Whether With Shears or on a Skateboard, These Friends Explain How Practice Is Key


Mio Asakawa and Masami Hosono trade notes from their creative endeavors — as a skateboarder and a salon owner — and how repetition develops skills in both sports and creativity.

Last updated: July 7, 2021

“Game Recognize Game” is a series of head-to-head discussions among peers in the worlds of sport and creativity to unpack how they accomplish wins on and off the court.

It’s widely known that consistently practicing is key to leveling up when it comes to sport, but the same is also true when it comes to endeavors off the court or pitch. It’s a shared playbook. As the owner of Vacancy Project, a gender-neutral salon in New York’s East Village, Masami Hosono, 32, knows that inspiration beyond the salon strengthens the work within its four walls. “Even if I am styling clients the exact same way every day, I can still discover something new each time. If I do this part a little differently, it might look better, and so on,” says Masami. “I’m doing this kind of practice inside of my own head, unconsciously.”

For Mio Asakawa, 28, a Tokyo-based technical account manager and skateboarding enthusiast, practicing is crucial to gaining confidence and landing tricks with ease. Before Masami moved to New York, the two met over a casual meal at a tiny sushi joint in the Nakameguro district of Tokyo. Despite their different professions, Masami and Mio understand that it’s the hours of dedication that elevate their skills and abilities — and help them challenge gender biases.

Game Recognize Game: Mio Asakawa and Masami Hosono

In this Game Recognize Game interview, Masami and Mio get together and share how they’ve each learned the importance of practice and bettering one’s self and perspective — not only for themselves but for society too.

Mio: You began working in the beauty industry when you were still living in Japan. I’m curious, what does hair mean to you?

Masami: For me, hair is a communication tool. Even after I came to New York, that hasn’t changed. Especially since I couldn’t speak English very well in the beginning. I made friends through cutting their hair and taking pictures of them that I would post to my social media.

Mio: What made you start Vacancy Project?

Masami: After having worked at a hair salon for 14 years, both in Tokyo and New York, my vision for what I wanted to do became clearer. I began to think about my own concept for a salon. I wanted to open a playground/hair salon where we could all enjoy playing with the concept of diversity, fun and acceptance — all of the new things that I learned as an immigrant when I moved from Japan to New York. At the time, I don’t think there were many gender-neutral hair salons, so I decided not to give my clients gender-based styles. I believe that hair should be cut in whatever way the customer desires. Additionally, the salon donates a part of its total sales to the LGBTQ Center once a month.

Game Recognize Game: Mio Asakawa and Masami Hosono

“My job isn’t to make an exact replica of the photo that the customer brings to me. I create a singular style by looking at all aspects of the customer. To accomplish this task, I need to be constantly practicing.”


Mio: How do you practice your creative process for hairstyles?

Masami: I practice being open to new cultures and expanding my knowledge in order to make hairstyles that fit my customers. My mission isn’t to make an exact replica of the photo of the hairstyle that the customer brings to me. I create a singular style by looking at all aspects of the customer. To accomplish this task, I need to be constantly practicing. When the client doesn’t have a clear vision of what hairstyle they want, then I think about what music they like or what kind of work they do. If I didn’t have my base of knowledge about art and music, I wouldn’t be able to visualize a look for them, even if they brought me their inspiration. Even just in terms of rock and roll, there are so many different varieties. If the customer loves 1970s-era London New Wave punk, I need knowledge about this specific genre to do my job. I am always exposing myself to new forms of art and culture. When I collaborate with clients, I want them to feel like, Masami gets it.

Mio: You are actively sharing what’s happening in the New York City LGBTQ community with your Instagram followers in Japan. Do you feel like this is a part of your creative practice?

Masami: Yes, I do. When I first moved to New York and saw the diversity of the city, I felt a huge sense of relief, like, I had been saved. Japan is conservative and sometimes LGBTQ people have a hard time living there. Many of them hide their sexuality and some people show their unconscious bias through casual discriminatory remarks. By sharing my positive experience in New York, I want to show there is nothing wrong with being LGBTQ.

What made you decide to start skateboarding, by the way? Traditionally, people think of skateboarding as a boy’s activity.

Mio: I had been interested in skateboarding for a long time, but I had this feeling that girls don’t skate. But when I saw some girls posting videos of themselves skating on Instagram, I DM-ed them and they took me to the skate park. I no longer think about skating in terms of gender, but I still want society to feel like, Of course, girls skate. That’s why I post my videos on Instagram — not just of me but of the other girls I skate with. This way, people can see that there are lots of women skating. It’s been almost a year and a half since I started skating. Girl skaters share a strong bond, and everyone feels like a friend of a friend.

“Practicing and spending time with my friends deepens our relationship. That’s what gives me the motivation to say, ‘Let’s go practice, let’s go skate.’”


Game Recognize Game: Mio Asakawa and Masami Hosono

Masami: When do you feel the value of practice?

Mio: Practice is the core element of skateboarding. I recently figured out how to do a kickflip, and it took me a million times to be able to do it. Since skating is so difficult, you feel so good when you finally get it right! The main thing that I value is my community. Practicing and spending time with my friends deepens our relationship. That’s what gives me the motivation to say, “Let’s go practice, let’s go skate.” Sometimes, I’ll go skate alone, but more often I’m going out with my friends.

Masami: I heard that lots of people skate in Komazawa Park in Tokyo. Do you skate there too?

Mio: Yeah! All the women skaters are connected, so chances are you’ll see someone you know. You can always skate with someone there, so there is this sense of security.

Masami: As someone living in Japan, do you think that Japanese society’s view of skateboarding has changed?

Mio: Given that it is now an Olympic sport, I feel that the image that “skateboarding equals bad” has gradually faded. There’s this skater named Aori Nishimura who is super good. She’s an Olympic athlete and also a woman, so I think she helped change the general image of skateboarding. Still, Komazawa might be the only park in Tokyo without an admission fee right now. It wasn’t easy to create a skate park in a place like that, so I’m very grateful to the people who built that park for us. At the same time, you can’t skate in the streets without the cops showing up, so there’s a long way to go before skating in Tokyo becomes like New York.

Words: Momoko Ikeda
Video: Travis Wood

Reported: November 2020

Originally published: June 25, 2021