Tokyo is one of the worlds largest cities, and as with any urban landscape it is a great place to skate! Skateboarding is relatively new to most of Japan so read on for some tips on riding in Tokyo.
Skateboarding in Japan is an ambiguous sport to practice. While not prohibited by law, it is frowned upon by police. I am frequently asked to step off my board and have already been asked for my residence card about half a dozen times. The mistrust of the police, whilst not very pleasant, is understandable in Japan. Much like their laws on nightclubs (prohibiting dancing in some areas at night – Fueiho), the uneasiness towards skateboarding is in large part due to the fact that for much of Japan, skateboarding is still associated with drugs and delinquency.
Tokyo is absolutely amazing to skate in. The streets are perfectly maintained, usually with a separate lane on the right for deliveries which allows you to speed past traffic at rush hour or to cruise smoothly while the cars whizz by. Just keep in mind that unless you are from the UK or down under in Australia, the cars here will be driving on the wrong side of the road (the left).
If you are looking for a park to ride some modules, here are a couple you should know of:
- Miyashita Park: located in Shibuya close to Tower Records. While it may be free, you must wear a helmet if you want to ride there. Watch out, the pipe and bowl are very steep.
- Maps Skatepark: Located in Shinjuku, Tochomae subway exit, this park offers a wide range of modules both wood and metal, as well as a very impressive halfpipe. Outdoor park with night lighting.
- Shin-Yokohama Skatepark: Personal favorite, this park is bigger than most you will find in the city, with two sets of modules (wood, metal) as well as a large flat practice area. About an hour out of Shinjuku on the Tokyu Toyoko Line, this park is free and located in an underpass near the Nissan Stadium making it possible to skate on rainy days. Only negative point is that it can get quite busy.
Most skateboard groups hang out in the deserted streets of Tokyo between 1 and 4 AM. This is because most spots are crowded until shuuden (終電, last train) which leaves around 00:30. While the time may be restricting, it has a way of putting together a diverse group of people, mostly working in izakaya and pachinko parlours. Generally, you have one group per area (Shibuya, Shinjuku, Takadanobaba, Ikebukuro, etc.) If you happen across one of these groups don’t be afraid to go talk to them. As of now, this group remains a gathering the kindest and most generous individuals I have yet to meet in Japan. Somebody once told me that travelling is not seeing sights but meeting people. There is nowhere better suited than Tokyo to give truth to this theory.