Cell Phones Rule Japan

By Ryan Gee

March 10 marked a mission far beyond home I’d been waiting a long time for. Our destination¿Japan. For years I was fascinated by Japanese culture and dreamed that someday I’d make it there. Being a gadget freak, this was the place for me to be.

The mission was with Arcade¿I’d never met any of those guys before, so at first I felt weird. It all ended up good, though. When we met at our terminal in LAX, I felt like I’d known the Arcade guys (Jason Rogers, Tyrone Olson, Malcome Watson, and Sad) for years.

Flying to Japan is like flying to Australia¿over ten hours in this cylindrical funnel hovering seven miles above the Earth, making your mind go insane¿and I know a lot of people who’ve lost their minds. Your bodily routines consist of sleeping, eating, sleeping, eating, watching a movie, and some more sleeping. On these flights, you wish you had a first class seat¿that’s a fantasy. But the Japanese distributors wouldn’t be happy with that request.

Seventeen hours later, including a layover in Seoul, Korea, we were in Osaka, Japan. It was nighttime, and all I wanted to do was crash in the hotel, so that’s exactly what I did. The next morning the guys had to do a demo in a mall where a skatepark was located. We got there early, and I drifted off into an arcade section to play some insane video games that would probably never see daylight in America.

Now, when you’re on the other side of the world, what are the chances of bumping into your friends from back home? I looked over my shoulders and saw Geoff Rowley waltzing by. Was this for real? Or was I seeing a Japanese Rowley look-alike? Then I snuck up behind him and scared the shit out of him. He probably felt the same as I did¿this was too weird. Arto and Rune were in the mix, too; they were here doing a demo as well.

After I gave a shock attack to Arto, the Flip and Arcade crew swarmed on this little street course, which was weeman-size. The crowd went wild while everyone tried to adjust to the ramps. If someone did a grind, you’d hear a roar from the sidelines¿Japanese skaters were definitely stoked to see their heroes. It was a fun time, minus the fact Jason sprained his ankle, and we had to hear some harsh Japanese kiddie music playing over the loudspeakers.

The next day we headed to Tokyo for a trade show. The only way to get there was by the “Bullet Train.” If there were trains like this in America, traveling would be a lot easier. This train exceeds speeds of almost 200 mph, which got us to Tokyo in no time.

Tokyo is pure culture shock. Every block is like Times Square, which puts NYC to shame. I couldn’t get over how big and clean the city was. Every Japanese girl was done up to look like a Barbie doll: bleached hair, bad makeup, and too many knee-high platform boots. The culture is great, but with bad American style. I just wandered around the city for hours and didn’t even get bored. The electronic world is here! Gadgets and more gadgets. It’s insane. I tried to buy Sony Playstation 2, but had no luck. It was sold out within six hours of its release. Another thing is that 80 percent of the people in Japan use cell phones more than land-line phones. If you live in Japan and don’t have a cell phone, you’re behind the times. Brain cancer is going to wipe out the population soon.

The next few days consisted of cold weather, rain, being stranded at a small trade show, and venturing to skate spots. We probably had two good days in Tokyo for skating. This city doesn’t really have a lot of skate spots, and all the good ones are in this business district, which is pretty much a bust. But the crew found some time to dodge security for some pics.

One night we headed up toward Moggangi¿the trendy club district of Tokyo. We stopped off and ate at the Tokyo Hard Rock Cafe; it felt good to eat some American food again. Rice and noodles weren’t cutting it for me on this trip. Once midniight spawned, I got a little birthday surprise at our table: The waitress presented me a cake with ice cream, while the manager shot some crazy Polaroid of me with a balloon. It was funny. Thanks, Victor, our tour-guide savior.

On the last day of the trade show, it rained outside and I had the 24-hour flu. It sucked! It was my B-day, too. What a way to spend a birthday¿all day in a hotel bed. Victor gave me some Japanese medicine, which made me “all good” for our trip to Yokohama.

Finally, the sun came out! Yokohama is a small city outside of Tokyo with newly landscaped architecture that wasn’t really skated at all. This place had a lot of things to offer. Malcom, Sad, and Tyrone managed to bust out some goodies. One thing that can really irritate a skater is seeing cement bumps in front of every damn handrail in the city. The reason for this is blind people are supposed to sense it with their feet before they walk down any stairs. So if you’re on a handrail mission, chances are you’re going to have a hard time finding a skateable one.

On our last day in Tokyo, we checked out of our hotel early and did some last-minute shopping before our bus ride to the airport. The Tokyo Airport is one and a half hours outside of the city¿very odd.

Our plane flight to Fukuoka was short but crazy. We hit some bad turbulence, and when the plane landed we did an ollie¿our pilot must’ve been drunk. At least we arrived in one piece. Fukuoka is a pretty laid-back and boring city. It was Saturday night, and everything looked empty. The Tokyo night life was still inside of us. I guessed we’d see things in a better perspective the next day, at least I hoped.

Woke up to see that it was raining outside once again. I was still trying to adjust to the atmosphere. It’s very country-like. The weird thing is all the cars were super hooked-up, even more than Tokyo. I’d never seen a lowered 4Runner before. It was kind of cool. We went to a skatepark and spent the whole day there, watching a local contest. It was fun seeing some kids trying to go all out and break themselves for the fame of first place. Later on we went out for dinner and a late-night arcade session playing Super-Smash Tennis! Awesome. The next day we flew back to L.A.

It’s weird to think that you could spend the same day twice and in three countries. We had to catch a flight to Korea in order to get back to L.A. I couldn’t really understand why we had to fly two hours in the opposite direction to go home. Oh yeah! I got the window seat again¿everyone’s favorite for an airplane ride. There wasn’t much to talk about on our ten-hour and fifteen-minute flight. But I’ll give some details: I slept on the floor three times, watched a movie on Tyrone’s DVD player, and played color GameBoy until my fingers went numb.

When you fly back to California, you pass over the International Dateline. It’s like going back in time. If you’re in Japan or any other country in that area, you’re one day ahead of back home. Example: Monday the 20th in Japan equals Sunday the 19th in America.

When we arrived in L.A., it felt so good to be back home, or halfway back home for me. The next day I had to catch a flight back to Philadelphia and start packing for a three-week South America trip. I’m starting to lose my mind now. Actually, I lost it.