Tune in Tokyo

TransWorld SKATEboarding

Volume 21 Number 9

file: Foundation Japan 2003

Tune In Tokyo

Story and photos by Sean Cronan

“Dude, all I want to do is go to Japan.” These words were spoken to me a little over two years ago by Daniel Shimizu. I'd just moved to sunny Southern California, and Daniel and I had just met a few hours before. I think he asked if I'd been anywhere cool, and I told him I'd gone to Japan. His eyes lit up. He started telling me about his family. His father lives in Japan, so does his brother. He hadn't seen his father since he was seven years old. His brother, Hiro, comes to L.A. once a year to visit. His mother lives in L.A. and speaks Japanese–almost no English. Daniel speaks English and almost no Japanese. I was fascinated by his story. Most kids would rather do anything besides talk to their parents. Daniel doesn't have that option.

From that day on, any time I saw Daniel he'd ask if there was a trip being planned to go to Japan. For two years we went everywhere else except the one place he really wanted to go. Then one day the call Daniel had been waiting for came through: “Dude, we're going to Japan.”

The date was set for February 4, 2003. Now, let me just say this: only people in Southern California would plan a skateboard trip to Japan in the middle of winter. You see, Southern Californians lead a very insulated life. The weather here is perfect and sunny 360 days of the year–the other five days it drizzles. Southern Californians don't realize it gets really cold in the rest of the world during winter. I checked the weather channel. The forecast for Tokyo was 30 degrees and snow. Sweet! I told everyone to bring warm clothes. The replies I got were: “Why?” And: “It gets cold over there?”

Our guide Dice greeted us–Ethan Fowler, Daniel Shimizu, Corey Duffel, and Justin Strubing–at the Tokyo airport. Daniel's brother Hiro was also there. We all piled into the minivan and were introduced–some for the second time–to the Japanese version of driving. Jam on the gas, jam on the brake. Highway or city driving, it doesn't matter. After twenty minutes you can really start to get nauseous.

Here's an abbreviated version of what happened next. The first five days were spent doing demos and autograph signings at the Japanese trade show. Fairly standard. The second day we went street skating for a bit. That's when Daniel put a quarter-sized hole into his kneecap while skating a ledge. Off to the hospital he goes, and he returns with a few stitches and a good limp–out for the rest of the trip. The only good thing about Daniel getting hurt was that he got to hang out with his brother a bunch, soak up some Japanese culture, and meet his dad after fourteen years. The rest of the guys were real troopers. Everyone bought the biggest jackets they could and went skating.

Upon returning home I asked the guys a few questions about their trip:

What was the most useful item you brought with you?

Ethan: Skateboard.

Daniel: Big puffy jacket because it was freezing.

Justin: Skateboard.

Corey: Skateboard.

What was your favorite item purchased?

Ethan: Nothing.

Daniel: I purchased too much stuff–the pellet gun.

Justin: Ultra-slim Discman.

Corey: Pellet guns.

What was your favorite convenience-store snack?

Ethan: Nothing.

Daniel: Onegidi {rice balls}.

Justin: Chunky apple juice, white-chocolate Kit Kats, tuna seaweed wrap, chocolate buttholes.

Corey: Koalas {cookies} and chocolate buttholes.

What do you wish you could have brought, but didn't?

Ethan: Nothing.

Daniel: Knowledge of the Japanese language.

Justin: Warmer down puffy jacket, face mask, scarf, long johns, and ear muffs.

Corey: Steak.