After the 12-hour journey from Minneapolis, I finally showed up to Narita airport in Tokyo. Went through customs surprisingly swiftly and started looking for my ride to the hotel. Nothing better than flying halfway across the world and searching for someone you’ve never seen before. Luckily BMX riders stick out like sore thumbs no matter where you go. After finding Hiroshi Uehara, I was approached by a TV crew that had spent their day hunting out foreigners and asking them why the hell they’re in Japan. I told them about the G-Shock contest, played kendama on camera, and then we walked over to a sushi restaurant to max out on some fresh fish.

The culture shock started at the airport and hit me every day after. Food was a big part of that. Sushi is different in Japan. Well actually, all the food is different. They like to have a lot of different tastes with each meal. For sushi, you don’t get one roll and call it quits. You get a sampler plate with all different colors and forms of fresh fish. The first plate of the trip had salmon, eel, fish eggs, sea urchin, and a few other unique meats I couldn’t make out, but I ate it all.

This was simply the start of the everyday Fear Factor challenge I’d send my stomach through. After drinking some beers in the airport parking lot, (which is somehow legal) we went and picked up Fudger and Colin at a different terminal and we were on our way to the hotel. Some of the boys were hungry so we pulled off at a little roadside convenience store/food court/superultramega bathroom land. You put some yen into a machine, push one of the buttons, and it spits out a ticket. Hand the ticket to the guy and he makes your dish behind the counter. We couldn’t read the machine, but luckily we had our Japanese guide Hiroshi with us. Justin Benthien explained he wasn’t into eating meat, so of course, his bowl had squid tentacles instead of beef. It was recommended to douse our bowl with mayonnaise, but all of us kindly declined.

The food court was dope. Colors were blazing, anime is prevalent, and unique kanji symbols are written everywhere you look. There are over 10,000 different symbols that mean different things. Most people learn how to read and write from anime cartoon books called manga, which were sold in bulk at this convenience store. I got up and went to the bathroom and had no idea what I was in for. This bathroom was straight out of the future. The toilets had heated seats, bidets, and more than four different settings of how you want water to be shot into your ass. There were even mini toilets and urinals for children. It was so buck that I went back and told the others to check it out even if they didn’t have to take a piss. While they were looking at the bathroom, I went into the adjacent Family Mart convenience store to get some water. This turned into a 15-minute stop milling around in awe. The others joined in and we all started perusing around the store looking at some common things Japanese people buy. There were highly graphic porn magazines, sexual anime cartoon books, fermented soybeans, sushi, some goofy spices, and seven-inch long, gray shark penises wrapped in plastic. I don’t think they were actually penises, but it most certainly looked like it. Long, skinny, floppy, spotted, and covered in brown slime. Four of them in each bag just sitting there in the aisle like a bag of gummy worms. Along with all the weird food, this chain store sells button up white shirts and black slacks, the outfit of a typical Japanese employee. People work insanely hard in Tokyo. You can’t be late and your clothes better be clean. If someone doesn’t finish their work until midnight, everyone at the office will stay and help them until they finish. Even if they can’t help the slow worker, the others can’t leave because it might disrupt the person working. And, if you’re not happy with your job, you can’t quit. It’ll mean you’re not loyal and you will struggle to find another.

Hiroshi’s job for the contest involved organizing the whole thing and making sure everyone was happy. We’ll be spending the next two days at the Tokyo Dome hotel, which is located right outside an amusement park smack dab in the middle of Tokyo. We walk into the Tokyo Dome to check into our rooms, give them our passports to check in, and we each get room keys. The lobby of this hotel is massive and beautiful…it seems like we’re in Las Vegas or something. Nice fountain outside, restaurant inside, high ceilings, clean as can be. We’re going up to the 11th floor and Fudger says, “Don’t expect very much space in your room, living space in Tokyo is pretty tight.” Okay okay. As a traveling BMX rider, you’re probably going to stay in some pretty grimey places with cockroaches and ants as roommates. This was not one of those places. We walk into our line up of rooms and bang…two beds with one person in each room. It didn’t make much sense really. I guess one bed for the rider and one bed for his bike? We all met up for some drinks on the 43rd floor bar looking over the city and called it a night. Well, most of us did…­­


Text by Reed Stark and Photos by Ryan Fudger

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We woke up jet-lagged as hell and ate some continental breakfast at the Dome hotel. Buffet style with seaweed bowls and all sorts of weird shit I’ve never seen. It’s not hard to experiment with odd food for lunch and dinner, but a weird breakfast can ruin your whole day. Most of us kept it fairly standard with eggs, fruit, and coffee. Fermented soybean soup wasn’t making the cut this time. The hotel staff seated us at a table tucked in the corner hidden behind a wall. I think they were worried our long hair, tattoos, and tattered clothing would scare and disgust their normal Japanese guests. I felt slightly offended at the time, but I guess we’re a pretty offensive group, so it’s understandable. Tattoos are very taboo in Japan. Everyone thinks you’re a criminal if you have one. Banks won’t lend you money, you can’t go to hot springs or spas, and the list goes on... Our crew had a lot of them. As we started to cruise around the city, we quickly realized that we were in the cleanest place on earth. Japanese riders who smoke cigarettes will carry a pocket ashtray or stuff their cigarette butts in the spokes of their wheel. We pedaled around aimlessly for a few hours. Got a few hits in on some crazy jibs and got yelled at for looking at other ones. Security was everywhere.

Eventually we found ourselves chilling in this park with some shrubbery and nice views. There was a little hubba people were nibbling around on. No security, which was nice. After 30 minutes or so someone says, “Oh shit, look at that!” If we wouldn’t have sat there for so long we surely would have missed this giant foot-massaging station at the park. It was almost like a piece of workout equipment at a park in America, but it looked kind of like a piece of art. It was damn near the only thing in the whole park besides a few benches and plants. All these different tiles with different shaped spikes and knobs that you walk on with bare feet. Everyone dropped in and we walked around on it for a good 15 minutes. Times like that make me think about how much shit you can miss while cruising around the city. In a place like Tokyo, it’s crucial to pay a bit more attention to detail. You don’t want to miss statues of Japanese guys with cats walking all over him sat beside a bowl filled with change and flowers. You don’t want to miss the arcade or local pachinko spot, either. We stepped into an arcade near the hotel and I’m so glad we did. It was packed up with people of all ages. Some were wearing gloves to keep their game dialed. Some machines were like a combination of Dance Dance Revolution and Super Mario Brothers. There was even a machine that turns you into a virtual character inside the game. Nearby the hotel was the local pachinko building. I’ve been to casinos and whatnot, but I’ve never seen anything like this. Pachinko is a game kind of like roulette and slots. You buy these little metal balls and send them into the machine. The machine rattles them around for a while and then you push buttons and pull levers and can either win more balls or lose balls. We were going to try to play but there is no way in hell we’d have any idea what to do without having a guide show us the way. It may have been the noisiest establishment I’ve ever been in. Four floors of machines, each packed up with Japanese people chain smoking cigarettes at 1pm on a Tuesday.

The G-Shock contest was the next day so we went to Decade shop in Shibuya to meet up with Hiroshi and get some food. Decade is a BMX, kendama, and clothing store in Tokyo’s fashion district. We met up with some pro kendama players in town for the contest and walked up the street to the local shrine. Hiroshi wanted to go to ask his ancestors to let everything at the contest go smoothly and to keep everyone healthy. Even with the limited space Japan offers, the city and people protect and maintain these shrines. They have been there for thousands of years. After going through the gates to the shrine, you walk down a path surrounded by trees and go to a building with trannied roofs you’ve seen in most stereotypical photos of Asia. At this point you go to a table that has water flowing through it. There are eight ladles, four on each side. You scoop up some water and cover your left hand, switch it up and drench your right hand. Pour some water in your hand, slurp it up, and spit it on the ground. Now you’re clean and ready to chat. We walked up to the shrine and saw a few monks chilling inside, and directed by Hiroshi, we stayed silent, tossed a coin into the pot, bowed twice, claped twice, bowed once more, and walked away. You can feel the energy of others when you’re there. Everyone comes for the same reason. It’s so quiet. Almost unnervingly quiet. This was a special day for the crew.

45 minutes of practice, sit backstage for three or four hours, and ride the course for six minutes. I’ve never ridden BMX in a nightclub, but I’m sure this is what it would feel like. There was techno music blaring, fog machines rolling on full blast, and a bundle of lasers and strobe lights shooting around the arena. The crowd was going crazy even if they had no idea what they were seeing. The stage was fit for BMX, skate, flatland, kendama, and a concert. After our part was done, we all got drinks, watched some Japanese rap artist take over the stage, took photos with a bunch of Japanese girls, met the legendary Shoe G, and went to an after party that never ended. At about 7am we came back to the hotel to find hundreds of teenage girls standing in the pouring rain under umbrellas. Apparently they were waiting around to get into a venue to trade or buy some little anime cards that attach to their backpacks. I don’t really know…it was all really confusing.

The crew woke up hungover and had to venture in the rain to the apartment Ride got us for the next week. I walked in and there was heaps of anime painted on the wall. The description said it was fit for five... I mean, it was fit for five, but that meant people sleeping in the kitchen and getting quite cozy on the floor and bed. It was small, but it was dope. We were all friends before, but I think the close quarters made us closer friends. Kodak Black and Lil Yachty were getting played on repeat and the hyphe level was through the roof. We got a bunch of noise complaints and they said we put a hole in the wall, but I don’t recall that ever happening. I don’t think the landlord will be hosting foreign BMX riders again anytime soon…

We spent the next week pedaling from the apartment and finding tons of weird spots you’d never find anywhere else in the world. Tokyo is like the Barcelona of cuts and nibs. It was tough to film stuff because security was so high, but everyone got a few things they were stoked on. Even if security or police don’t kick you out, there will most certainly be a good samaritan that comes by and tells you to stop doing what you’re doing. The people in Japan are very law abiding. No one steals, no one litters, no one fights. It’s so weird. I think it might actually be the safest place on earth. You can leave your bike sitting outside a convenience store and no one is going to touch it. You can pass out in the middle of a busy sidewalk with a wallet packed with cash and your phone sitting on your stomach and it’ll be there when you wake up.

The last day everyone was in town we went out on a filming mission to ride some nugs we found earlier in the week. I tried a feeble and smashed my head, Joris tried a wallie over a rail and sliced his hand open, Lahsaan did a beast double peg grind, and there were a few other cool things that went down. We had dinner planned with Ken and Badleader from JYKK distribution in Tokyo, but I wasn’t going to be able to make it because I had a date. My date ended earlier than I thought and I started wandering the streets. I couldn’t call the boys because my phone doesn’t work in foreign countries. I saw a cool looking street with all these crazy lights and restaurants, so I took a left and walked halfway down the alley and ran into three of the six people I knew in Japan. Turns out the dinner I was missing out on was at a restaurant on that cool looking street…some shit is just meant to be.

We had a feast with about ten people, this time not sitting cross legged, but still very traditional. One person orders a bunch of different plates and everyone tastes a bit of each. Then you order more and more and more, with beers and sake coming frequently.

Most of the crew was flying out the next day so we adjourned early in the night. I already had my flight extended for another month because I knew I’d want more than ten days in Japan. Colin and Lahsaan decided they didn’t want to leave either, so they got their flights extended last minute. We ended up staying with some Shibuya locals, Masa and Sammy, and had a few more days experiencing a few more crazy things...

The trip was amazing. Flying halfway around the world for six minutes of riding in a dance club was odd, but I’d gladly do it again. I’m sure everyone else would agree. Japan changes you. The cleanliness, safety, and way of life is so different from everything someone from the western world is used to. Experiencing it does something to your brain. Or maybe it was all that funky food. I don’t think you’ll see any of us walking around with a pocket ashtray anytime soon, but you might see us rocking a facemask the next time we catch a cold. SKRT SKRT

Photo Captions

1. This ledge is literally 200 feet from Shibuya Crossing, AKA the busiest intersection in the entire world. According to my internet box, 2,500 people cross the intersection every minute. That means that a large percentage of those people are walking in, out, across, in front, and basically fucking everywhere when Reed wanted to do this feeble. We literally had the entire crew running guard from every direction and the situation was still incredibly hectic for everyone and generally unsafe for Reed and any unlucky pedestrian. I think the pressure got to Reed and his first attempt had him piling into the ground, splitting his head open and wrecking his back. Before the pain set in, he fired back up the stairs and absolutely laced it. The highlight of the entire trip, no doubt. 2. I’ve seen this ledge every single time I’ve been to Tokyo and no one ever wants to put pegs on it. Those poles likely have something to do with it, but Lahsaan paid no mind and got it done in one go. 3. Gap-to-tires-to-nollie bar. This waterfront spot was one of the few that we didn’t get hassled at and Colin had time to put down a heavy line because of that…4. Riding at night was the original idea for the entire trip, but everyone’s shred-boner had us out ASAP everyday. This is the one session that ran into the night thanks to this epically low (but still dangerous) rail that you see Ed Zunda cranking a turndown out of. 5. Don’t let the vacant road fool you, this gap over the rail was pure chaos 99% of the time. Cars, buses, pedestrians, cops asking us to move our bikes off the sidewalk…they must have all paused for a moment to let Joris let the cranks fly.