This book is a rare gem that I happened to discover by chance inside an over-flowing basket left outside a bookstore in Jinbōchō, the bustling labyrinth of literature located in the centre of Tokyo. At this point in my trip – due to my very simple and limited grasp on the Japanese language – I hadn’t had a real conversation with another human in days. At least nothing that covered topics beyond whether my coffee was to stay or to go or whether it was illegal to take a picture here or not. When this book stumbled into my staggered sleep-deprived path, it stirred up some much needed conversation about a particular culture that transcends the language barriers I was currently tripping over – the short, sharp culture shock of skateboarding.
In this book, prolific cultural writer who has worked and been a regular Sunday skateboarder in both L.A and Tokyo, Taku Takemura interviewed and featured a vast range of artists that draw influence from the urban aesthetics that regularly re-contextualise the definition of skateboarding in our sub-conscious. Though the interviews are in Japanese – intially I had been holding off this review in case an English translation (which Takemura is often asked for by friends and fans alike) surfaced – this is a book that evokes such powerful and timeless memories of a culture that has dictated the way many of us think through a visual catalyst.
It is a book I personally treasure, not just for the linguistically awkward but emotionally positive conversation it sparked between me and the shop-owner, but for its cultural capital. It has the power to accurately capture the definitive visual dialogue of skateboarding throughout its comparitively short but hugely productive history. Takemura has selected with expert precision a collective that could quite easily be labeled as the primary source from which many skateboarders’ influences are spawned. Indeed, the books full title is ‘A Way Of Life – Creator Journal of 28 Artists‘, and those 28 artists have made hugely significant contributions towards this lifestyle. Included are Aaron Rose, Rick Howard, Ed Templeton, Gabe Morford, Brian Gaberman, Bobby Puleo, Raymond Pettibon and Neckface amongst others.
Sadly, the book does not look like it will witness a release outside of Japan any time soon, let alone a translation. However, I heartily recommend you seek it out anyway as it’s a refreshingly inexpensive collection of the profound, strange, idiosyncratic and brilliant fragments that work to shape this thing some of us call skateboarding and others call life.
For some more information and some choice cuts from the book, follow this link for an interview with the author (in both English and Japanese).