Information about in line skating in Tokyo
An introduction to the in line skating scene in Tokyo
Tokyo is fast-paced, energetic and busy. It is also one of the most densely populated cities in the world. The in line skating scene in Tokyo has picked up the the last few years. Before 1999, most of the skaters in the Tokyo area could be spotted along a riverside cycle path or at a park such as Komazawa koen.
When I came to Tokyo for the first time in the summer of 1999, I noticed that no one skated on the sidewalk or in traffic like people do in NY and other cities in the world. So when I started to skate in traffic in Tokyo, it was a strange feeling. I had heard that it was against the law to skate on public roads. Some people even told not to skate in Tokyo. But I had to try because (for me) it was too dangerous to skate on the sidewalk with so many people. I actually felt better skating in Tokyo than in NY. In Tokyo, I don't have to worry about pedestrians as I do in NY. Also, traffic moves in an orderly fashion and the drivers seem to be patient with you (that could be from the astonishing car insurance in Japan). Tokyo to me is perhaps one of the best cities to skate in .
I wanted to meet up with some skaters from the Tokyo area and skate with them in daytime and night time. The Yamanote Line Skate and the First Night Skate in Tokyo paved the way for them to start skating in central Tokyo. Mr. Saito was instrumental in creating the City Run, a weekly group skate in Tokyo. Skaters meet every Sunday at 9 AM by word of mouth through the internet or someone at a local park. They skate for a good 10 to 15 km from Ueno Station to various places within central Tokyo. Presently, the number of routes and City Runs have increased. Now, there is also a City Run that meets near JR Shibuya Station on Saturdays. And most of the skaters that participate in the Shibuya CR come from Komazawa Park, one of the big skating spots in Tokyo.
Now in 2003, almost four years since I first introduced the idea of night skating in Tokyo, there is now a monthly night skate, the Saturday Night Skate Tokyo (SNS). City Run is as popular as ever and new skaters come to skate freely in Tokyo every Sunday morning. Things are looking great for skaters in Tokyo and this is just the beginning.
Ingrid from Holland wrote the following about her experience skating in Tokyo in February of 2003:
I live in a rural area in the middle of Holland and I usually skate in the countryside. There
are no bike paths along the road, so I have to skate on the small country roads where cars may drive a maximum of 80 km p/hour. Because of that, I wear protective gear and a helmet.
We have a national skate organization and they provide us with a lot of information. After a massive incident during a skate through Amsterdam in the Y- tunnel (which had a steep decline), the Skatebond decided to start courses to learn how to skate and more important how to BRAKE!! In about five 1 hour lessons you can learn how to brake in at least 3 different ways and learn how to make sharp turns and move on uneven terrain such as sidewalks. After an exam you receive a so called "Skate vaardigheids bewijs". A proof of your capabilities e.g. a braking at 15 km p/hour within 6 meters.
We have a history of skating on ice in the winter (with many tours organized all over the frozen waterways) and it is no wonder that in line skating tours are very popular in Holland. In the summer months we have many organized skate tours every weekend all over the country. See www.skatebond.nl under "toertochtkalender 2003. (www.skatebond.nl/fun/toer2003.php).
My personal experience skating in cities is next to none as I always skate on the road or bike lanes. I work for KLM airlines and I have the opportunity to visit many cities around the world. Before I leave home I always check the skating scene. To my surprise there was a lot of information on Tokyo and that is how I found your website. After consulting you and the weather forecast, I decided to take along my skates.
I found out that Tokyo had a night skate and a morning roll in February. In Holland that is very unusual in the winter because of the (rainy) weather. You gave me a few suggestions and the Ueno to Shibuya tour looked very promising to me. Because of the jet lag and my lack of city skating experience, I decided to go on my own on a beautiful sunny Saturday. I had to take a bus into Tokyo (to Tokyo Station) because I was staying in Narita. At Ueno I walked into the park to put on my gear. I was used to skating in parks (Amsterdam and New York), so I didn't look for signs to find out if skating was allowed.
After one little tour around Ueno Park, I went out to look for the road to skate. I must say that people looked at me a lot; at least more than I was used to. Was it that skating isn't allowed in the park? Thanks to the fact that Tokyo is reasonably quite on a Saturday, I had a lot of fun and very little traffic. I went past the Imperial gardens and East Park was open to the public. I decided to go in on foot. When I left and wanted to see the Niju Bridge a little closer I heard a whistle. The police called me back; I was not allowed to get any closer on my skates than the main road. Of course, I obliged. As the sidewalk and especially the yellow pavement signs for the blind made my skate very difficult, I sometimes took little side roads with hardly any traffic and very smooth asphalt.
Just as I was entering Yoyogi Park towards Meiji Shrine, I heard another whistle and again the police called me back; no skates allowed in the Park. I really was surprised, but I think there is a lot more 'aggressive skating' than tour-skating in Tokyo and that the authorities don't like them. In Shibuya it became too crowded for me to skate on safely, so I decided to stop and call it a day (after 4 hours of skating, sightseeing and coffee drinking) . It was a wonderful tour and a thrill to be able to skate across the city of Tokyo on such a beautiful day!
A few reminders before skating in Tokyo (or anywhere):
1 - Before you skate, check your skates, wear your protective gear and most importantly:
WEAR A HELMET!! If you don't have a helmet, get one. Also make sure that you stretch your muscles before and after your skate. You want to warm up your muscles before skating , wheter it is for a short distance or a long skate along the riverside. And make sure to drink water or energy drinks during your skate (available at any "conbeni" or vending machines, which are very accessible in Tokyo).
2 - If you are a beginner, try to skate in such places as Kasai Rinkai Park or Aragawa path
3 - If you have mastered the basic techniques such as starting off and stopping and you are looking for some more fun on your skates, maybe you would like to join the gang from City Run for their Sunday Morning Skate through Tokyo.
4 - About skating in Tokyo streets, parks or any place in Japan: By law, in line skates are not considered a means of transportation, so you are not supposed to be in traffic. But from my experience skating in Tokyo, as long as you follow the rules and skate in a safe manner, you should not have any problems. If you are stopped by an officer and are told to get off the road and/or take off you skates, do so and be nice about it.
5 - If you are skating in traffic, do not go to fast and allow enough space. Remember, you are on the road with cars, mopeds and cyclist.
6- Skate with traffic, do not go against it.
7- Let the driver know that you are on the road and keep an eye out on everything. Also, watch out for opening car doors.
8 - Do not skate in sand or wet surfaces, especially when it rains.
9 - At night, wear reflective gear and flashing lights.