To say Yuto Horigome is a man of few words is only a half-truth. For starters, at 18 years old he's only just now becoming a man. As for the other part, well, it can be challenging to coax words out of him. Truth be told, he'd rather be skating. And it shows.
But even though he's not much of a talker, there's plenty to say about him. While most skaters in 2017 are known for one trick or another, Yuto takes a different approach. Vert or street? Why not both? Contests or video parts? Yes, to both. Yuto is one of those skaters who can somehow do it all, with finesse.
And his English ain't half bad, either.
[The following interview was translated by Miles Atkinson.]
Where did you grow up?
In Tokyo, on the outskirts of the city.
Did you study English in school, or are you just picking it up here and there?
No, I didn't study it in school. I learn it from talking to Micky [Papa].
Is he teaching you proper English, or just slang?
He teaches me both. I learn the slang, but he also teaches me actual English.
You've been traveling a lot. How long have you been coming to the United States?
I've been here six times now, but the first one was a skateboarding trip. I came here three years ago.
So that means you were 14, turning 15 when you first started coming here. How did you finish high school if you've been traveling?
There's an online school.
Yeah, I guess that makes perfect sense. It's 2017, and Japan is usually ahead of the game when it comes to tech. When you were traveling a couple years ago, did your parents have to go with you?
Usually I travel by myself.
Really? You must be a responsible kid. Do you ever miss Japan, or get homesick?
I guess with social media it's easier to stay in touch with your friends.
What's been the biggest cultural difference between here and home?
The food isn't as good as it is in Japan.
Well, yeah. That's to be expected. What do you like to eat besides Japanese food?
You're in the right place, at least. What kind of stuff do you like to do outside of skateboarding?
I like watching movies.
Yeah? What kind of movies?
Never heard of it.
MARTIN: Wild Speed is what they call The Fast and the Furious movies in Japan.
So it's the same movie, but with a different title?
MARTIN: Yeah, in Japan they wouldn't understand the Furious part. Wild Speed is more straightforward.
Yuto, do you have a driver's license yet?
Are you planning on getting one?
HE CAME TO STAY WITH ME FOR, LIKE, A MONTH. I'D JUST WAKE UP IN THE MORNING AND ASK IF HE WANTED BREAKFAST. THAT WAS A YES OR NO QUESTION. FROM THERE, WE'D JUST FIGURE OUT WHAT WE WANTED TO SKATE. EVEN THOUGH WE COULDN'T TALK ABOUT ANYTHING OTHER THAN SKATING, WE GOT ALONG FINE. THERE'S NO ONE ELSE LIKE YUTO."—TJ ROGERS
How did you first start skateboarding? How old were you?
Seven. My father is a skater.
No, no… not anymore.
Is there a local skatepark that you grew up in?
Yes. It's called Amazing Square.
Did your dad take you there growing up?
What do your parents do?
My father works for a taxi company.
Do you have brothers and sisters?
I have two younger brothers.
Do they skate?
What are they into?
How did you meet the Blind Guys?
So there was a Japanese filmer who lived with Micky Papa, and he kind of brought me to the States, and that's how I got into the mix.
Do you look at vert and street as two different things, or is it all just skating to you?
Yeah, it's all pretty much the same thing to me. There was a vert ramp at the park where I started skating, so that's what I began on.
Was your father a vert skater?
No, he was a street skater.
Between vert and street, what's more comfortable for you?
I prefer street better. I get bored with vert after a while. It gets old.
Who did you look up to when you were starting?
Lakai, Fully Flared. That was the first video I watched.
Okay—if we played a game of SKATE right now, what trick could I do that might get you a letter?
Uh, double tre, maybe?
I don't think that's a thing, Yuto. Do you enjoy skating contests?
What do you do in Japan in the winter, when it's too cold to skate?
I just hang out with my friends.
Where else have you traveled?
China, Korea, Taiwan, Sweden, Germany, Brazil, Spain…
Where do you want to travel next?
What's the spot that came out in We Are Blood?
How's the Blind video coming along?
It's okay, I only need 10 tricks.
Oh, wow, you only need 10 more tricks?
No, ten tricks total.
Okay, so you're here for another two months, and you need about ten tricks for the Blind video. Do you have a list?
Oh, I'm pretty much done with the 10 tricks.
So you're almost done, but you're here for another two months? How are you keeping busy?
I want to film a Nike part, or a Thrasher part.
When you're skating bigger stuff, do you need to take a day off in between, to rest?
Yeah, it depends on how long it takes to get the trick. If I get the trick pretty quick, then I'm fine, but if it takes all day, then I'll take the next day off, or just skate at the park.
When you're skating big rails and gaps—what's the longest it's taken you to land something?
I don't usually try complicated tricks on big handrails, so it doesn't really take that long.
What about a tech trick?
The nollie 270 switch back tail, kickflip out took me a while.
Your last trick in Next New Wave?
How long did that take?
I think, like, three days?
Miles, do people do that in snowboarding? Go back to spots on multiple days to battle tricks?
MILES: No, not usually. It depends on what you're doing. With park stuff, yeah, but if you're doing backcountry, you only get heli for like two hours during the day, and you've got to shoot when the sun's out. There's not much room for re-dos.
Do you snowboard, Yuto?
What about surfing?
I tried, two years ago. It's not my thing.
That's okay. I think you've found your thing. I have to ask, though—you don't smile very often, when you're skating. You look so serious. Is it a cultural thing?
No, not a cultural thing.
Gotcha. Thanks Yuto. Your English is a lot better than I thought it would be.