Interview by Hannah Bailey
Photo courtesy of Yuri Murai except where stated
Japan is in the skate spotlight right now, with countless team trips passing through Tokyo and every skate brand’s Instagram account hinting at a Japan section. Whilst hype surrounds it, things on the island continue as usual. The skate scene in Japan has always coexisted with the global scene, including a strong and growing women’s scene. With skaters like Aori Nishimura throwing herself down massive stair sets and making a name for Japanese skaters in the global spotlight of Street League last year, there is more to come. Whilst in 2016 the US released 'Quit Your Day Job' and the UK put out 'Days Like These', the Joy and Sorrow crew in Japan have been working away on their third feature length female only skate flick. Videographer Yuri Murai has been busy since 2013 filming, editing and pushing out part 1, then 2 and now Joy and Sorrow 3. Whilst in Tokyo at the Japanese premiere of Quit Your Day Job with Mahfia TV and photographer Nam Chi Van, I took the chance to ask Yuri a few things about her long rolling film project.
When did you first get into skateboarding and why?
I skated for the first time when I was 18, one of my friends was skating and he let me try it. Then I met another girl who wanted to start skating at a store I was working at when I was 23. We were both beginners and girl skaters so we could practice together and it was fun.
And so then how did you get into filming?
I wanted to help the skaters in my local city, Kawagoe (40 minutes away from Tokyo). They were happy when they watched films I’d done.
What equipment do you use – what is your style of filming?
I use a Sony VX2000 camera. I always film skating (no photography) as I want to try and show the audience the speed and aggressiveness of the movement.
Has there always been a separate girls seen in Japan?
I don’t know how many girl skaters exist in other countries but the population has increased in the last 10 years in Japan. It has changed from the time when it was rare that even one single girl skater was skating at a skate park to a time when it is normal that two or three girl skaters are there.
Who do you skate with?
I often skate with other girls I see at a skate park. There used to be some girl skaters who made skate teams but that time has changed. There are many skate parks now so they go skating to parks they want to, when they want to. It seems like we all skate together if we find other girl skaters at the park.
How did the first Joy and Sorrow come about in 2013?
I had always wondered why there were no girl skate videos, although there are many boy skate videos. I met many girl skaters who were really good but made mistakes while skating a line or in a competition. I thought, if only there was a video that I could use to shout out to the world that there are many good and cool girl skaters in Japan. So I decided to make it.
Was it received well and did it bring awareness to women's skating in Japan?
Girl skaters were working hard on the film but to be honest I think boys didn’t expect it at all. So people who watched it were all surprised. Girl skaters I didn’t know messaged me to film them after the DVD came out. I think I showed the skate industry the number of girl skaters there were, so girl categories increased at many events and competitions after.
You have since made Joy and Sorrow 2. Was it easier the second time round?
Although I’m making Joy and Sorrow 3 right now, there have always been different challenges on each one. It’s not easy. We couldn’t always film as we wanted to - we just couldn’t land every trick, a skater got injured etc…but definitely after I finished 1 it was easier to capture the image of 2, to film and to tell people about it.
When making Joy and Sorrow how much support do you get from brands and the industry? Or do you put a lot of time in for free to make it happen?
No, I didn’t have any support at all. In my case, I work and I put all my money on the film. I spent weekends and weeknights making it!
Do you make a living from skating?
No. No, I don’t, I must say I can’t. I don’t think there is skater who makes enough money from skating for a living. I’m working at life insurance company.
How much contact do you have with the growing female skate scene worldwide?
I know Kim from Mahfia TV, Ben the editor of Sidewalk Magazine and his Japanese wife Ayumi. I’ve met French Magenta crew a few times when they came to Japan and I met them when I visited San Francisco too.
Have you noticed it change, an increase in female skaters or more interest in women’s skating?
I believe girl skaters have increased, especially the number of kids. I didn’t see kid skaters at all about 10 years ago. I also believe the number of young people who have skateboards as a fashion accessory has increased. Even if they are not skaters, the fashion and culture has been accepted by society - though we still sometimes get kicked out when we skate in the streets lol!
How do you think hosting the Olympics in 2020 will change things for skateboarding in Japan?
Now, skaters are being picked up on general TV shows. It was impossible until now for something like this. It’s really changing. Even the number of skate parks is increasing. The number of people who started getting interested in skateboarding is up. I hope many people who are interested in Japanese skaters, parks, and films want to come skating in Japan from all over the world.
Are you looking forward to the Olympics being in Tokyo?
I’m more curious how it’s going to be than looking forward to.
More importantly, Joy and Sorrow 3 is coming out at the end of the summer – what can you tell us about it now?
Joy and Sorrow 1, I just did my best to complete it.
Joy and Sorrow 2, I was focused on filming more killer skating than the first one.
Joy and Sorrow 3, I am focusing on not only skate skills but also showing skateboarding is for fun. Showing that it is a part of our lives and not only for competitions. That skateboarding is freedom! I hope I can tell the message that there is not ‘only one cool style in skateboarding’- that it's not only about winning competitions. This is important with the Olympics coming up.
How can we find out more about the female skate scene in Japan and follow what you do?
All the updates are on the Joy and Sorrow page on Facebook and you can follow me @yuriyuri_desu on Instagram. You can also find out about the Japanese female skate scene on a blog called Colorful Project.
Any final words for us here in Europe?
I started what I am doing to activate and promote the girls skate scene in Japan. Now I want to get connections and activate the girls skate scene all over the world together. The population of girl skaters are less than boy skaters but I believe there are things only girl skaters can do. It would be awesome if someone made a film about only girl skaters from all over the world! Let’s just skate! I hope everyone keep skating with their favourite skate life.