Interview photos by Kentaro Yamada, Skate & lifestyle photos courtesy of Element Japan (Kenji Haruta & Naoshi Imai)
VHSMAG (V)： Congratulations on the Far East Flow. How do you feel now that the big project is done?
Hirotoshi Kawabuchi (B)： It’s like the video is finally done and really released. There were many detours but I’m glad that we were able to go through this together. We couldn’t have done it without everyone’s help. I’m sure I’ll start thinking like “I should’ve done this and that,” but for now I’m just happy that the video is done.
Ryo Sejiri (R)： Yeah, it took so long. We filmed for several years and in between we had other project like New World Element released on the Berrics. I had to restart filming from there and it took another two years. So it’s like, it took so long to get here.
B： Ryo gave away a lot of his footage so I’m sure it was tough. We had to postpone the release due to that.
Tatsuma Masuda (T)： For me, it was my first time getting featured in a video like this. It was only last year when I started filming with the main guys on the team. At first it was like I get to be in the video if I can get good clip. Eventually I got to go on trips with the main guys.
VHSMAG (V)： Does anyone remember when this project started?
R： I was looking through #FarEastFlow hashtag and I think it started around 2013 or 2014.
Naohiro Abe (N)： But the first time we talked about this project was like seven or eight years ago. When I was asked what I wanted to do with the team, I just answered “Video.” right away. I was talking about this with Ryo as well. Then Imai-san (Element Japan marketing) started putting things together. We started filming around 2013.
V： So you guys pretty much filmed during trips?
T： We had Make It Count so we filmed where we had the contests. Other than that we just kept in touch with each other and filmed together.
B： Yeah, we got tricks really slowly, one at a time. We went to Taiwan but we had to film a mini video for VHSMAG. So we only could get footage slowly.
N： Oh, that’s right. That was really harsh. For Make It Count too, we drove to Shikoku and did demo the next day, then get wasted at night and go filming the day after. Young guys like Ryo were alright but the older guys were suffering (laughs). It was tough, right Buchi?
B： Yeah, we only had Hide for filmer so sometimes we could only hit one spot a day. So I brought my camera and filmed. I wanted to help reduce all the work of the filmer.
N： We could get more footage because Buchi had his camera.
B： We all hit different spots so the best way is to split up and go film in teams.
R： Yeah, we’d have meetings at night and figure out where to hit the next day. We came up with a solution that we needed more filmer. Then Koto came in the picture. The last Taiwan trip we went, we split up in two and filmed with Hide and Koto. Everything went smooth.
B： The old man crew takes a lot of time to get tricks so it’s best to divide up (laughs).
N： You know, you get tired if you land tricks too much. We always start from a easy ledge spot (laughs). We get in gear if we get a clip there, and if we have a good spot to film after, it’s whether we scream in agony or we make it (laughs).
V： How was Ryo and Tatsuma, the young crew? You two both did that hammer at the big stairs.
T： Originally we went there to film Ryo’s trick. I just tagged along.
R： You’re right. But I partied too hard the night before and I had severe muscle ache and couldn’t jump down the stairs (laughs). I was like “Sorry!” and instead Tatsuma and Ryota Abe skated the stairs.
T： At first I didn’t even come close to making it. The other guys were skating so I just kept trying. Then eventually the board came under my feet and just before my body couldn’t take it any more, I pulled it. I wasn’t there to get the trick in the first place so that was lucky. Hide and everyone got super psyched and asked Element to take me to Okinawa trip.
R： Yeah I remember that. I went back to try my trick a year later. I wanted to go back sooner but I just couldn’t… I went back one day and there were too many people and couldn’t make it. The deadline was coming up so I had to film that last trick. So I was able to film it at the last minute. I was stoked.
N： That trick was insane. I don’t know who else can do Tatsuma’s trick, and Ryo went switch… No man, impossible. Really.
R： I had been wanting to get that trick there for several years so I was hyped. Like, “I got it!”
B： I like Nao’s boardslide too. That one with the drop.
N： Old men tend to go basic (laughs).
V： Nao had clips shot in Barcelona. Was that when you were there for Make It Count?
N： Yeah, also for AbemaTV. I think I’ve been there twice. I went to that wave spot and tried nollie cab and got crushed. It’s pain in the ass to clean up the leaves in the wave. You have to clear like five waves to go over the bar. So you try about ten times and you’re done. You get too tired.
B： About the same amount of time for me to finish drinking three tall boys (laughs).
N： Yeah, I’ll join you from your fourth one (laughs).
V： By the way, I noticed Ryo laughing after landing switch front board on a big handrail. Why were you laughing?
R： I think I was just happy that I landed it (laughs). I was like, “I made it!” I remember Ryota was skating the handrail with me that day. He landed his trick first and I had to keep trying alone. I was simply happy.
V： I see (laughs). I was just curious… Okay, you guys filmed in Barcelona, Taiwan, Okinawa… You went shooting at various places. Any particular place memorable?
N： Barcelona for sure. There was this door that only the locals could open and I was able to open it. That was one of the most valuable experiences in my life.
V： I’m not supposed to ask what kind of door it was, right?
N： Yep, I’ll tell you in detail later after this interview (laughs).
T： For me, Okinawa. I couldn’t be here without that trip. It was my first trip where I had a mission to film. It was a great experience for me. I got to learn a lot of things. It was super inspiring being surrounded by the older guys. I got crushed and hyped in that two weeks. So Okinawa was most memorable for me.
R： Taiwan and Barcelona were both awesome but Okinawa was the best. I used to skate at a skatepark in Mitaka when I was a kid and we had a lot of Okinawan skaters there. So I had all these Okinawan friends. We were able to skate and hang out in Okinawa. It was rad reconnecting with them in this way. So many good people. Okinawa is the best.
B： For me, the last Taiwan trip. I knew that I’d be busy with work after that so it was like “This might the last one…” It was a bit emotional. On top of that I hurt my leg on the first day. It hurt the whole trip but I had to skate no matter what. I got what I needed so that was memorable. Me and Nao, we’re both in the mid thirties so we wanted to do our best. Who knows when we can go on another trip together again.
V： By the way, what happened with Ryota Abe? He was with you guys since the start and he quit the team midway.
N： Ryo probably knows about this more than anyone.
R： No, he hadn’t really explained. I think it was a tough decision for him to make.
N： He’s like a great ramen chef. You know, how ramen chef’s really stubborn. When you decide what to do, you just go for it no matter what the others say. I heard that he wanted to quit Element five minutes before a demo, on the platform of a ramp. He was like, “Nao, there’s something I wanna talk about. I’m thinking about quitting Element.” I told him to wait until the demo’s done… Well, after the demo we just drank tequila and got wasted (laughs). So we spoke on the phone later and told him that he had to discuss things with Element because they took him on trips all over. He needed to figure out what to do with all the footage he got. He discussed it with Imai-san and things were cool. I see this as a turning point in his skate life.
B： I go drinking with Ryota a lot. He’s got this thing that he needs to challenge. Of course I wanted him in Far East Flow but… it is what it is.
R： I think he wanted to pursue the thing he really wants to pursue. I’m sure he still loves Element and us friends, but he just can’t give up the dream he had since he was a kid.
B： No one has the right to stop him from chasing his dream.
T： Well, I almost cried…
N： Like, “Noooo! Don’t gooooo!” It’s all up to Ryota. Let him do his thing.
V： French Fred came in as an adviser for this video, right? How did it turn out? I’m sure there were some footage that didn’t get used.
N： We just skate, that’s it. Editing is up to the editor. We’re the material and how they get cooked it is up to the chef.
B： We really thank Hide for all the work.
N： Yeah, Hide hardly slept for this project. He never drank and he drove all day every day. He’s super tough. He used to be a point guard in basketball. He doesn’t eat rice so we had to look for noodle joint during trips. He was like, “I don’t film when I eat rice.” But really, thank you Hide.
V： Lastly, now that Far East Flow is done. Anything you want to make happen with Element in the near future?
T： I want to make something again with the same team. Maybe it’d be interesting to work on double parts. I’d love to see Buchi and Nao’s double part.
N： I’m sure there are things that we need to clear budget-wise, but I want to go film at places I’ve never been to. Indonesia, Brazil, South Africa. These are the places I want to visit. Maybe I can open another door there (laughs).
R： Kind of the same, but I also want to go on trips with these guys again. And I want to work on another video project. We have more young guys so I’m sure we can come up with something stronger. So yeah, I want to make another video.
B： Skater’s job is to skate, so I want them to make places where their riders can do their thing. Like Nao said, budget could be an issue but I hope the riders will have more chances. That’s about it.