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.”