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Kansai Scene Magazine

The long way down


The long way down

Takashi Maekawa, a.k.a Pushman, is a 31-year-old okonomiyaki cook from Osaka who, in 2010, became the first person to skate the entire length of Japan. He takes KS on his 6-month journey, from surviving without sponsorship to finding his board at the bottom of the Okinawa ocean.

Kansai Scene: When did you start skating and how were you introduced to it?
Takashi Maekawa: When I was 14, one of my classmates thought it looked like fun, so we just started out pushing around the neighborhood. I grew up in Kagawa where there was nothing but mountains and rice paddies. So in the beginning, I would just sit on the board and go down hills. I didn’t really start learning tricks until I moved to Kansai at 18.

KS: What inspired you to skate the length of Japan?
TM: Well, I guess I wanted to do something on a skateboard that no one else had done. There are a lot of famous professionals who can do tricks that nobody else can do. I wanted to do something different; something that people who don’t skate could relate to. I wanted to show people what I like about skateboarding. The act of skating the length of Japan is itself no big deal. People have cycled it, even walked it. I was making connections with local skaters all across the country and skating all these different spots. It was about the journey.

KS: From where to where and what route did you take?
TM: I skated from the northernmost point of Japan, Soya-misaki in Hokkaido, to the southernmost point, Kiyanmisaki in Okinawa. I traveled along the Sea of Japan side until Sapporo. From there I cut through the middle toward Hakkodate. Then I took the train across the straights to Aomori.

KS: Did you really push the whole time, you didn’t cheat?
TM: No, I really pushed. In Hokkaido, people would offer me rides but I always declined. If I didn’t skate the whole way then there was no point in me doing it.

KS: Did you sleep outside a lot?
TM: Yeah. In places where there were no skaters. Sometimes if I could find an onsen, I’d crash in there for a couple of hours during the day.

KS: Did you skate down the highway or do anything sketchy?
TM: No, I didn’t do anything like that. The only really sketchy things I encountered were around Niseko and Hakone. The mountain roads there were crazy. They were super steep and long, like 5 or 6 kilometers, with lots blind corners. Even if I put my foot down to brake, I couldn’t stop.

KS: How fast did you go?
TM: If you were actually able to ride it all the way out, I bet you could get up to 100 kph. I had to walk most of the way in Hakone, but I bombed the whole way around Niseko. Plus it was raining to boot. It was nuts.

KS: Where was the half point?
TM: In my head it was Osaka, because I live here.

KS: Did you take a break once you got home?
TM: No dude, I worked! I needed money, so I stayed in Osaka for about 10 days flipping Okonomiyaki. I saved up about ¥100,000.

KS: It must be hard to do a trip like that without sponsorship. Have you ever considered it?
TM: Not really. I’m not interested in skateboarding for someone else. I skate purely for the fun of it.

KS: So from Osaka, did you skate through Kobe along the inland sea?
TM: No. I skated down to Wakayama, and then took the ferry over to Shikoku. From there I skated along the top through Tokushima and Kagawa to Ehime. From Ehime I took a ferry to Hiroshima and from there I skated to Kyushu. On Kyushu I skated pretty much down the middle from Fukuoka to Kumamoto and then to Kagoshima. I took the ferry to Okinawa, skated Naha and from there took another ferry down to the very bottom island.

KS: What’s there?
TM: Absolutely nothing, just a rocky coast. It’s a place where a lot people died during the war too.

KS: How did you celebrate?
Did you chug a beer or something? TM: It was actually kind of uneventful. I didn’t even have a beer on me. I just kind of stood there for a while and then went back to Naha. My friends there congratulated me, but that’s about it. Really though, I wasn’t looking for recognition from anyone else. I was satisfied with myself.

KS: I heard you lost your board in Okinawa.
TM: Yeah! First, my board got run over by a car, so I had to go to a shop and set up a new one. That night, my friends and I got drunk and went out on the prowl for girls. We were walking along a seawall to get to this hang-out spot. It was dark and I couldn’t see. The locals of course knew there was a hole there and they stepped around it, but I fell right into it. That’s when my new board went flying into the water. I wasn’t hurt or anything so we just carried on. The next day I was going past the same spot so I decided to take a look. I could see my board at the bottom because the water was so clear. I stripped down to my undies, jumped in and grabbed it. This is a tourist spot so there were a lot of people there looking at me but I didn’t care. That was the only time in the whole trip anything bad happened to me.

KS: So you’re currently planning another trip right?
TM: Yeah, this coming August, I’m going to skate from Vancouver to Tijuana. People always tell me that skating across Japan was crazy, but I don’t think so. Like I said people have walked it. So I want to go to North America where I don’t speak the language and I don’t know anybody. If I can survive that, I can survive anything. KS: You can’t speak English? TM: Nope. I’ll just read people’s vibes.

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