Home  >  Magazine  >  Issue 28 : May/June 2009  > Columns  >  Unnatural Nature


By Mitsuharu Kume

Unnatural Nature


The Tokyo capital buildings lie in the background as the snowboarders take flight. What an amazing concept. This was made possible through “Snow Style in Tokyo” where athletes whose playground is the “natural world” came to play in the big city.

We now live in a world with indoor ice-skating, skiing and even surfing, so perhaps urban snowboarding shouldn’t be a big surprise. However, I’m from the southern islands, so you can imagine my surprise when during a trip to Tokyo on separate business, I ran into a roped-off winter playground where kids waited in line to get in.

Then there was the 15-meter high run into the quarter pipe where pro skiers and snowboarders raced, flew, flipped and spun enough to make me dizzy. This seemed to be an unnaturally natural scene.

Are all sports “natural” at their core? That’s a tough question. With soccer, all you need is a ball and to remember not to use your hands. Kids can enjoy this anytime, anywhere, which seems quite natural. The sport of swimming, however, usually takes place in a man-made arena rather than in the ocean, lake or river. There’s heated water and a roof overhead. This doesn’t seem very natural.

As for my sport of choice, surfing, I remember all the times spent at surf camps watching kids run excitedly into the surf, jumping over waves, playing tag and seeing who can do the most summersaults underwater, with some getting a nose full of sea water.

Eventually one of them comes out to grab a board and the rest of the pack follows quickly into the surf. That seems like a “natural” sport to me. Of course, while I judge these sports I have to remember this is part of my nature, something that comes naturally to me. Someone once said to me, “Humans are just a part of nature.” I hold this phrase dear.

This quarter pipe in Tokyo was built by someone I met in Fukushima during my travels. After designing and building the pipe, he must feel it was worth the effort as he watches people, especially the kids, enjoy this sport that has come down from the snow country to Japan’s biggest city.
I’m sure the big air witnessed by the city kids from the base of the jump will be memories they’ll hold close. It looks like another “high tide” indeed.