trinh knows that even though he is a well-paid photographer who can afford to shop at the nicer stores, he constantly shops at the 99-cent store in L.A. It’s pretty much his greatest joy to find products that have been discounted to 99 cents. Or sometimes even two for 99 cents.

Japan’s an expensive country, so finding a place where everything was so cheap was a relief to those of us who waste our per diem too quickly. We basically bought all types of crap over there. Seu was actually buying dishes and picture frames to furnish his hotel room. We both even bought motorcycle covers. Odd, since neither of us owns a motorcycle. I think that was actually the highlight of the trip for Seu. He made sure to get the contact info for that hotel because he wanted to make sure that next time he goes to Tokyo he can stay there and shop at the 99-yen store again.-Cooper Wilt

CHRIS HASLAM
I left for Japan a few days ahead of these dudes to visit my brother in a little town outside Nagoya. There was no skating there, so I was kind of pumped to get to a more civilized area to start playing. It’s been a while since I’ve been to Japan and it’s never been for skating. So mentally, I was ready for it. But apparently, I wasn’t. I think I was trying this new way of skating where I don’t land anything. Ever. Maybe come close a couple of times, but never really treat myself to even a sketchy land. And it wasn’t just for a few days-it was pretty much for the whole trip. They had some amazing spots there as well-many of them were rough as hell, some were just a nightmare, but there were a few that we skated that I know if they were in the States, everyone would’ve been killed.

Japan was cold. Every night it would be freezing cold, and that didn’t help the night skating at all. The guides were on a mission to take us to as many spots as humanly possible in the shortest amount of time, which would be awesome if I could actually land stuff on them.

Taiwan was sick. It was the first time I’d gone. I kind of dreaded that my skating would be the same as in Japan, though. It was only a four-day trip, but I felt more relaxed on it. We did a few flatground demos, which was a first for me. Just had a pylon to do tricks over that was, like, waist high.

Japan and Taiwan seemed to be scooter crazy. In Japan, we saw some dude get slammed out in front of our hotel. I think he got T-boned by a car. In Taiwan, I saw some dude slide across an intersection ’cause a taxi hit him. It was insane. I think I need to go back to both these countries on a more mellow trip.-Chs Haslam

GREG LUTZKA
The almost Japan trip was an experience I won’t soon forget-all the way from the places we checked out and the food we ate to the amazing people we met. Right off the plane, we started in a small town a bit away from Tokyo and met up with the distributor and some Japanese locals and had a really interesting dinner. It was straight Japanese style: definitely not a standard American restaurant, because our group had its own room and no chairs and we sat Indian style on mats with our shoes off. We all tried different kinds of crazy food-I had absolutely no clue what the names were.

Later on, we skated tons of super amazing spots in our small town, then we took off to Tokyo along with Chris, Cooper, and Lewis Marnell. This was the first time we’d traveled with our new am Lewis, so we definitely had a lot of fun. When we got to Tokyo, we checked into a nice hotel with more American-style food and did a few demos and skated tons of street. Tokyo reminded me somewhat of New York, but we couldn’t read most of the signs and all the bright lights really made the city stick out from any others I’d been to in the past.

One thing that definitely reminds me of our Japan trip is the scar I have on my eyebrow from the board flying up and hitting me in the face at a demo. I got rushed to the emergency room to find out I needed six stitches and couldn’t understand what anyone was saying. So after that, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to skate for a bit, so I went downtown and bought a guitar at some random shop and almost got lost getting back to the hotel.

But what really reminds me of Japan, now that I’m writing this a month later, is the amazing people and places I saw, plus the culture shock with all the different foods and the way of life out there. Thanks to almost and Japan for everything, and I hope to be back soon.-Greg Lutzka

LEWIS MARNELL
So, we decided to embark on a trip to Japan. I didn’t know what to expect at all, since I’d never been there before. What should I say about Japan? Crazy fashion, crazy hairstyles, and a lot of chicks in small shorts even though it was bone-chillingly cold. The Japanese are super polite and hospitable people, too. Even though we were on a serious skate mission every day and night, we still had a chance to experience the traditional Japanese lifestyle and culture. We checked out a temple in Shiba, and my new favorite convenience store is Lawson’s… so tight!
The next time I travel to Japan, I really want to visit during the spring to see the cherry blossoms. It wouldn’t hurt if it was a bit warmer, like my home island of Australia, as well.-Lewis Marnell

LUIS CRUZ
When I think of Japan, the things that come to mind are Godzilla, gadgets, crazy fashion, and Shin Okada. Somehow, I got the crazy opportunity to plan a trip there with the almost team. I was so stoked to be able to hit Japan with these guys, and I got to see virtually everything that came into my mind (with the exception of Godzilla!)

Japan was off the meat rack! It was a serious skate mission. Kenji, our distributor, would wake us up ridiculously early in the morning and we would skate ’til way into the night. Most of the food we ate was from 7-Eleven in between spots. I’ve never been on a trip before with this much skating going on-we went to a lot of really cool spots. One of them was straight out of Alice In Wonderland! This is where we ran into Shin Okada and Yunishi-two of the meanest Japanese skaters. It was definitely a good time. One of the craziest things I remember about Japan was the toilet. You would go to a place and it was literally a hole in the ground. Then you would go across the street to KFC and the bathroom was super tech-a toilet bowl just like we have here except it was fully automatic! You’d stand in front of it and the seat lifted up to you so that you didn’t have to touch anything. It was pretty crazy.

Then we were off to Taipei, Taiwan. We hooked up with our distributor Jimmy; he showed us all these sick marble spots (all hassle-free). It felt like I was dreaming for a second, just to be able to skate all this stuff without someone coming to give you sh-t for it. The culture in Taiwan is way more raw than Japan. People are super crazy, and almost all of them are riding around on little scooters. I remember seeing a family of four on one of those absolutely hauling ass! Dad was driving with a kid in front of him somehow, Mom was behind dad, and another kid was holding on for his life behind the mom! It was nuts there. We even went to a night market where some guy was trying to get Chris to drink fresh snake blood, while simultaneously skinning a seven-foot snake.
In parting, I would like to thank first and foremost the almost guys, and cheers to the distributors for all the good times we had on the other side of the world.-Luis Cruz


were off to Taipei, Taiwan. We hooked up with our distributor Jimmy; he showed us all these sick marble spots (all hassle-free). It felt like I was dreaming for a second, just to be able to skate all this stuff without someone coming to give you sh-t for it. The culture in Taiwan is way more raw than Japan. People are super crazy, and almost all of them are riding around on little scooters. I remember seeing a family of four on one of those absolutely hauling ass! Dad was driving with a kid in front of him somehow, Mom was behind dad, and another kid was holding on for his life behind the mom! It was nuts there. We even went to a night market where some guy was trying to get Chris to drink fresh snake blood, while simultaneously skinning a seven-foot snake.
In parting, I would like to thank first and foremost the almost guys, and cheers to the distributors for all the good times we had on the other side of the world.-Luis Cruz