For our 31st Issue we went to Japan and had a look at the scene over there. The far East had a lot to offer. Unique spots, even more unique skating and a culture of quality products – especially when it comes to videos or print. Nick Sharratt from Palomino is an expert in this business and did us a favor and wrote an expertise about the Japanese videos and zines to spark your interest. Enjoy!
Within the first two minutes of watching (what I believe is) Mitsuko Toshiba's first full length DVD release under his Toriotoko moniker you will be aware you are watching something a little different, and also a little special.
Meticulously put together but somehow still managing to retain a looseness, with pauses to allow the video (and yourself) to breath between parts, nothing in Toriotoko feels like it is there by accident. It’s like a skateboard video version of art-house cinema but without ever being pretentious or wanky. It feels like this video couldn’t possibly have been made with any other camera than the VX1000, Toshiba manages to do something magical with the colours he can extract from it.
For those of you who have followed his amazing series of edits over the years (apparently deleted from YouTube whilst drunk) this feels like a real statement and culmination of all that has preceded it. Mitsuko has set out his vision for what the skateboard video should be and I can't tell you enough what a pleasure it is to share that with him.
Get the DVD here.
KPTokyo appear to be the naughty kids of the Japanese scene, definitely sat at the back of the room in class at school to enable maximum mischief. The Kusogaki Project from 2015, as with all their previous shorter edits, feels like it was shot for the crew by the crew, but then thankfully shared with the rest of us.
Snappy editing of powerful, fast, mostly night skating set to a soundtrack of 90s rap bangers (even the cover artwork of the sleeve gives a nod to A Tribe Called Quest) mixed in with boozing, swearing, and a healthy amount of arguing with security guards. The Kusogaki Project is true, raw uncompromising street skating, stripped back to the bare essentials. Titles, skateboarding, credits, end. There’s scratched Mk 1 footage in there but that never takes away from the quality of filming and production that has gone into this brilliant video, it only adds to the vibe. If you wanted to draw a Western comparison then it shares a place with perhaps GX1000 (just without the hills) or Geoff Campbell’s Australian videos.
Street life documentation at its finest, let’s hope the KP boys continue to menace the city of Tokyo for many years to come.
Get the DVD here.
It would not be right to have a piece about Japanese videos without a mention of the master Shinpei Ueno and Tightbooth Productions. Evisen Video is a remarkable release from Shinpei and Evisen boss Katsumi Minami, and is a fitting addition to Shinpei’s formidable catalogue including Dialogue Between Insiders and the Lenz series. To be honest any one of those videos could and probably should be in this list, but Evisen Video is the most recent so is an easy pick. Add to that, Shinpei and Katsumi also have hugely impressive parts in the video too.
There’s more mouth open, actually shout out loud moments than most videos (the only other guys of recent memory that can really come close for me are Sour), and whilst the video is so wildly original, I feel you can still see the influence of other celebrated filmmakers such as Josh Stewart. Shinpei’s work has that quintessentially Japanese feel to it, maybe as a result of the fact that he basically invented it. Tight snappy editing, ridiculous spots you've never seen before, an instrumental soundtrack made specifically for the video, and truly creative skating, not just no complies and body varials which seem to have hijacked the definition creative over recent times. It’s such a shame that much of the wider world are still unaware of so many of the underground “masterpieces” like Shinpei, Katsumi, and Evisen’s 2017 Evisen Video.
get the DVD here.
I feel that I can’t write anything about Japanese skateboard media without mentioning ER, the amazing magazine from by Tightbooth Productions edited by Shingo Ogura. If you cannot read the Japanese language (which I am assuming unless you are Japanese that is the case) you won’t understand a word of the text, but when a magazine looks this good it doesn’t really matter. There is something about Japanese culture that is inherently exciting, intriguing and just plain cool to the Western world and ER seems to have that “thing’ in huge supply.
get the 'zine here. (currently sold out)
One of the great documents of Japanese skateboarding to date, the amazing book by Nobuo Iseki from 2013. As the title suggests, the book features photography shot by Nobuo from 2001 to 2010. There really doesn’t seem to be anywhere else quite like Tokyo at night, and Nobuo captures the vibrant, saturated neon cityscape about as perfectly as you could hope for.
Time off the board, portraits and documentary photography sit alongside street skating from some of the greats of the Japanese and worldwide skate scenes. I have never personally skated in Japan but from what I hear you are constantly moving, never seeming to get more than a few minutes at each spot. This collection of Nobuo’s photography seems to perfectly distill that spirit of movement and capturing it on the page for us to enjoy, thankfully for much longer than just a few minutes.
get the 'zine here. (currently sold out)
A collection of photography from a Londoner featuring absolutely no skateboarding whatsoever. Perfect for an article on printed Japanese skateboard media right? George Booth-Cole is one of my very favourite photographers who’s ‘zines and books I have stocked in Palomino for many years. For Yodo Hito, George embedded himself within the communitysurrounding the banks of the Yodogawa River in Osaka, Japan, the area of the country that has the highest recorded concentration of homelessness. Driven by large labour force layoffs in the area and an inadequate government support system, the river has provided some sort of escape and relief from the city streets for the people that now call it there home.
George is a skateboarder, and skateboarding was the reason he first travelled to, and subsequently fell in love with Japan. That reason is good enough for me to have this book in my skateshop and to be featured in this article. I really hope you agree.
get the 'zine here.