Meet the Woman Pushing Tokyo's Skate Culture Forward
At age 29, Azusa Adachi picked up skateboarding. Now, she's inspiring the next generation of skaters through her project, Skate Girls Snap.
Snapshots is a series that checks in with local athletes around the world.
Skating is all about breaking boundaries. And for female skaters in Japan, a country with rigid gender norms and a developing skate scene, there are still plenty of boundaries to be broken. Although Japan's female skaters racked up multiple medals during the sport's Olympic debut, Japanese women have had very little representation on the scene until now. Still, the wins are proof that even if visibility was low in Japan, female skaters were riding high.
Azusa Adachi is one of the women changing Tokyo's skate community—and she loves doing it. To Azusa, there's nothing more important than doing what you love, and there's nothing she loves more than skating, photography and meeting new people. Her project, Skate Girls Snap, is a consolidation of these passions. A website featuring snapshots of the female skaters she meets in Tokyo, Skate Girls Snap offers a deeper look into the women's skate community in Japan. Through her project, she's sending an important message: There are all kinds of personalities and styles that make up Tokyo's skate community, and there's still room for more. We caught up with Azusa to discuss what Skate Girls Snap can show us about Japan's skate scene and how she got so hooked on skateboarding just before her 30th birthday.
How did you get into skating?
I used to ride BMX at Komazawa Park. One day, a girl I'd become friendly with gave me a beat-up old board. BMX is a male-dominated scene, and when it came to tricks, I often felt like, "A guy might be able to do this, but not me". In the skate scene, on the other hand, there were a lot more girls, and it was really fun to be able to practise together. Everyone starts skating in their teens or early twenties, but at the time, I was already 29. Around me, there are girls who have been trying to go pro with their parents since they were little, as well as girls who are working hard for competitions. There are also people who are just skating for fun like me.
Regardless of skill level, age, nationality or gender, everyone gives it their all. And when we finally land something new, we're all stoked for each other. That was really fun, and it got me hooked on skating. Eventually, working a nine-to-five job started to seem silly to me. I realised that it's better to spend your life doing what you enjoy. And that made me want to spend as much time as possible having fun. So in the spur of the moment, I quit my job. Now, other than when I'm doing freelance work, I skate whenever I want and work on Skate Girls Snap in my free time.
So skateboarding got you so hooked that you quit your job. What is it about the sport that's so appealing to you?
It's the feeling of working together to accomplish something. Skating isn't a team sport, but it's fun to do with your friends. So once you get started, the mental obstacles like "It'll hurt to fall" or "I won't fit in" matter less than you'd think. At my usual skate park, if someone is having trouble, I'll talk to them even if I don't know them. And even though everyone skates at a different level, we teach each other tricks. Everyone goes to the skate park to have fun, and sharing that intention makes it even more enjoyable.
Skating was originally about having fun with the urban terrain. It was an awesome form of play that made use of the city's features, the stairs and the rails. That's why some people within the scene even believe that skating isn't an up-and-coming sport or a competition. It's a really natural form of play that brings the city and its people together.
Azusa's Photography from Skate Girls Snap
Your project, Skate Girls Snap, features a diverse range of female skaters. How did this project come about?
Women all around the world are creating culture through skating, whether it's music or photography. I didn't see anything like that in Japan, which I thought was a shame. I was already into photography and film, so I figured, "If no one else is doing it, why don't I?" So I started shooting the girls around me while skating, and I got a really positive response from everyone. From there, I created a website with a collection of snapshots of the girl skaters I'd met.
Skating brings out everyone's individuality. The way they skate. Their clothing. The shoes they're wearing. Even their hairstyle. It's all different depending on the person. I really love girls who are like, "This is who I am, so this is how I skate", so I wanted to make it a space where you could see more than just snapshots—what the girls are wearing, what they're into, what skateboards they're riding, and what their skate style is. I wanted girls to know that they don't have to adhere to the stereotype of a skater girl (for example, the notion that all girls who skate dress a certain way) that's imposed on them by other people. They can dress how they want, set up their skateboards how they want, and skate how they want.
The skate industry is still male-dominated, but women in Japan's skate scene can still create and flourish in all kinds of ways. I hope that Skate Girls Snap can inspire them to do that.
Could you tell us about your favourite place within the Tokyo skate scene and someone you've met there?
I like Komazawa Park, because even though it's close to Shibuya and well equipped, it's free. You can connect with all kinds of people there: everyone from children to adults, celebrities, and people with different nationalities and jobs. Tokyo is a city where you can meet people who are creative and full of energy—amazing skaters from all over the world, or people who moved here from the countryside and are creating their own culture.
I think that in particular, going forward, young people will start all kinds of interesting projects. For example, my 20-year-old skate friend Sara started the online publication SP8CE magazine. She interviews people she met through skating and tells their stories. It's rare for female skaters in Japan to do stuff like that, so I think it's really important.
Lastly, what are your future goals when it comes to skating?
Life is short, so I want to spend as much time as possible having fun. Skate Girls Snap and skateboarding are things I do out of love. I don't do them because someone asked me to. I'm not obligated to convey some sort of message. I just genuinely love it. I've been able to do what I do because I'm being myself, so the fact that it's helping other people makes me so happy.
That's why my goal going forward is super simple: to have fun skating. I don't want to skate out of obligation, or for money, or work. If I can stay true to myself and keep skating with everyone, that's enough for me.
Photography: 217 … NINA Words: Aya Apton Film: Karen Masumoto