Under Ground Japanese Surf Culture. (Kyushu) Fukuoka Japan. Mike Sasada Interview

backside mike sasada

日本の地サーフ文化(Nihon no chika surf bunka) (Underground Japanese Surf Culture) Arriving full circle.
Mike Sasada very candidly stating via internet, “I feel really lucky that I grew up in Southern California especial I during the less turbulent times of the seventies and eighties. It’s the coolest place to live in the US. The home of the rich, the famous and good weather” is in a good mood.
I must come clean, I’ve been a fan of Mike’s for decades and he has made me several fantastic surfboards. Mike is part of a crew a decade and a half behind mine. Yet I always have had a great fondness for Mike and his crew. For one their dedication and determination is impressive and inspiring. That crew by the way spawned a few legends in their own right among them Strider Wasilewski, Ricky Massey,Leif Seligsohn, Andy Chuda, Mike Frosty Baldwin and Arron Madduex (R.I.Pe ) Mike has had his share of hard knocks for sure but he has n ever given up on his quest to become a craftsman of surfboards and Mike has finally arrived. As they say in Japan. がんばて下さい(Ganbate Kudasai) -Please do your best. And to Mike’s credit he has arrived. So to drop another Japanese phase えら ミアクさん! (or Well done Mike!)

Mikes introduction to the US and subsequently So-Cal surf culture began with a childhood move from Japan to sunny So-Cal. “My parents immigrated to America in 1974 from a small city in Japan called Fukuoka. Continuing Mike says rather proudly, “For me Los Angeles was a big culture shock, only five years old at the time it was a little scary, but I learned the language and culture with ease. For my parents it was more difficult and the stress took its toll ending in a divorce. My dad moved back to Japan but my mom stayed. As a single mom she had to work two jobs just to support all three of us. I’m really grateful what she did for us and glad she didn’t move back to Japan. If she did I would have been a totally different person. Even worse I would have missed the whole surf and skate boom of the early eighties. Santa Monica and Venice was a melting pot of surf and skate culture of that era, I’m super stoked that I was a part of it, meeting and hanging with some legends of that time.”
Many of those legends are proud of Mike and his continued dedication to the craft of building surfboards. Mike has been diligently honing his craft with little fanfare until his return to Fukuoka and re-entry into Japanese society. However Mike has not forgotten his apprenticeship in So-Cal. In fact he speaks with great fondness of his upbringing and introduction to surf culture.
Wistfully waxing on his early years Mike recounts his calling. “Being a part of that scene is what made me what I am today. I knew from a young age making boards were a way to break in. Even though I never really made it as a famous surfboard shaper in California, I never gave up my dreams of becoming one. At one point I did stray away when people started talking trash about my boards and lost my drive. During the time all I did was surf, skate and hang at the beach all day. With request from couple local shops I began making boards, networking with all sorts of people to get noticed. Even then it was really tough from all the competition. One day my older brother went back to my hometown Fukuoka for a business trip and told me there are bunch of surf shops out here. He invited me to come check it out, at first I was skeptical, not really interested about Japan especially Kyushu Island. I decided to go anyways, besides it would be nice the see some sibling’s I haven’t seen in years. Just after couple days in Japan I quickly realize there are loads of opportunities for me. Boards were about $1500 and there was only one shaper in Fukuoka at the time. But the best of all, the super unreal waves with no big crowds. Couldn’t believe how good some of these spots were. Right there and then I said to myself, “I’m packing my bags.” Beside I had nothing to lose. And if all else fails I could still teach English as a backup. Right away I got a job shaping board at a shop called traps. The local surfers were stoked to get a custom board made from a Cali shaper. They gave me lots of respect and support, I felt really special. Living in Japan for over fourteen years now, I take for granted how safe Japan is. I’ve never had car or board stolen, a friend killed or murdered. And having Heath care insurance for the for the first time is awesome, I don’t have to worry about an expensive hospital bill if I get hurt. Another nice thing about being in Japan is I never feel I’m discriminated because of my race.
When asked as to some of Japan’s most pressing problems he is just as candid especially on the wastefulness of natural resources by the island society. Stating, ”Unfortunately people are very wasteful in Japan. Their mentality is, use it once and discard! My last three cars were given to me totally free in perfect running condition, two Suzuki jeeps and Subaru van. Electricity is by far is the most wasteful. There are way too many brightly lit up neon signs. Tokyo is covered with them. Vending machines are the biggest power eaters because the machines are never turned off, there are millions of them, literally on every corner all over Japan. We can’t get rid of them because big corporate company’s such as Coke Cola and Mitsubishi which are making neon lights, vending machines and delivery trucks for Coke Cola. You would think the Japanese government would do more to cut power consumption after a disaster like Fukushima.
I still believe nuclear power is better than burning coal for power. I’m sure people will disagree on my thoughts on nuclear energy in Japan. Especially the older generations like my mom who is eighties five years old who lived through the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. What people don’t know is that atom bomb was originally extended for my hometown of Fukuoka, where the Mitsubishi zero fighters were made. But due to cloud coverage and bad weather they had to drop it on Nagasaki. I may have not existed if Fukuoka was sunny and clear that day. Japan has had many nuclear disasters so it’s a touchy subject especially now after the tsunami and Fukushima disaster. Mike is a thinker as well as a creator and he realizes Japan must as a society arrive at a better and more efficient use of limited energy resource to survive.
Mike begins to rather painfully expound on the effect of the tsunami effects to Japanese business climate.
“The tsunami had a big effect on my business because people didn’t want to go anywhere near the ocean, never mind surfing. My surfboard sales after the tsunami fell by 50%. I got worried about making boards, so during that time I got into shaping pool copings. Nobody in Japan has swimming pools but there is a market for skaters. More and more skate parks are popping up all over japan and skaters are starting to build their own bowls. I have three different shapes of coping but also make custom shapes too. It’s shaped out of foam just like shaping a board them I make silicone molds from them. I also sell just the molds for people who want to pour their own concrete them self. The surf and skate scene is still behind compared to California but slowly catching up. And now I’m helping to bring some of that Cali scene back to Fukuoka.”

I implore you dear reader to take a long look at Mike’s shapes and style. Oh yeah man that So-Cal style is very evident in his riding as well as shaping! I am sure you will be impressed and keep him in mind as he is a major figure in the Kyushu scene.. If you find yourself inkling to surf or skate the Land of the rising sun and want to explore the country side of Japanese surf culture as well as perhaps purchase a finely tuned wave riding vehicle just give Mad-Side (as he was affectionately known in the U.S) a ring or email. He is a most gracious and accommodating host, shaper and guide to the lesser known, subtle yet radical Japanese underground surf culture. Be sure to drop the Mad-Side moniker to get the homeboy discount and be sure to tellat Mike t G.I Ger-I sent ya!




2 Responses to “Under Ground Japanese Surf Culture. (Kyushu) Fukuoka Japan. Mike Sasada Interview”

  1. Kirstin Mc. Says:

    Great article! How would i contact him about shaping? There is not link to or mention of website, unless I’m overlooking. Help! 🙂

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