This article describes a recent trip to Tokyo made by Wollongong ripper Barry Strachan supporting his daughter’s modelling career. Barry and son Lennon visited some great spots you might be interested to read about. Japanese translation to follow. Thanks CB Ishii for editing my translation of the intro. See below.
Barry Strachan ripping the rounded hip at Fairy Meadow, Wollongong.
Barry Strachan ran the skate section of Extreme skates in Wollongong when i lived there and we used to catch up regularly at the local skatepark or at the indoor park in Thirroul which is a piece of skateboarding history. Here is Barry’s account of a recent trip to Tokyo, Japan….
Japan air, Bondi Bowl…
So to begin with, tell me about why you went to Japan Barry...
November 2012, my daughter Oceana’s modelling agency in Sydney contacted her about an opportunity to model overseas, possibly in Korea. She discussed this with us, being 17 and unsure about travelling alone overseas, and concerned about the effect on her HSC if she was to miss school.
The agency contacted her again at the end of November to inform that now there is possibility of work for an agency in Japan and they may want you there before Christmas. Japan sounded more appealing than Korea and Oceana said that her agent assured her that the working experience would be better in Japan. I considered this an opportunity for her to experience life as an international model that would help her to decide if this was the career path that she wanted to pursue or if not to return to school and concentrate on a different career direction. So we decided to go for it, I would accompany her as she is under-age and unable to sign contracts or official documents and required a guardian.
Oceana mixing it with the Harajuku girls…
Space mountain mobbing
Ueno park quarter…
Azabudai Community Hall
Lennon would also come with us being an opportunity for him to experience another country and different culture, also to skate and explore with me.
Hoping to spend one month at the most as this may be achievable budget wise and would minimize the time off from school if we could go before Christmas. So we accepted the opportunity and started the organizing process. I had annual leave owing and the bank said that I could re-finance the home loan, stretching it out for another 10 years.
Lennon at Ghibli museum
The agency in Japan insisted that 1 month would be too short for Oceana to gain work and insisted on a 2 month stay, also an original letter of sponsorship would have to be presented at the Japanese embassy in Sydney to apply for a work visa for Oceana to enable her to work in Japan.This process dragged out past the end of December into 2013. It wasn’t until mid January 2013 that we got the work visa and final confirmation from the Japanese agency that the opportunity still stood. So then I was able to organise accommodation for 8 weeks in Akasaka, at The Imperial Akasaka, just behind the Akasaka Elementary School, 10 minutes walk from the agency office. And then book flights. Finally on The 24th of January we finally boarded a plane at Sydney airport bound for Haneda airport Japan.
First of all, what was the most fun to skate in Tokyo?
We stayed in Akasaka for eight weeks, during which time we went to Shibuya skatepark about twice a week for the first four weeks and had some rad skates with the locals. Also regularly visiting Heshdawgs skate shop in Harajuku, the raddest skate shop in Tokyo, Yosuke “CB” Ishi does a great job representing what skateboarding should be!
Heshdawgz skate store, Harajuku.
After I gained confidence in travelling outside of Tokyo we went to the Felem compound which is about two and a half hours by public transport north of Tokyo. This place was so cool! With a vert ramp, a midi ramp, a mini ramp and two DIY concrete structures that were killer. Total Jason Jesse industrial underground feel and super cool locals. We had such a rad day there, anyone that goes to Japan has to visit that place!
Lennon at Felem
Yeah cool, my friend Eiji, Paruto tattoos for the Felem guys. Alot of people have probably seen it in the Thrasher Japan videos I imagine.
The little guy at Shibuya skatepark with us is Takayuki Masamoto , went to Wollongong Uni for 6 months a couple of years ago and skated with us at Fairy Meadow. He was doing Uni in Osaka and took a job in Tokyo during his break so that he could come skate with us while we were there. It was humbling how much effort he put in to skate with us again for one day. He tried to come over again to skate Planet Park with us but couldn’t get a seat on the bus.CB also skates Planet Park with his Dad who happens to have a Jazz sax CD out available through Amazon, Skate Jazz, give him a plug!
Local style. Crailslide at Shibuya skatepark
Shibuya Skatepark was just three train stops away from us in Akasaka and we went there once, twice sometimes three times a week. I really liked how it was built around the trees. It has lots of good aspects and really gnarly coping in the bowl. After spending all these years at Fairy Meadow Skatepark wishing for coping, I didn’t focus my energy properly and all the gnarly coping sprouted elsewhere. It got me in the end though, last session I tried an invert only to bunt off the coping and get spat out of hands plant reach landing on my leading shoulder on the coping then head first to the flatbottom, leading to a painful sleepless week.
That place looks awesome! So keen to check it out. What other parks did u visit?
During the last two weeks of our stay we went to Planet Park in Hachijoi. This place is super sick! The day we went there it had rained overnight and was wet. When we checked in at the office they said it was closed due to that it was wet, so we asked to just check it out as it had been a two hour train and bus ride to get there.
These pics are from our first and was going to be our only visit to Planet Park, not many as my battery went flat. It was mid week and had rained overnight and after the two and a half hour train and bus journey out there it was a pond. The caretakers advised us that it would be some hours before it would be dry and if it didn’t dry the park wouldn’t open. We asked to go and have a look anyway and they seemed skeptical but didn’t chase us. We went around the path and up to the enterance and viewing area and saw an untold expanse of skatepark. There was a guy and a girl with squeegees pushing ankle deep lagoons towards the drainage points.
So we grabbed squeegees from next to the clubhouse, went through the gate and down into the park and said “were gunna help ya”. again we got the air of uncertainty but just proceeded to push the puddles. After about two hours and broomstick blisters a guy came over and told me that they may open the bowl area shortly as its looking pretty dry and we’d worked so hard to help get the park open. Stoked!
We skated until just in time to make the last bus back to Hachioji Station and the train back to Tokyo, One visit was not going to be enough! The guy is Kazyuoshi Koizumi, he and his wife were there skating that day. They surfed and skated together and were super cool. Kazyuoshi took photos with a vintage camera, Portraits of skateboarders for his blog.
After about three hours they opened the bowl area for use and insisted that I stop for lunch. I told them that I would stop when the job is done. So after the park was dried we skated till the last bus back to Tokyo. This park is so rad! Huge with all the bells and whistles and the locals are super cool! No snakeing at all. We went there again the following weekend and skated with a group of 40+ year olds who were super cool and made my holiday. These guys were much like myself, long time enthusiasts who love skateboarding that much that they continue to enjoy getting together for a roll when life permits. Guys of all levels of skill past and present.
We went back on the weekend. This time it was a sunny 12 degrees instead of overcast 6 like the first day.
Had a killer bowl session with some guys my own age.
One guy was a spitting image of Mike Donovan from canberra, stature, style and mannerisms was a blow out.
Was a rad session, hard to hold back and gave my sore shoulder a couple of attention getters.
Skated all day till the last bus again, hard to leave knowing may never return.
The caretakers thanked us again for helping to dry the park last time and were asking where we were from and if we had a good time, we thanked them for running the park and letting us skate.
If anyone has the chance go there for sure.
I found that skateboarding is a worldwide level playing field for all ages, sexes and demographics, everybody having fun together regardless. My experience in Japan was awesome, I continue to have a great respect for the country and its inhabitants. The world could learn a lot from the ethics of the Japanese, environmentally and socially. The Shinto religion offers an admirable option. I would highly recommend Japan as an enlightening travel destination for anyone with the opportunity to travel.