Tokyo’s transportation system is awesome. But if you ride the train regularly, you’ll find yourself feeding countless 1 000 yen bills into the ticket machines on a monthly basis. Enter the skateboard.
- It’s free and it’s fun. By skateboarding, you keep cash in your wallet while simultaneously enjoying the city sights. 一石二鳥. Distances of 1 to 4km are optimum for a skateboard cruise. Each time you avoid a crowded stinky train you’ll be saving anywhere from 130~200 yen. It may not seem like much, but it all adds up!
- It saves time. Walking is boring. A tedious 20-minute walk can become an exhilarating 8-minute skateboard session. Time is money.
- When you do ride the train, you can easily bring your skateboard and then explore places once you reach your destination. If it’s open, put your skateboard on the luggage rack. Bringing a bike on the train is a hassle, requires a bike bag, and is impossible if it’s crowded.
- If you miss the last train, you are still mobile and can save yourself cab fare if you’re not too far from home. Skateboarding under the influence is dangerous however, so beware of the risks.
Words of Caution:
- Skating the streets of Tokyo is not easy and therefore not recommended for beginners. Be alert, because there are literally tons of obstacles – senile old people, cyclists, buses, aggressive taxi drivers, baby strollers, dogs, and in certain places- hoards of pedestrians. Most of them aren’t used to seeing some gaijin skater mobbing down a hill and may not know how to react, so be ready to take evasive action.
- Yellow bumpy stuff for guiding the blind on the sidewalks is always there to make you eat it, so ollie over it or avoid it.
- Although they’re lighter and better for tricks, hard wheels are quite noisy, arouse unwanted attention, and can cause you to crash if you just hit a little rock, crack, or said bumpy yellow stuff. For cruising, equip soft wheels to smoothly glide over Tokyo’s rough pavement.
- The Law – skating seems to be a grey area activity where some police frown upon it and yet other cops turn a blind eye or don’t care. Whilst skateboarding throughout Saitama, Tokyo, Yokohama and Fukuoka, I’ve noticed police’ reactions are inconsistent. Nevertheless, if possible, stay off main roads which are riddled with police boxes (koban). An annoying reprimand can be avoided by getting off your board and walking before you’re spotted. Should you find yourself confronted by an angry cop: a “sumimasen” said with a remorseful facial expression should get you off the hook.
Boards and Accessories
Now that you’re ready to skate or die, it’s time to shop for gear. Skateboards and parts in Tokyo generally command a steep price. Trendy shops in Harajuku and Shibuya are aimed at high school kids who waste their parent’s money, but if you’re a cheapo skater, check out the following:
Located about a 10-minute walk from Toritsu-Daigaku station is Tatsumiya. From the outside it could be mistaken for a typical stationery shop. However, closer inspection reveals not only pens and paper for sale, but also loads of skateboard merchandise packed into the shop. It’s cramped, but you’ll find everything you need and at reasonable prices (for Tokyo.) Shop manager Tatsumi is helpful and has lots of stock in the back so if you don’t see what you need, just ask.
Although typically located in the suburbs and usually a bit far from the station, Hard-Offs generally have used boards in stock – sometimes for 50% less than retail price. Longboards are more common than short boards. Call before you go to check their stock.
Located a short walk from Todoroki Station in Setagaya, CPW specializes in custom banana-seat bicycles and fixies, and has an impressive array of re-issue old school skateboards, wheels, stickers and more. Owner Motoyan is a cool guy and knows English. Not the cheapest place around, but if old school decks are your thing, check out CPW.
Junk Piles / Bushes
Not kidding. When people move out they throw away tons of stuff. With a keen eye and a bit of luck it’s entirely possible to get skateboards and parts free of charge. My colleagues and I have scavenged garbage piles and even shrubbery which have yielded snowboards, decks, and salvageable parts. An old warped deck might not be choice for hipster fashion, but can be utilized as a rain board at least. Location: Various.
Shipping is expensive, but if you know exactly what you want, online stores like Marc’s Board Shop and TGM skateboards offer cheap skateboards & accessories.
Places to skate:
Komazawa Park, Yoyogi Park, Setagaya Park, Harajuku/Shibuya Nike Park, Tamagawa Riverside, Tamachi Basketball courts, Jounanjima Park, Nogawa Park, Nissan Stadium Skatepark (Shin-Yokohama) Yokohama Bayside/Minatomirai.
Tokyo and Japan have a reputation for the strange and unusual museums.