ADIDAS SKATEBOARDING - SKATE COPA COURT IN TOKYO
ADIDAS SKATEBOARDING - SKATE COPA COURT IN TOKYO

JUNNOSUKE YONESAKA

The king of Japanese street skating has made a come back after years of silence.
Still alive. Junnosuke Yonesaka drops an answer part right before turning 40.

Video by Hideyuki Kondo / Interview by VHSMAG / Photos by Junpei Ishikawa & Archive photos courtesy of Junnosuke Yonesaka

Video by Hideyuki Kondo
Interview by VHSMAG
Photos by Junpei Ishikawa
Archive photos courtesy of Junnosuke Yonesaka

[JAPANESE / ENGLISH]

VHSMAG(V): First of all, how did you start skating?

Junnosuke Yonesaka(J): The first was just playing around with a toy skateboard back around in 2nd or 3rd grade in elementary school. I was just trying to stand on it and have fun with my buddies, but I lost it when I moved to other town in the end of the 3rd grade. I had totally forgotten about it for a year. Then my older brother (Shinnosuke Yonesaka) and his friend showed up with a skateboard. I thought I wanted one and begged my parents. I finally convinced them and when to this skate shop called Violent Grind in Shimokitazawa with my brother. I just chose by the graphic and bought a Santa Cruz Jeff Grosso board. So I started skating in the real sense in October of 5th grade.

V: When did you start skating at the legendary Jabuike spot in Shinjuku Central Park?

J: I started going there about a year or so after I started skating. There was this skate magazine called Ollie and it had an article on Shinjuku Central Park and found out about the Jabuike spot. It was before going to junior high school.

V: Then it was the first time for you to see the skate community?

J: Yeah, I got intimidated and couldn’t skate at first because everyone was super good, so I was just skating this little curb in the corner. I started going there often and gradually started talking to them, then they welcomed me as one of the locals.

V: Who were you influenced by back then?

J: Satoshi kawamura and Kiyokazu Koreishi for sure. Also Hacchaki. He was the shit. After I became a local at jabuike, he started coming and we used to skate all the time. Also at Takaido too. My brother and I learned backside ollie from him. He used to do all these crazy tricks like kickflip grab and treflip tail grab before anyone.

V: A lot of the skaters in the 90s were either street or transition but you had both. How did you get the all-around skill?

J: I wanted to be able to skate everything and I guess it’s all about who you skate with and the environment. Back then, California Street was still in Hachioji and the owner would build quarterpipes and make a DIY skate park. He would also hold contests and have skate tour. I used to go on the tour with brother. So I think I organically learned how to skate transition. You know, you skate jump ramps and mini ramps. Toru Yoshida built a mini ramp in Kinuta Park so I used to skate that too. Street skating wasn’t like how it is like today so I just skated transition.

V: Did you skate with your brother a lot back in the day?

J: Yeah, he’s only two years older but that’s a big difference when you young. So he was already ollieing super high. We were together everywhere we go and we would build obstacles because we didn’t have skate parks. We built a jump ramp and we wanted to show it and skate with our buddies, so we decided to put in on our boards and bring it to Jabuike. From where we lived to Jabuike, it would take at least 40 minutes by skating. So it took forever (laughs). After we were done skating, we would hide it in the bushes and it gets taken away by the city (laughs). We used to skate together to a lot of different towns. Other than Shinjuku, we skated to Komazawa Park and Takaido… we even skated to Korakuen once, which is super far (laughs).

V: After those days, New Type gets formed at Jabuike. How did that happen?

J: New Type was formed by skaters in Hachioji, Komazawa Park and Shinjuku. Lupin, Kampo and Odacchi all skated for California Street. It was my brother that took me to California Street and contest for the first time. And my brother brought like 20 skaters to Jabuike from Hachioji. From there we would skate together and a little later New Type was formed. So in a sense, New Type was formed because of my brother.

V: Then the first skate video made by skaters in Japan, Defeat was made in 1991.

J: Yeah, Lupion and Toru would film and edit the video. I remember Lupin, Toru and Kampo editing every night without sleep at this editing office called Apollo in Fuchu.

V: After the debut video in 1991, you guys released Phackable People and Little Phat, two years in a row. Were you constantly filming?

J: We were always filming, especially when we would try a new trick. Every time we make a video, we bought new equipment. It was really like from the ghetto. After a while, we got paid if we had a full part. I think Toru was dealing with money… Lupin is basically the boss but Toru was doing a lot of the work. There was no New Type if it weren’t for Lupin and Toru.

V: Then after that, the legendary TOKYO 95 got released. How was the filming like for that?

J: Same as every other video. We just filmed whenever we skated. We didn’t get kicked out much like today so we would skate the business district every day. Same as back in Jabuike days, we would skate before and after anyone (laughs). We were skating our ass off. That’s why we had so much footage. After we film, we would go get dinner but I was still in junior high and had no money. The older guys would give me a ¥100 each so that I could eat. I owe New Type a lot. It was really a good crew. So back to TOKYO 95, Akihabara was big like Jabuike. Hirotaka Akaguma and Shin Okada were on fire with tech tricks.

V: Back then, you guys had sister crew called Flower and a video magazine called Candy, so skaters outside Tokyo could see what was going on. How was people’s reaction to TOKYO 95?

J: I heard the response to a certain degree but my mind was on the next project. We didn’t have Internet so maybe it was hard to know the response, but I could see that the video was selling a lot so I knew people liked it. After that video, we were invited form a lot of shops and parks for demos.

V: Is it true that that video got you on Menace?

J: Yeah, Lupin was living in LA for overseas education. Skaters like Mike York, Gino Perez and Weston Correa would come to his house and chill. Lupin would show them New Type videos and somehow Kareem Campbell watched it. Then Kareem came to Japan for Droors tour and he showed up at Akihabara spot with Menace necklace head. Koreishi from Droors distributor, Kareem and I went to the corner and Kareem offered me to join the team. I didn’t think twice (laughs).

V: How did you feel?

J: I was like, “Yeeeesssssss!!!! One of my favorite skaters came to me and he’s giving me this Menace head!!!” I was listening to a lot of hip-hop and his fashion was on point, you know? Shoe laces untied and super baggy fashion. We just talked about joining the team and I flew to LA to sing the contract after. I got paid too, so when I visit LA, I didn’t have to bring any money. I would use the money in my account in LA and do whatever.

V: I assume Menace was a super tight crew. They welcomed you and made sure that you felt like home, right?

J: They were all super nice. When it was Menace, they had this gangster feel and the crew was super tight. It was before P-Rod was on the team. After they changed its name to City Stars, Kareem told me that the concept of the brand was making an international team. So that’s why there was someone like me and other guy from Europe.

V: Any memorable thing from Menace and City Stars days?

J: It was when P-Rod just got on the team and I remember skating with him around the warehouse. He was super good at combo ledge tricks. Other than that, I remember living in a filmer’s place with Devine Calloway and Javier Nunez and filmed everyday. It was a great experience.

V: Anything you learned from those days?

J: You need to able to speak English. That was the biggest struggle.

V: But you had two signature models.

J: Yeah, somehow they offered me pro board. I guess Kareem figured I’d go pro because I was on the team long enough. He paid me incentive aside from the monthly fee.

V: What was it like skating in LA, the center of skateboarding?

J: I had filmed with Lupin in LA before skating for Menace and City Stars. You know, you would hit famous spots and you bump into people like Guy Mariano. Lupin would introduce me to them, we would skate together and hit all these spots. So I could skate the spots, no problem. One thing that blew my mind was that lot of the skaters in LA didn’t have warm up session. They would just go for it and make the most amazing trick. I learned how to really sit on ledges and slide or grind. I got surprise how gnarly all the spots are too, you actually need to go see it and find out. That spot in 20 Shot Sequence, where Kareem does the first line… the ground there is super rough.

V: How did you make your move to Cliché?

J: Unfortunately City Stars vanished. I stared riding for Cliché after a year of no board sponsor. I knew JB Gillet well so it was really smooth. I would stay at Jeremie Daclin’s place and Cliché House in Lyon and film. We would make pasta, play game and gamble after skating. JB and Lucas Puig were especially nice. I wasn’t eating pork and beef at the time and they made sure that I understand all the menu at a restaurant. They were awesome in many ways.

V: You went on Cliché tour once.

J: Yeah, we hopped in two vans and visited ten cities in France. It was sponsored by a beer brand so we could drink beer as much as we wanted. We would visit multiple cities a day so traveling time was when we could rest. When I was sleeping in the van and having my head on the window, someone would pass me a pillow. Everyone was cool. I couldn’t even speak English and there are small towns where no one could speak English. It was like, what should I do? I could manage to finish the tour in one piece because of the teammates. Skating was my tool of communication.

V: Were you eager to get footage on the tour?

J: I just wanted to do my best as a Japanese skater. But it was mellow. Everyone was doing their thing before meeting up, like getting coffee and shopping. We would meet up after that, head out to a spot, some skating and some not. One of the guys was writing a poem… It was mellow and free so I could be myself and not try too hard. I tried to skate wherever I went. You start with something easy and while trying it, you find a good trick. Even if it takes time to land it, no one cares, everyone is cheering for you. So it was a great environment. I really want to thank them.

V: Okay, then let’s talk about your part. What made you want to film this part?

J: When I look back on my career, that last video part I made was back in 2010, NEST’s Get Up Stunt Up. That was the main thing. I need to get something out. In this world of sports, music or whatever, player needs to be fresh. I always thought I needed to get at least one video part every two years. But I haven’t had any in five years. I haven’t been skating contests too. So that means a lot of young skaters don’t even know my skating. I thought I needed to show them. I’m turning 40 this year so I thought I’d just do it now. I wanted to show that I’m still alive.

V: How long did you film for?

J: I filmed a trick after work here and there, but it was around last summer when I really focused on this part. So less than a year.

V: What’s the trick you’re most stoked on?

J: It’s a cliché but the last trick. You know, when you really focus on something, you get the knacks and learn and feel something new. You open a new door by really giving your all to it. I think with this part, I got to extend my limits. I tried something new, even if the trick wasn’t new I tried to give a little twist. I didn’t wanted to something that I’ve already done at a new spot. You can do that when you’re on tour, but for this part I really brainstormed and figured out what to try. In music, it’s like the difference of freestyling and working on track in an album.

V: And you came up with those combo tricks on ledge.

J: I wanted to film everyday so I went out skating one-on-one with a filmer. I didn’t waste time by just skating with buddies. I knew what I wanted to film so we just kept doing that.

V: It’s been over 20 years since TOKYO 95 days and you’re almost 40. I can imagine your body is not how it is like it used to. How do you keep your skills?

J: After 35, water on your body decreases and the joints gets stiffer, so I make sure that I stretch after skating and before going to bed. But I don’t think there’s a secret to it. One thing I can say though, I just like skating. I used to be able to skate whenever I wanted but now my time is limited. I just want to skate and keep skating.

V: Okay lastly, what’s the plan for the future?

J: When you reach this age, skaters tend to start a team or a brand, but I’m not interested in that. I want to see how long I can keep skating. Not to pathetically cling on to it, but to lead the scene. I feel like that’s my mission and I’m doing my best. I think skaters my age are struggling in that sense. Kazuki Tatemoto is still skating contests and that’s amazing! Kazu in soccer world and Ichiro in baseball world; I really respect those kind of athletes. So I7m just going to keep skating to the fullest!

Name:Junnosuke Yonesaka

Date of birth:April 25, 1977

Blood type:A

Birthplace:Tokyo

Sponsors:SK8Mafia, Nesta Brand, Oakley, Fizz Bearings, Thunder, ST-Line, Arktz、New Type, Nakama Racing

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