message vol.18by Takahiro Morita on 2009.04.01 •
It’s time to update the monthly Message. I’m updating on the very first day of the month since the goal for this year is ‘getting it done on time’. OK, let’s start.
A lot went down last month; I went on a little trip to three places. Chiba, Fukushima Aizu Wakamatsu, and Isezaki where my mom is originally from. They were all an overnight trip, but I got to feel the differences in cities, dialect and especially the people who grew up at those cities. You can check the photos of the trip in Report section.
A lot of my current trips (as FESN) are made in really tight schedule compared to the past (before becoming LIBE owner). I’m 34 and the reality is that I can’t go out on two- week or a month trip with a board and camera in my hand any more. I miss those days, but there is a whole new way of looking at things now. Skating around the city itself hasn’t changed, but the basic concept of the trip has changed. It was all about filming skating back then. It was all about digging the underground spots that sleep around the country. If I had a local tour guide, that was enough. But now I visit (want to visit) different cities to see small parties and contests organized by skaters, and also a scene where skaters work together to root skateboarding in their hometown.
There was no skate video to show your skating, so contests were the best way to work your way up to be famous. If you wanted to be famous, you had to enter and win contests or do something good at contests to gain props. I was entering so many contests between the ages of 14 to 21. I got to meet skaters all over and it was nice skating in front of a crowd. I guess I wanted to show off. But as time passed, I was over that kind of skating. I guess I got tired of waiting in line to skate. Instead of that, I wanted to skate wherever, with whoever and whatever I wanted. I was going to a direction where there was no sunlight shining. But as I went to that direction, contests began to become massive and all the major companies started to have part in skating. I had been making skate videos as FESN since then, so I had been looking at skating in a total different way compared to now, which is the ‘concept of the trip’ that I mentioned earlier.
As skating become hotter and hotter, I (FESN) became cooler. I thought to myself, “It’s not going to last”. As I watched associations gaining money from overseas brand distributors to make contests bigger, I lost interest. And as I expected, all the trading companies, distributors and corporate who never stepped on a skateboard and claims themselves Active Sports Company realized that they can’t gain much profit from skating, they backed off from skating to use the profit to prepare for another project. What Kubrick said in ‘Clockwork Orange’ was no exception in this skate scene. I (FESN) had been looking at the condition from behind the scene. I knew it… but at least we should be thankful for those people who saw business opportunity and invested money in skating. Also I thank them for showing me how skating would go big and go down here in Japan from beginning to the end. And it was reality, not a virtual thing. We can’t make the same mistake ever again.
But you know what? I have to say that it was basically wrong. To spread skating and its joy to people, you have to have your own skating that you really believe in. It’s not about oversea top pros or skating of the so-called ‘skating mecca’.
Who would believe a skate movement of those who never skated before?
Who would believe a skate movement of those who have never been moved and hurt from the heart by skating?
What country would believe a skate movement of those who keep buying so called ‘skate mecca’ boards and never try to establish their own scene, just mimicking them forever?
That’s not going to last, my friends. Skating started overseas. It was there before I was born, so the history itself is different. But I don’t give a shit. I give all respect to people who invented skating, but this is Japan. This is ‘ The Far East Nippon’. To give all respect to people who invented and made today’s skating, we have to give them back with ‘The Far East Original Skate Style’. I deeply believe so. Let me share a story of what made me think this way.
It was October 2006 in San Francisco. I was in SF for two week filming for the released ‘overground broadcasting’. I wanted to distribute the DVD in the US, so I took Ken Goto as guide/translator and headed to the biggest skate company in the world. As I was talking to a business manager there, all the famous guys started to fill the room. I had to stay strong and never be intimidated; I tried to communicate as much as I could. I showed them the DVD, and this what this big manager said. “The concept is good, but we’re not going to carry it”. That’s it. I thought to myself, “A lot of your skaters are in my video!” He continued, “Skate videos are not for selling anymore. It’s just something to give away as promotion with the deck.” I was so pissed off to hear it. I had enough ideas and thoughts to argue with him, but I couldn’t do anything about language barrier. I just wanted to get the hell out from the room; I didn’t want to share any space with ‘the dude who don’t know shit’. I guess he saw the expression on my face, and this is what he told me.
“Take a look around the factory if you like. All hardware is produced here, and the workers are all skaters. The products are shipped to the whole world.”
I couldn’t take a tour around the place and I had Ken Goto drive me out of the place. To be honest, I couldn’t find a word to fight back even in Japanese. It was a complete defeat. I didn’t have the idea of making a skateboard on my own at the time. That’s because I knew I couldn’t make profit. A skateboard made by skaters in hometown…it would never turn out as business. But I was too frustrated that I couldn’t fight back. What I saw was a pride of a real skater that was gained from a lot of work. I realized that it wasn’t him who was ‘the dude who don’t know shit’, it was me.
If I backed off from making my own skateboard in Japan, I would be exactly the same as the corporate who backed off from skating. I would become a dude who’s just trying to be a realist, a non-skater who’s only thinking about business. I just had to do it. All the money I saved up, I had to use it for my pride as a skater. Even though it will be tough and non-profitable, I just had to do it so that advanced skate country would never look down on me (FESN).
In May 2007, I looked for a place where I could make skate decks and made a press machine. The machine was made in the corner of a furniture factory. I used to have a skate shop put my grip tape on, but now I’m drilling the holes for trucks and making the shape myself. And finally after hard work, I stepped on my skateboard.
I made all the skateboards that I was skating in DVD ‘overground broadcasting’. It’s 1/10 the strength compared to the ones in the market. It breaks easily. As you skate it, the tail won’t pop and you won’t be able to ollie. But it’s the best skateboard that I’ve ever ridden. At the first time, I realized and respected the quality of the skateboards of the skate mecca. I don’t know if the quality of my skateboard would be good enough to sell at skate shops. To tell the truth, I haven’t been able to press the boards due to all the work I had for the past ten months. I’m now riding overseas boards as ‘sample test board’. I have to work harder and make time and money to make better quality boards. It would be sick to make my own trucks and wheels too. There are tons of things I can do. It would take more time for Japanese skaters to gain skater’s pride to show the world. For real though, we have to work hard.
Wow, so much writing this month. It’s always like this when writing about skating, right? This is a skate video production. By the way, there’s this video ‘Utage’ made by the locals at Chiba. They made it really freely without restriction and it made me excited. I was stoked to see Jason Dill’s last trick, but last part in ‘Utage’ was even better for me. Putting effort in something that’s not profitable, I’m glad to see that skaters and I still have that kind of thing. I feel the pride of skaters. I would like to support all events, contests, parties organized by local skaters as much as I can. I have a party at my hometown too, so come and have fun. Be sure to bring your board. First Thursday of every month at heavysick Zero, filming will take place this month. All you who want to show off your skill, come over. OK, I’ll see you all next month. PEACE!
FESN director, Takahiro Morita