What's up Watcho?
A while back I did a short interview with Dirty and I liked the way it turned out so much that I decided to try and do more of them. Here's a short email interview I did with former Plush/Famous rider Hiroki "Watcho" Watanabe. Watcho now runs his own distribution company and skateboard company back in Japan.
Above: Tokyo 360 flip 2006.
What is a Watcho?
It's just my nickname. Someone started calling me Watcho when I was 7 or 8 years old.
Why did you come to Edmonton the first time?
Just for learning English. I was taking English class. I feel like I learned English from skateboard friends more than English class.
Did it piss you off that when talking to you, for some idiotic reason, I start talking to you like a little kid? Somehow I think it's easier for you to understand me if I cut out a bunch of words or act out what I'm saying to you.No, it’s OK. I sometimes still don’t know what you are saying. Thank you for your kindness.
Of all the places in the world to learn English why on earth did you decide on Edmonton?
I heard it’s safe there.
Did you think you had made a horrible mistake when you experienced your first winter in Edmonton?
Not at all. Winter in Edmonton is so cold outside, but inside the houses are so warm. It won’t get too cold here in Kanagawa, so we don’t really need a heating system. But in winter when it gets cold, the inside of our houses are cold too.
Above: Nollie heelflip.
I just watched this Japanese documentary film. How often does this sort of thing happen? Say on a regular day in Tokyo?
Mothra or Godzilla?
When you were learning English did any friends give you any bad translation advice? You know like teaching you obscene phrases or anything?
I learned some good ones from Glenn Suggitt.
Several Canadian friends have now visited you in Japan. Have you ever tried to get even with them for any of these English language tricks they played on you?
I told Nathan some funny words, but he already knew some bad words.
When you first came to Canada what where some of the Canadian cultural things that you found really weird?
I don’t know, everything was fresh and nothing felt weird for me. One thing weird was when Oilers win a game, Whyte Avenue gets wild.
Above: Watcho under an Oakland overpass.
Generally speaking, what do Japanese skaters think about Canadian skaters? Or do they even think about skateboarding and Canada together? For instance, I get the feeling that a large section of American skaters think Canadian skaters are all a bunch of tall t-shirt wearing hip hop kids.
I think Japanese skaters think Canadian skaters are gnar. We know it because we watch some Canadian skate videos and clips that are crazy good. And the scene there is so much bigger than here. Lately, some of my friends have been going to Canada to skate and they love it there.
Is there anything about Canada you miss when in Japan? When I visited you I remember it being super hot and muggy. I would have killed for a slurpee, but could never find one.
Slurpee is not common here, but we have ice candy call Garigari-Kun. You can get it in most of the convenience stores here. I miss the Pizza there! I want to eat it everyday. It’s so good! Last time I went to visit I ate so much of it and didn’t get enough. However, what I miss the most is my friends.
Skateboarding has blown up in the last few years. When you first came to Edmonton the skate scene was still pretty small. What's the scene like in Japan? Is it acceptable to be a skater there?
I thought skate scene in Edmonton in 1998 was still big back then compared to my city skate scene. Yeah, it’s getting big here too, but not like Canada though. But, we are getting some good skateparks and some good skaters and so many kids skate now.
Above: Bluntslide 270 out.
Are you a samuri or a ninja?
I wish I was a ninja.
What is the best brand of throwing stars?
I don’t know.
What is the stupidest misconception people have about Japan?
Above: Crooked grind circa 1988-89.
Much like Nathan, I don't think I've ever seen you in a bad mood. Your last night here you watched me almost get in a fight with that guy reading poetry at the bar, what would it take for you to get really pissed off?
At first, I didn’t know what happened. I thought Leslie saw her friend there. Later, I realized because you looked so mad at that guy. My mind was different place. I was thinking how good that pizza was. I wished I could eat more, but I was too full.
Above: 2010 thumbs up.
Why do the Japanese love Monke skateboards so much?
Because, me, my friend Trevor Houlihan and distributor Mori-san were trying to promote Monke in Japan. We did a Monke Japan tour in 2005 and showed people their madness and made some friends.
What are some of the English sayings, slang, euphemisms that didn't make sense when you were learning English?
There are so many. I’m still learning.