Back in the Days 1977 is a skateboard retrospective with six of Japan’s top skaters. Hirotaka Akaguma, (Kuma) Junichi Arahata, (145) Junnosuke Yonesaka, (Jun) Shin Okada, Tomokazu Wura and Gou Miyagi. All of them were born in 1977.
This article is translated into English from Transworld Skateboarding Japan #71
Back in the Days 1977
The year 1977 was when Pink Lady had hit songs playing on the TV, Jimmy Carter was sworn in as President of the USA and Japan Tobacco first sold Mild Sevens. It snowed for the first time in Okinawa and the world’s greatest comedy star Charlie Chaplin died. That was the 52nd year of Showa. (Japanese Emperor) It was also the year that some of the biggest legends in skateboarding in Japan, whose names should always be remembered, were born.
Shin Okada, Hirotaka Akaguma, Junnnosuke Yonesaka, Tomokazu Wura, Junichi Arahata and Gou Miyagi.
By coincidence all of these skaters were born that year, and are still today shaking up the Japanese skate scene. This issue we put the spotlight on this group, living legend skaters to find out more about their skating, about themselves and their passions.
Included free with this month’s copy of Transworld Japan, is the Back in the Days 1977 and here is the first of these profiles translated for your enjoyment. Please leave a comment if you enjoy it, I will be translating some of the other profiles soon enough.
Words by Homma
Yokozuna (sumo master) of the west
A supercomputer getting what he’s after!
‘I checked out a local skate contest and it stole my heart away.’
Tomokazu Wura, was 8 at the time.
He spent his time kicking cans around, reading manga and playing video games, or riding BMX offroad, but nothing could come close to the fun he got out of skateboarding.
These days there are parks popping up all over the country.
Skateboarding is now getting alot of social recognition and lots of kids start skating around 8. Even five year olds with skateboards is not rare anymore, but at the time it was the start of skateboarding’s second wave of popularity and 8 year olds getting around doing tricks on the board were pretty rare.
Skating the hell out of his local spot, it wasn’t long before his skating style and skills were well known by skaters all around Osaka.
In 6th grade Wura competed in the Pro AM contest at Ascot Skatepark and placed fourth against some very well known skaters and picked up his first sponsors.
After this he started touring all over Japan with his teammates and making a name for himself, winning lots of competitions, building his network and of course the media picked up on this. He was dubbed the prodigy of the west. (Western Japan) Wura matured quickly however, and grew tired of the contest scene.
Wura, at seventeen was faced with the closure of the indoor skatepark at Ascot, and was playing around on an outdoor mini ramp when he broke his leg after skating with an injury.
After this, Wura distanced himself from skating for a few years and concentrated on music, and making himself known as an MC. After countless nights of partying, destiny called and he was reintroduced to skating.
Coming into contact with guys he used to skate with going about their business, one of them passed Wura a skateboard and said ‘You don’t skate anymore right?‘ and this flicked a switch. He found he was in better condition than he thought, and could do more tricks than he expected, so suddenly skating was fun again.
He checked his leg out the next day and found that the ligaments had grown back and it had healed up almost as good as before the injury.
And so once again Wura dreamed of being able to make a living out of skateboarding.
First of all he sought the advice of his peers and went about getting accredited by the AJSA with a Pro skateboarder licence in order to get sponsors.
At the time there was a contest series that was held five or six times a year in major cities across the country. He set about getting into the top ten in the rankings for this, but the first year competed only in the final contest in Yamagata. He won this and got lots of sponsors. The following year Wura ended the contest series ranked #2 and one year after this finished the year by winning the whole series.
There was no stopping his momentum and Wura travelled around skating parks and miniramps and various street spots. He was killing it and his skills were impossible to ignore.
One day, when he was riding the wave of pro skating, he broke his leg again. This time Wura was cool about it and took a year off to recover completely, so that he would be able to again hit the contest scene in perfect condition. His comeback was in 2004. Winning the series again that year, he saw alot of new talent coming onto the scene and having done what he set out to, decided to go back to skating the streets.
He was highly motivated and getting coverage in magazines, won the Best skateboarder of the year award and moved to Tokyo. Putting out several video parts with FESN and Expression etc, his video parts were often selected as best part. He was then given the opportunity to skate overseas, but having more interest in Europe than the US, Wura went on the MO3 tour organised by TWSJ to the European skate mecca Barcelona.
In contrast with the Japanese skate environment, Wura was amazed at the high level of awareness of the skaters and made several more trips overseas to skate in several big contests. He is currently preparing for a new video part, which will be a compilation of his skating and the turning points in his career, showing the ordeals he has had to overcome, to be released later this year.
Wura has the recorded the best results in the history of Japanese skating and dominated the local contest scene for years. He has also had his signature model skateboard released by a major US board company. He has also started his own board company. He has extended his skating onto the world stage. Wura continues to teach kids to skate and bringing through the next generation of rippers. Talking of his experiences, he says
‘Where I am now is because of the environment I have grown up in and from the influences of friends.’
Wura is always looking to the future. By the time we see the direction Wura decides to take with his skating now, I am sure he will be already looking at the next step ahead.
Wura’s official blog:
Transworld Japan blog: