One of the early vert riders in Japan was Yasutaka Takamine who started to roller skate in 1979. With his 60+ years of age he is still skating today. He happens to have a rich photo archive he digitalized for us. Here’s what roller skating in Japan looked like. (This article originally appeared in our 2021 “Changes” yearbook.)
Really early on, the vertical roller skating scene in Japan was flourishing though widely unrecognized by the western world. The distance, language barriers and no internet played a big role here. But this does not mean that information did not make its way around the globe. After Yasutaka Takamine saw a video of Fred Blood competing against Duke Rennie and Greg O’Neil he immediately got himself a pair of quads. “Roller skating in Japan hit its peak in the 1970’s. I began a little late in ‘79,” Yasutaka recalls. This did not stop him from achieving a high level of skill in no time. In 1982, there was a national tournament for the first time in Japan. “I entered and won,” he says. Watching old video footage which Yasutaka saved and digitalized is pure pleasure and fun; his inverts, flips and laybacks are brilliant.
Takamine and his friends used to skate at a vert park in Saitozaki in Fukuoka Prefecture. He remembers that there were about five skateboarders and 15 roller skaters including about five women. “My original and favorite trick was a ‘layback half twist air’. I came up with it by myself so there is no special name for it.”
He says he never made it to become a pro and back then traveling to the US would have been too expensive. “My parents thought skating was just a child’s play so I had to keep it a secret from them but I’m still skating now at 62.” He says he is making friends with people at the age of his children and grandchildren through skating.
Words by Marta Popowska
Photos: private archive