by Geoff Rowley
Japan has eluded my presence many a time. I’ve been trying for years to get there. You see, I have this problem¿they’re called pigtails. Pigtails with little Japanese girls attached to them. And no matter how much I try to pretend I’m past my obsession, it always comes back to me. The agony of denial rests on my sordid head, and I am powerless to do anything about it other than accept an invitation to fly to Japan and spend two weeks grinning from ear to ear with Arto, Rune, and Andrew Gordon (the gnarly Canadian pecker), and Bastien “don’t call me Sebastien!” Salabanzi from France.
The posse geared up, and we were off to torture ourselves for what would seem like an eternity. The second we got off the plane, my pigtail dreams were answered, and instantly the grins took hold, with Arto nearly pissing himself, and the pigtail fantasy quickly spreading to Rune and the rest. Let me tell you something: Japan is an amazing place, and my first impression was of ants crawling everywhere. There were so many people crammed into the cities¿a gnarly clash coming from Huntington Beach, where if more than ten people are out after 10:00 p.m., the cops show up in their riot vans as if all hell had broken loose. A “police state,” I think they call it, and I know why!
We were greeted at the airport by our distributors, Hasco, with Yoshi and “Choppers” in command. Yoshi was first in command, and “Choppers” took the flank. Choppers by name, choppers by nature. He ruled! With his black leather jacket and pool-school hat, Choppers was my favorite Japanese person I met the whole trip. He was always willing to help out¿be it by rigging a skate spot with duct tape, or getting the drinks at the demo, he was always stoked and made us feel very welcome. Armed with the most ruling “old skool flair” and his black leather jacket, he alone would have made the journey worthwhile.
Each demo had its own style and charisma. The first was inside a skate shop on a rubbery flight of stairs, with a ten-foot landing before you rolled into the crowd. Everyone there loved it. Rad scene, that was, those guys went nuts. In the city of Osaka, which is the second largest Japanese city after Tokyo, we did an autograph session pretty much in the street. All the masses came to steal a piece of our souls, and Liam Gallagher from the English band Oasis felt rather left out and shunned while we got all the attention even though Oasis is massive in Japan. It’s funny how things work out, isn’t it?
I felt sorry for Liam, he probably heard my Northern English accent, got nervous, and walked, still with nobody recognizing him. Poor guy. Rune loved it, though. He thought it was great, joking that we were bigger than Oasis and full-fledged rock stars.
Demo on a roof? Are you nuts? Obviously! I thought it was boss, and to top it off, half the crowd were in their school uniforms but were no less amped. Japanese skaters go off! At the first sign of maneuvers they are ranting, raving, and generally having a good laugh. They are the best role models for demo etiquette around, and they got us all even more stoked on the tour.
Each night, after demos and traveling, we took to checking out what each city had to offer, and most of the time the grins just came back as we walked the streets. Arto seemed to get slowly more and more addicted to the scene: his formerly quiet pigtail fetish became fully apparent and he grew more and more boisterous. His confidence increased, and he yearned to learn how to chat up girls in Japanese. He had Yoshi teach him how to say, “Hello, I really like your pigtails.” Each day he forgot how to say it, and each day Yoshi taught him again.
No offense intended, but before our trip, I thought Japan wouldn’t be quite as civilized as it turned out to be. I had this idea that it would be more hectic, but the place worked damn smoothly for the amount of people in it and the amount of mayhem that could be caused thhere. I’ll put it this way: I more than recommend going there. After going, I would say you have to visit Japan at least once or twice in your life. The differences from the United States will blow your mind and help you appreciate just how much space you have.
I want to thank Mr. Hasco for organizing the best tour I’ve ever been on, Yoshi for his help with my ever-awkward vegan diet and for his translation assistance for everyone on the team, and lastly all the Japanese skaters who attended our demos. I know a lot of them traveled from far away on trains or by car to get to the demos. I hope they enjoyed it as much as we did.
Please have us back¿the pigtails, they be calling.