Takato Moriya & Yuta Watanabe – The future of Japanese flatland, today

Sunny Singh posted a thought provoking description to this new video of young Japanese rippers, Takato Moriya & Yuta Watanabe. Read on, and let’s discuss this one…

“Takato Moriya and Yuta Watanabe are just 10 and 13 years old and are two of the most promising 3rd generation riders from Japan. Historically, Japan has consistently produced some of the most creatively advanced and consistent flatland BMX riders in the world. I was eager to spend some time at a Toyosu Jam on my last day in Japan over the weekend not only to session w/talented 1st and 2nd gen riders, but to just witness the flow of the 3rd gen.

These clips speak for themselves. Takato and Yuta are already riding at a level that adult riders in other countries only ever dream about. Yuta told me he started riding when he was 8, and I’d bet Takato was even younger. I made a few observations that explain why the level of riding in Japan is so unique:

1. The family. Takato and Yuta’s families are seen in these clips actively supporting and encouraging their kids as if this were little league baseball in America. They weren’t just sitting there waiting for the event to end so they could go home. They had clear understandings of the technical tricks being attempted and cheered when the kids executed even the most arcane switch mid trick that would’ve been missed by an untrained eye. They were also supportive when a lowly amateur like myself pulled some tricks. Something about this level of familial support really stood out to me.

2. Knowledge transfer. Rodney Mullen once described skateboarding as an exchange of ideas similar to the open source software community. New generations rise and exceed previous generations because of the accessibility information. In other words, kids see what is possible and they conquer it then push the envelope, and the process repeats. I watched one of the current top pros in the world, Masashi Itani, engaging with Takato and Yuta as he broke down key movements and balance points for certain tricks. Masashi told me about the low-cost flatland BMX schools run by pro riders in Japan who are teaching young kids the ropes. He also told me that many kids just show up to these public jams where top-level amateur and pro riders meet, and they simply ask for help.

3. The tools. Smaller BMX bikes have always existed for young kids but seeing Takato and others riding bikes tailored specifically for flatland and their size is pretty incredible. Pro rider Kotaro Tanaka and his company, Motel Works, have put a significant amount of thought into producing entry-level flatland bikes for young riders.

4. Dedication. Most importantly and above all else, these kids have an unparalleled level of dedication and persistence to mastering flatland BMX. On December 8th, a young girl named Sakura Kawaguchi asked me to teach her forward steamrollers. By this event on December 23rd, she was able to do them on her own. There’s only so much that can be taught when it comes to learning to new tricks and it was clear that Sakura had focused and invested the time on her own to put the pieces together to learn that trick.

Flatland BMX is a form of mathematics. It is largely a solitary endeavor and takes a certain personality to be okay with never-ending failure and iterative learning to process through and overcome hurdles piecemeal. I came home reenergized to ride and persist because riders a third my age have shown me what’s possible with dedication.”

9 thoughts on “Takato Moriya & Yuta Watanabe – The future of Japanese flatland, today

  1. I have featured Takato Moriya a bunch on the site, what an amazing talent. This is a great post by Sunny which I like to add a few thoughts to the discussion.

    – I think a big reason flatland works in Japan is the culture there, and the Japanese people respect anything that takes discipline (such as flatland, right now also the top guy in the Street League in skateboarding is Japanese). They respect the hard work, but understand the need to feed the scene from the grassroots up. This wheel has been motion for as long as I can remember, and is consistent.

    The regular jams feed the motivation for the next, the cycle never stops.

    • these bullet points are what have always appealed to me about the Japanese flatland scene, and i really wish we had that level of “familial support” in the USA. the BMX racing has always had that, just not flatland. and that’s the main reason i always be sure to push the promotion of “family & spectator friendly” aspect of my own flatland jams, because it’s crucial for the sport to survive in this crazy age of instant gratification, social media, etc etc. make it a family affair!!! thanks for posting this E and big ups to Sunny for his eloquent analysis. and last but not least, happy holidays y’all!!!

  2. Honestly I don’t think Flatland in the USA will ever take off in popular culture, especially as a sport…it’s just not violent enough for the average blood thirsty American.
    What attracts viewship or interest? Violence does and the possibility someone may get really hurt.
    Kids in my country would rather sit in front of a TV and play COD and Fortnite than to practice tricks on a BMX bike for hours at a time and what’s really sad is most parents are totally fine with that.
    I live in a neighborhood filled with young children and I never see them playing outside.

    I have two young boys and I’m constantly fighting with them to go outdoors and play, join a sports team or just get involved with something (anything) in our community.

    I personally don’t let my boys play violent games and limit the amount of time they can spend on their “devices” but it’s a FIGHT every single day because all their friends do!
    I want to throw all of it in the barrel!!!!
    I get NO support from my family over this too, i’m always looked as “the bad guy”.

    I’m sick, sad and lost over this.
    Sorry for the rant

    • I don’t think flatland is big anywhere in popular culture, I think in the US you had have had a boom in the 80’s with the AFA national events and regional events. I recall 120 riders in 14-15’s at numerous events. In the 90’s it died off, came back with Hoffman BS series. Bobby Carter tells me there are 120 riders at the One love jam, thats not a dead scene. It’s more about the regional events and jams that build communities. I run flatland coaching sessions, and they are building its taken me three years though, I now have ten riders regularly.

      My question would be, what are you doing for your scene? Whoever you are, ask yourself that question I believe the riders in Japan understand it, and do something productive.

  3. I agree with Mark and what you said Effraim. I just think that the general mainstream public, find it easier to understand mainstream sports.The Japanese are amongst the most intelligent people on the planet, which’s probably why they can appreciate the difficulty in flat. It’s a shame many other cultures don’t get it.

  4. Hi Mark, I just read the rest of your post,& I can totally relate, because as a Dad myself, my son isn’t interested, in probably even traditional sports, he doesn’t have to be. I ranted admittedly a little too much, and I was told ‘what’s it got to do with me by a couple of riders’. These people are Dads to, & I thought how ‘incesitive’,& and a smack in the face’. These people weren’t even around when I put up contests, helped upcoming riders, listened to ‘their problems’, & this is what I got! I fortunately got support from non riding friends. But, I get you, family support’s much more important. And because I ranted, they decided to ‘ostracise’ me. What crime did I commit?? Yes, you know who you are!. You got your Dvd’s, said you’d burn me some copies, but I never heard anything about that at all! There was also a case, where I was contacted ‘purely’ to exchange frames. When I texted about the gyro tabs, I was ignored on the phone, then when I asked about it in person, I was spoken to ‘abruptly’ in a I don’t give a damn about you, I got your frame manner, so who cares! Yes, I know when we’re out riding we want to leave our problems away, but it affected me so profoundly, & to be treated this way, given I’ve done a lot for flat really sucks! I’m actually much more happier not riding with these people. But, I bet if I organised a jam, would they come running to get their hands on prizes?? Don’t feel bad about ranting Mark, we’re all human. And Effraim, I also get it, that this isn’t the forum to air the laundry, but we’re all into flat,& I personally believe, like mainstream sports, where they get support, and flat being so small, we should to, and it’s healthy in whatever % flat needs to grow. Finally, this has to be said. A 15 year old kid was kicked off his bike, for doing a trick a rider didn’t like him doing, that’s crazy,& the single most saddest negative thing I’ve known in over 40 years of Bmx! This kid was calling me, telling me how excited he was about what he’d learnt,& was just trying to progress, just as I was. He explained how he was verbally bullied,& was keeping away from a certain rider. Keep in mind, this rider that kicked him off his bike was already into his 30s, & a Dad! I personally was so disgussted in the way they trested this poor kid!. This isn’t all about me, I just believe it shouldn’t but did happen! This poor kid eventually quit riding all together, and never reached his full potential, which I saw that he had what it took. He eventually quit riding all together due to bullying,& even more sad, he ended up a paraplegic. I can’t stress it enough, that “this isn’t just about me’ If this occurred in mainstream sports, there’d be an outcry!.

    • That’s a very sad story Tristan. Regarding the jams I do get it having organised contests for years, some are a success in terms of numbers some not, but it does help Keep the scene going. I admire what the Down Underground guys do, not a massive scene but it seemed like an increase in numbers this year from last year. That’s a good thing, it’s not a small term fix. Ten year generational cycles with building scenes, Japan are already building the next scene. I think it will be interesting to see if there are as many riders in Japan since the King of ground finished.

  5. Flat is way too cerebral to become mainstream. That reason alone will keep it distinctive for those who see beyond ‘Who is the fastest’ etc mentality of mainstream fodder.

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