The Yuto Horigome Interview
Interview & Translation: Nino Moscardi
Photography: Yuumac & Taneda
For such a calm and composed kid, Yuto Horigome is on a hot streak. There have been Japanese scene builders, skaters, and brands present on the international level for decades (remember Shin Okada?), but at only 17 years old, Yuto has already undoubtedly reached a level of worldwide exposure that no other Japanese skater past or present ever has. He's put out two full parts for international media including a welcome part for Blind Skateboards, placed fourth in Tampa am, and just recently took second at Simple Session. On his last night in the States before leaving home to Japan for a while, he crashed on my apartment floor and let me harass him with questions about growing up in Japan, week long birthday celebrations, taking on Dyrdek's rail, and getting on Blind.
Yuto, what up dude?
First of all, what are you doing here in the States? How long you been here?
I got here around the middle of October. I was only here for like a week and a half before flying to China for three days for a contest. Then I came back here to LA for another three days and flew straight to North Carolina for a Nike tour on our way down to Tampa, competed in Tampa Am, flew back here and have been here ever since.
What was the initial goal of coming here?
I really just came here with the intention to practice while it's the cold season in Japan, and then you and Weiss told me about some filming projects and the Thrasher piece so that became the main goal.
So you've been here for like three months, right?
Yeah, just about.
Who have you been making moves with and going out to film with mostly? I know you're tight with Micky and his crew.
Yeah, I'm staying at Micky's place so we skate together a lot, and he'll bring me out to spots and filming sessions. When we go to parks, Mike (Piwowar) is usually always with us and Sewa will come through sometimes too. And then when we go out to film and shoot, either Hoops who's one of the Dwindle filmers, Weiss or Eric Clavel is on video and Brandon Alton is shooting the photos.
What's daily life like for you in the States?
I don't know. On a normal day, it's just like wake up around 10 and be out with Micky to like Lincoln or Vans park by 12 and then just skate all day until we're beat. Then just grab some food and go back to his spot. When we're on a filming mission though, I'm up at like 7 or something and out by 10 at the latest. Now that I'm almost out and headed back to Japan, it's been a lot of those days since we're trying to get the photos shot for the Thrasher piece.
What about having fun? I know you can't get into bars or anything...
I don't know. Just hanging with Micky and Mike and the homies. I haven't really gone to any parties or anything. Tampa was a huge party so that was rad. But since I've gotten back to LA, I haven't really gone out that much. I'm usually just so exhausted from skating that I need to chill and rest my body.
What do you do when you're not skating in Japan then?
I go to arcades a lot and just play games with the homies. Japan's got some rad arcades.
How’s the English coming along?
I'm killing it dude.
(laughs) Confidence is key. Fluent now, huh?
Nah, I'm not fluent or anything, but Micky and Mike will always talk with me so I've learned a lot from them. I've remembered a lot since getting here.
Any favorite words so far?
"You know what it is!"
Wallride pivot fakie. Photo: Yuumac
What's been the biggest change in adjusting to life in the States? Has it been hard to communicate in only English without any real experience living abroad?
Yeah, I mean sometimes my English has been pretty gnarly and like just a couple of words in super broken English, but it always works out and I can get the point across somehow. It's not really correct English at all though.
That's good that there's been no really gnarly trouble with the language though.
Yeah, I mean there are times where I don't really understand that I wish I did though. Like Micky would always ask me like what's selling in Japan or some business or industry type question and I don't really know how to explain it. And dealing with contracts. Contractual language is so hard.
Are you interested in the business side of the industry?
Yeah, the contracts we have in Japan for sponsorships are way different from the States. Now that I'm getting supported directly by brands here instead of through the Japan distributors, I've got different obligations and had to learn all the differences as I go.
Speaking of differences from the States, it's a cliche question, but has there been any culture shock or anything that you've tripped out on?
What's culture shock?
(laughs) Like differences in culture that you've experienced and were surprised at.
Oh I got you. One thing I trip out on is how hard it is to get around if you don't have a car in LA. Like when I'm trying to go skate by myself, I always have to take the bus because there's like no trains. But even the buses are always like super late or something.
What about the people? There's some crazies here in LA compared to Japan right? Like tweakers and shit.
(laughs) Yeah. There's definitely times where I've been sketched out by people. Like crazy old bag ladies just yelling at nobody on the bus or something. Or like when you're in a sketchy area and people are just grilling you or whatever.
Front feeble. Photo: Taneda
Any gnarly stories from filming/skating here? You've done a hell of a lot in the three months you've been here...
For the most part, filming's been smooth but there was one time we were skating this spot at a school and we got a pretty hectic kick out. At first, they told us we could skate for five more minutes if we left after that but I still couldn't land the trick so we were still there when the security guard came back at like exactly five minutes after the first kick out. We were only there for maybe five minutes longer after that but he was getting so pissed.
No, there wasn't a fight or anything like that, but he was screaming and trying to like kick my deck and shit.
What about the Nike tour and Tampa after that? Congrats on 4th place in Tampa by the way.
Thanks dude. The tour was rad. I knew some of the guys already but there were a bunch of dudes I hadn't met before and everyone was so sick. They were all super nice so I felt like I became friends with everyone really quick. It was a blast.
Who did you connect with the most?
I hung with DaShawn and Gabriel a lot. Yoshi was super nice, and Jason was hilarious too.
That was your first time meeting Mike Sinclair since getting on Nike too, right?
Yeah, Sinclair was awesome. Every night during the tour, he got me a birthday cake after dinner. I don't even know why.
Isn't your birthday in January?
Yeah. January 7th. But he'd still get a cake and sing "happy birthday Yuto" every night for some reason. We celebrated my birthday like six or seven times in November. It was all Sinclair.
Bet you were stoked though.
Yeah, it was pretty funny (laughs).
How was Tampa after that? That wasn't your first time?
Nah, that was like my fourth. I never made it past the qualifiers my first three times and I was always super bummed about that. This year I was really nervous at the start, but I just wanted to make it to the final once. I somehow managed to place first in the qualifier so I got in to the finals and got fourth there.
You have a strategy or tricks you wanted to try going into it or were you just going with the flow?
Yeah, this time I thought if I tried tricks that no one else was really trying, I'd stand out and maybe get some good scores off them. Most of the tricks were either nollie or switch. But the one I got really hyped on making was the nollie three to switch back tail. Like even before I made it, I figured if I could just get that trick, it'd get me a little love.
Yeah, that shit was heavy dude. Keeping on tour talk, how was the Blind Japan tour? First major tour with a pro crew right? A lot of people were hyped off your tricks in both the Thrasher and VHSMag edits.
Yeah, the tour was sick. I had never met most of the Blind team until then. Just like Micky and Sewa. I had only met Romar like once before that just like in passing or whatever. It was rad to meet and bond with the team. I was surprised meeting Morgan. He seems like he'd be kind of a quiet and chilled out, but he was so funny and talked to me a lot. The only thing that kind of sucked was that a typhoon hit Japan just as the tour started so it rained pretty much every day and one of the outdoor demos even got cancelled. We only hit street like one or two days out of a ten day tour. I wish we could've gotten out more but what can you do, you know?
How'd it feel having your first major tour on your home turf of Tokyo? All the homies were there to cheer you on.
That was super rad. I had just gotten on the team officially a few months earlier so all my friends came out to support. Especially since all the riders were so sick too, we had huge crowds at pretty much every event and everyone was just so amped. The energy was awesome.
While we're on the topic of Japan, I gotta ask what you think about the Olympics. It’s in your hometown after all. What effect do you think it’s having on skating in Japan?
Yeah, I mean I don't personally care about the Olympics either way, but if it'll bring some new parks and places to skate then I think that's a good thing. The scene in Japan is still growing, so I think it will help bring new people into it too.
Seems like a lot of the skaters in Japan have some pretty diverse opinions about it though. Like either super for it or super against it.
Yeah, I don't really care either way though. I mean, if I'm able to participate, I think I probably would.
Probably some stiff competition from all the upcoming rippers though. I'm sure Keyaki (Ike) and Daisuke (Ikeda) would be down to compete in it, no?
I guess, but in that sense, it's no different from Tampa. It's only if I'm able to participate anyways.
What effect do you think it's had on the industry and scene in Japan since the announcement?
I think a lot of people and distributors who represent the some of the bigger brands are probably hyped on it. Like they really want to do their best to show the world Japanese skateboarding even if it something as mainstream as the Olympics. I guess it would just depend on the person. I only know a certain side of the industry. Like the AJSA or the JSF. They're probably super hyped. But then there's dudes like Kota (Ikeda) who are more on the core side and are supported by spots like BigWing who probably couldn't give a shit. I don't really know. Seems like most people are just like "Whatever dude, if you can get in, might as well try your hardest."
Haven't you been on TV a bunch back in Japan to talk about and introduce skateboarding to the Japanese audience?
Yeah, since the Olympics announcement I've been on Japanese TV a lot. It's usually for like news, sports, or variety shows and we just talk about like the differences between parks in the US and Japan and kind of introduce skateboarding to a new audience since it's still growing there. Then I'll just do a few tricks for the camera or whatever.
Celebrity status, huh.
If it gets me a date with Tsubasa Honda then I'm down.
What was the skate scene like growing up in Japan? How'd you get into it?
My dad skated when he was younger. He's like 43 or 44 now so he doesn't skate at all anymore but he understands the love for it. When I was a kid, I would go with him sometimes and he'd teach me how to ride it, then I just started going to the park and practicing. There was a vert ramp in the Adachi district in Tokyo so we'd go there too and I'd practice vert with my dad. Then eventually I just got good enough to get sponsored by my local shop Instant through Honma-san and went from there.
What are some of the biggest changes you've noticed in the Japan scene since you were younger and now that you're older and getting well known here in the States?
For one thing, it's grown a lot since I was a kid. I mean, I didn't really pay attention to it at the time because I was so young, but looking back it definitely changed. There's been a lot more support from the brands in helping skaters make a living off it now. Like getting flights paid for for trips and things.
How did you first get on Blind?
Well I knew a filmer named Tomo who was living here and was staying with Micky. I came out to visit him like last October or something before I was even on the team and they let me stay at their place. We'd go out to film with Micky and Sewa and they were just hyped on my skating I guess so they told Weiss about me and he put me on the team.
Good work on the Berrics part. Obvious question, but what was the hardest trick to get?
The hardest one was probably the nollie 270 noseslide nollie flip out for the last trick. It took me about five days of going back to the spot to try all day. It was a real pain in the ass.
Did you know that Dyrdek had hit that 20 stair rail before? You even hit it round.
Yeah, I knew that before going in.
Do you get recognized at parks either in LA or back in Tokyo at all?
Yeah, sometimes in LA. People will tell me they liked my part or whatever. Or like they saw me skate Tampa. That's how I met a lot of people and made friends. (laughs)
Now that you're headed back to Japan, what's the plan from here on out? Working on a part or getting a girlfriend?
First, I just want to keep practicing and finish up the Thrasher shoot before the deadline and then I got invited to Simple Session in February so I'll compete in that. I'm filming a part too so I'll keep working on that too. Then if I meet a nice one, maybe I'll get a girlfriend too.
You like those kawaii girls, huh.
I'm just waiting for Tsubasa Honda to hit me up.
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