Yuto in Tokyo Interview By Atiba Jefferson
I’ve been a fan of Yuto since he was a little kid on Blind spinning 540s and 5-0ing 20-stair rails, and over the years our paths have crossed many times. I was once his chaperon at Scuba Steve’s wedding in Cabo. I got hammered and forgot to make sure he got home okay. I was freaking out the next morning, thinking I’d lost him, when he sent me a text that said: “I’m dead in room.” The Yuto quotes never end. Being with him in Japan when he won gold in the Olympics was the only time we’d shot anything in his hometown. I wanted to change that, so we recently headed back to Tokyo for five days in the streets with no demos or signings to gum us up. It was cool seeing the city through his eyes—meeting his friends and family and checking out all of his favorite restaurants and bars. We lit up the city and Yuto shut down the spots. A lot has changed in his world in the past few years, but he’s still the same cool kid I lost in Mexico many years ago and I’m still a fan. Enjoy this interview we did for the April '23 mag. Arigato, Yuto!
If you haven't watched his insane new Nike part yet, do it now. If you have, watch it again
Where are you at right now?
I’m in Los Angeles; I’m in bed.
Just to make it clear, do you live in Los Angeles full time or do you live in Tokyo?
Half and half. My base is LA, though.
Do you prefer one to the other?
That’s a hard one. I like Tokyo a lot, but skateboarding-wise, LA is so much better. It’s just better to live in LA. But I love Tokyo, too. All the food is good and all my family and friends are there.
Do you hope to split your time between the two cities forever?
Yes, but when I’m really older, I’ll live in Tokyo, for sure.
How was the experience of winning a gold medal in the Olympics—the first time skating was in it—and doing so in the city where you grew up?
It’s pretty crazy. I still can’t believe I won. I was really happy because that was my first Olympics it was also my hometown. All my family was watching, my friends were watching on TV, so it was really big.
When we got here I was like, Where’s the spot? Yuto goes second story on a frontside 5-0. Good reminder to always keep your head up
Did you skate that contest any differently than you normally would? Were you like, This is the Olympics. I need to win it, or was it more like, This is just another contest. I’m just going to skate it?
I was trying to win because that contest was really special for me because it was the first time skating was in the Olympics and it’s my hometown. I’m skating for me, but also for my country, too, so it was a little different.
How has winning the Olympics changed your life?
I don’t know. I got a lot of celebrity friends.
We were at a 15 stair at 1 AM and it was 45 degrees—not an ideal scenario. Yuto started warming up with this switch crooked grind and I told him, “That’s a photo right there”
What are some of the new sponsors or endorsements that you’ve picked up since winning the Olympics?
Lot of Japanese companies, an energy drink, Uniqlo and a big snack company.
Was there anything like the Wheaties box when you won, where they put a picture of you on a product?
No, but in my hometown they made me a little post office—a gold one.
The golden child in the golden hour—backside 50-50 into the bank
Is that kind of like a key to the city?
Yeah, I think so.
What’s it like to have the medal and walk around and party with it?
It was a little scary, but it was so fun. Not that many people get to see an Olympic medal, so it was fun to show it to all my friends.
Padless vert Yuto returns! He cut the ribbon at the grand opening of this park because he’s kinda a big deal. Leveled-out BSA
Have you ever almost lost it?
Yeah! Actually, three days after the Olympics, I forgot it at the fucking ramen place. I was scared and confused.
Can you get a replacement if you lose it?
No, I heard that you can’t, so if you lost it, you lost it.
This hubba was at the base of a temple; Yuto gave praise with a backside noseblunt
Is walking around Tokyo different now? Are you noticed more often? Do girls and paparazzi approach you?
Oh yeah. People recognize me more now, for sure, especially in Tokyo: That’s Yuto. And here in LA, too, when I’m filming, people will be like, Oh, you won the Olympics.
Have you ever tried to use your gold medal to not get kicked out of a spot?
I tried, but they don’t care. That doesn’t matter. They still kick me out, actually.
You think life will change in the streets, but the streets are still the streets.
The streets are still streets. Yep.
You got a deal with Delta Air Lines, right?
Yeah, that’s a new sponsor. I just got a contract with Delta. It’s pretty crazy because that’s my favorite airline, too. I’ve been using them so much. I was really happy and surprised that they’re sponsoring me.
And what comes with that sponsor, free plane tickets?
Yeah, free plane tickets and I can get one person to fly with me.
Oh, you get a friend pass?
Yeah, a friend pass and some money.
What’s the max amount of times you’ve flown back and forth to Tokyo in one year?
Probably seven or eight.
While Tokyo sleeps, Yuto attacks its stacks—kink-filled backside 50-50
Do you think you’ll do more this year now that you have the Delta plug?
No, no more. Last year was crazy. It was really busy and I couldn’t make the schedule work, so I was going to Tokyo for two or three days, sometimes only one day and then I’d come back. It was really bad timing, too. This year hopefully I don’t go that much. If I want to go back to Tokyo, I want to stay a little longer, see the friends, family, eat good food and hang out with a lot of girls.
Have there been more girls now that you’re an Olympian?
Oh my God, for sure. So many girls. I wouldn’t say always, but it’s for sure more. Yeah.
Five-thousand miles from LA, Yuto found the most-California-looking spot in the city. Second-try lipslide
We went to the Warrior’s game and you sat with Naomi Watanabe and Hiroshi Fujiwara—the other celebrities. What was that like? How different is your life now than when you were the kid who was riding for Blind?
Yeah, I couldn’t believe it. That’s a dream. I feel like a dream—next to Hiroshi and one of my favorite actors, her name is Suzu Hirose. She’s my favorite one. Also, she’s crazy famous but I didn’t get her phone number. I missed it. And the same with Naomi. It’s pretty crazy. The Olympics definitely changed my whole life and skateboarding is more big.
It’s crazy because skateboarding—not even the Olympics—brought you into that situation. It all started with a skateboard.
When did you start skating?
I started skateboarding at six years old.
How is it for your dad, being a skater, too? How is he with you winning the Olympics and becoming a top pro and all that?
He is definitely so happy. Definitely proud, too. When I’m hanging out with Koston, Guy Mariano, you and older skaters, my father always asks me a lot of questions about all the OG skaters. My father really loves old skateboarding.
How is street skating in Tokyo now that you’re Yuto the Olympic gold winner versus Yuto the street skater?
Street skating in Tokyo is always really hard—more than LA, more than other countries. But after the Olympics, a lot of people know about me. And then when I’m street skating in Tokyo, it’s a lot of risk and a little stressful and sketchy, too. I love street skating in Tokyo because when I started skateboarding, I started skating in the street and always skating things ’til the next morning around Shibuya. But I like to do it. I want to try to show more street skating in Tokyo. All the Japanese people think, Oh, skateboarding is now an Olympic sport. That’s sports now. No more street skating. But I love street skating so I want to make a video part in Tokyo and then hopefully they can understand it a little bit.
Under the bridge downtown, Yuto tré flipped to manny drop
That’s cool you want people in Japan to see that skateboarding actually comes from the streets and not just a contest or a skatepark.
Yeah, and also it’s really cool—each country is different; it’s super different and I love skating. I love skating in Tokyo. I was thinking after the Olympics, I want to make a Tokyo video part, but it is hard to do it. But I don’t care anymore because I just want to skate.
Is it fun having American friends in Tokyo like Braden Gonzales and Caleb Barnett?
It was a very super fun trip. The Supreme video premiered in Tokyo, so a lot of Supreme guys were in town. And skating street with homies in Tokyo was really fun and that’s better for motivation. That was the first time I met with Naoya. He is working with Tightbooth, a Japanese board company. They make fresh clothes. He knows a lot of Tokyo spots. He helped me and he’s my good friend now.
Why is it called a lien? Ask your smartphone, dummy
He crushed it. What’s up with Katoman and Beat Cafe?
He is the best, for sure. That’s my favorite bar, 100 percent. When I go there I’m always like, Am I going to be—how do you say sober or…
Yeah, drunk. Always drunk there, for sure. And I’m going to be…
He lets you pour Jäger shots and beers?
Yeah, I’m getting better now.
You’re getting better at what?
I’m getting better at making the Jäger and beer.
We hit this 14 stair at 2 AM in the heart of Shibuya thinking it would be quiet—we were wrong. It was Saturday night and the place was going off! Between hiding from his fans and the cops, Yuto nailed this 360 flip
You are one of the OG Japanese skaters to really push skateboarding—coming from Japan to the US and really doing it. How have you seen that change in the past five years? Because the Olympics were dominated by Japanese skaters, from the women to the men. Why do you think that happened? What was the shift?
I don’t know, but Japanese people, maybe they have better focus. But I don’t know how everyone got so good at skating. Japan doesn’t have good skateparks. I moved to LA and my skating definitely got better, skating with Shane O’Neill, homies, all the pro skaters. I think skating street definitely makes you better at contests, too. A lot of Japanese skaters are super good at contests.
Are there any Japanese skaters that you’re super stoked on?
Yeah, I’m super stoked on Kai Kishi and Ryuhei Kitazume. Kai is on April. He just put out a part that’s very crazy. I like street-skating style.
What do you have planned for the rest of the year?
Just skate everywhere, going on trips—a lot of trips, a couple of contests, hang out with a lot of girls and that’s it. And the sushi party. Oh, actually today’s my birthday, so my birthday party is coming soon.
Wait, you woke up and did an interview on your birthday?
Yeah, birthday interview. I’m going to barbecue at the house, just a little bit. Jake Anderson’s birthday is coming soon, too. He’s a fucking stupid, crazy motherfucker. His birthday is soon, so me and Jake’s birthday party will maybe be next weekend.
Everyone got good, but not like this. Yuto breaks ground with a nollie backside 270 heelflip boardslide. Thanks for showing me around your hometown, homie!
1/05/2021Our guy Jack O'Grady hangs on through a broken board and makes a mess of Melbourne's streets with Rowan Davis and the Nike Oz squad.
12/22/2020Yuto and Nike’s Japan squad bang out big rails with power and pop to some synth pop. Perfect match.
12/14/2020Wisconsin gets worked by Timothy Johnson, Ben Narloch, Max Murphy and more, while they sift through the streets in the new Dunks for Strangelove. You love to see it.
9/08/2020Stefan, Elissa and Korahn get to peek behind the curtain in London to see how Nike's sustainable Flyleather gets made. Look for these Janoskis on your shop’s shelf and get a thumbs up from the Earth Mother.
8/18/2020Mason has the heart, soul and courage of a die-hard warrior, sacrificing skin and sanity with every battle, and never giving in until he emerges victorious.