Older kids are often overlooked in development discussions and there are few options for active kids without funds. Naruto, Tokushima is a great example of how destination planning including facilities for the kids can put a place on the map thanks to the UZUPA skatepark facility.
This UZUPA is in Naruto, not far from the whirlpools which are natural phenomena in the running for world heritage status. Our family wasn’t in the area for the pools, however, it was the expanse of skate-able concrete open to the public for free every day from 7 am to 8 pm that prompted our three-hour drive and an overnight stay in this area.
This UZUPA is a fantastic free skatepark, basketball courts and cyclist rest-stop with hyper-clean showers, toilets, and A/C cooled rest areas. The Hip-hop BGM plays while riders circle, jump and grind over the course. The showers and every part of the facility looks brand new and well maintained. There are two shower stalls for both men and women as well as Western-style toilets, skateboard and bicycle tools, resting areas, 100 yen coin lockers, drink machines, a segregated smoking area, free parking and stands and benches for spectators.
Next to the skatepark, there are signs encouraging riders to wear helmets and protective gear as well as follow good manners in order to enjoy the park. The facility is run by the adjacent Boat racing company and regularly have staff cleaning and checking for safety. It is hoped that users do follow good manners so the facility stays free and open to the public for many years to come.
For the active youth in Japan who aren’t keen to spend their free time outside of school in malls, karaoke rooms or game centers, skateparks like this fill a needed gap in services.
Since the Tokyo Olympics 2020 will have an added skateboarding event for the first time, there is some momentum toward legitimizing the sport in Japan. Facilities like this are key to developing young riders to get onto the podium in the future.
Skate sites from popular skate zones in the US and Australia are taking note and starting to profile Japanese skateparks like this one in Naruto and another street skatepark in Toyama.
It is unclear whether there are fees or registration required for other parks which add barriers to ease of use. In our experience, it is often not as easy to access the skateparks in Japan. For example, the bowls in Hatsukaichi (Hiroshima) require riders to go through a Japanese registration process at the local ward office before being allowed to use the skatepark. This is difficult for visiting riders and their families who may not be able to find the right office, have an address for the form or be able to complete the process due to the language gap. The park has become fenced off in recent years and registration can only be done by first finding the right office and completing the forms. If registration could at least be done at the park it would ease the process.
This is why it was so refreshing and surprising to find the UZUPA Naruto skatepark that was so welcoming, free and easy to access- a truly rare find in Japan and something worth raving about!
Encouraging kids to enjoy skating and playing outdoors while meeting likeminded folk and getting excited about the next trick or challenge- is such an emotional and physical benefit to the kids. It is also a key element of social equity by building inclusive, diverse, healthy communities and tourist destinations.
The friendly staff at the little skate shop opposite C’Mon say they opened the shop when they heard skating would be added to the Olympics and planning for the skatepark in Naruto started. The staff are welcoming and helpful, part of the group of Soul Skaters we often meet in Japan. C’Mon has skateboards and helmets for hire (only 500 yen) as well as BMX bikes. They also sell boards and other gear, as well as support riders with repairs and run a drink bar.
Hope to see more of this type of youth-centered facility being added to development plans across Japan. As the population continues to decline, community and destination planners should make sure to cater to active young people and their families in order to support population and economic growth for the future.
Also Free Basketball courts next to skatepark: