He was the first Japanese rider to podium at the US Open (at 14) and won it in 2010. Photo: Hamilton

Kazu was the first Japanese rider to podium at the US Open (at 14) and won it in 2010. Photo: Hamilton

Japan’s Kazuhiro Kokubo is no new jack. Since he was a just a grom, about age 14—when they called him the Remote Control boy—Kazu has been in the mix in pipe contests around the world including the Olympics in Vancouver last winter. But before the pipe event went down, a scandal erupted—Kazu was almost sent home because he wore his necktie loose and his shirt untucked during Opening Ceremonies, apparently this insulted the Japanese federation. Who tucks in their shirt? Anyway, they got over it. He’s not quite a household name here, but among the pro community, Kazu is known to be a beast—all 100 pounds of him. He ended the season strong by taking 1st place in pipe at the US Open. He also squeezed in a trip to Alaska and filmed with Standard again this year. And before heading to Disneyland, Kazu stopped by TransWorld for a visit.

Kazu’s English is a little rough, so the interview went through his translator.

Did the scandal with the loose tie really create problems for you in Japan?
No, I only gained positive things from the scandal. It wasn’t a big deal for me—but the media made it a big deal.

Did your Olympic performance get you offers for new sponsors or TV commercials back home?
During the season I got a lot of offers but I declined them all because I wanted to concentrate on snowboarding. If get one these kind of offers this time of year, I’ll do it.

US Open Victory. Stoked! Photo: Hamilton

US Open Victory. Stoked! Photo: Hamilton

What do you think the average Japanese person thinks of snowboarding?
I think the majority of Japanese people think its cool. But during the Olympics there were people posting comments and media-hype talking bad about snowboarding—those people don’t know anything. In person, the people who come up to me and talk to me all say positive things about snowboarding.

What Olympic event is most popular in Japan? Here I think it was either figure skating or snowboarding.
Same in Japan. Because of my clothing incident, snowboarding got the most coverage of any event in Japan.

How much time did you have left over for filming with Standard?
Right after the Olympics I had ten days in Japan, then I got the call to go to Alaska to shoot in Haines. I was a little scared for the Alaska trip, but after that, everything else for the rest of the season was easy.

Who was your crew in Alaska?
Jonas Carlson, Lonnie Kauk, and Sammy Luebke. We were in Haines for ten days, and flew one day. I did a pillow line.

Do you get bored or lonely on trips with the language barrier?
I’ve been working with this crew—these guys, for so long that I don’t really get that feeling anymore.

And what about your English? Are you studying?
Yeah, I’ll be fluent by next year! [laughs]

On his way to a Silver Medal. Vancouver Olympics 2010.

Vancouver Olympics 2010.

How did you get the dreads?
I grew my hair long, then I had to get it permed. After that, it took about 20 hours to make the dreads.

You got married back in November—what do your wife’s parents think about your job, your dreads?
My parents and her parents are both really supportive of snowboarding and as for the dread hair, my wife is the only one who is opposed to it. [Laughs]

You live near Sapporo on Hokkaido—how far are you from that epic powder?
About half an hour. But this past season, I was only in Japan for 10 days. Not enough.

Big Mickey for the Vermont crowd, U.S. Open 2010. Photo: Hamilton

Big Mickey for the Vermont crowd, U.S. Open 2010. Photo: Hamilton

You’re starting a stomp pad brand—what’s the idea?
I am going to make the Stomp Tour so I can bring all my friends around to different mountains and session. We’re gonna make some movies … Starting the end of this month we’re going to France, then straight from France to Mount Hood. Two weeks at Windell’s from July 6 to the 24th. So far, that’s it.

A little video of Kazu NOT in the pipe from the movie 7 Samurai. Not new, but nice.