Snowboard Grabs: Japan

The Grab:
Front hand wraps around the front leg and grabs toe edge between the bindings. Knees are bent folding legs backwards toward the board.

The Tweak:
Knees are fully bent, pulling up and back on the grab.

Performed By: Harrison Gordon.

The History:
According to Tony Hawk, “There was a TWS article with a feature on Japan around ’84. The first spread was a huge picture of a Japanese guy doing a tweaked mute air with the headline "JAPAN" above it. We had never seen an air like that and immediately started calling it by that name because the magazine layout almost named it by default. Someone should find that issue.”

Well, after leafing through enough pages of old TransWorld SKATEboarding issues to make our thumbs raw, we found it. Memory can be a slippery thing, and it turns out the trick appeared in the February 1985 issue, and the photo is the little inset, not a spread. Otherwise, Hawk's recollection is spot on, and the unknown Japanese skater's unique tweak on a conventional mute grab laid the foundation for what will forever be referred to as a Japan. Inspired, Hawk began to replicate this move, and his lanky build accentuated this tweak like no one else could. Shortly after, two shots of Hawk ran in the August 1985 TWSKATE immortalizing the grab and name forever.

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The article in the February 1985 issue of TransWorld SKATEboarding that inspired the Japan Air.

A closer look at the photo of the unknown skater that gave Tony Hawk the idea for the Japan Air.

The first of Tony Hawk’s Japan Airs to appear in the August 1985 issue of TransWorld SKATEboarding. The caption reads: “Tony Hawk’s Japan airs boggled minds, half cabs followed by full caballaerials, his very deep sack of tricks made him win. Last run of the evening.” Photo: Morton

The second of Tony Hawk’s Japan Airs to appear in the August 1985 issue of TransWorld SKATEboarding.

Cover of the August 1985 issue of TransWorld SKATEboarding.

Snowboarders naturally blended this tweak into our trick vernacular, and have attempted to recreate what Hawk and the anonymous Japanese skater introduced in the mid-’80s. Battling the restriction of bindings, boots, and winter pants, the classic skate tweak is often hard to mimic on snow. Terje Haakonsen has inserted them into historic contest runs mid-McTwist, and Nicolas Müller has brought them into the backcountry, to the arena jumps of Air + Style during backside 720s, and Cab 900s. In the summer of 2008, Bode Merrill landed perhaps snowboarding's most insane Japan to date at High Cascade Snowboard Camp with a one-footed backside 720 Japan, allowing him to tweak the grab (and onlookers minds) beyond all known limits.

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