Akita rickshaw puller wants to spread her passion about skateboarding

Akita-TB

KIKUCHI Rika has been an avid skateboarder for years. She is really happy that skateboarding is part of the Olympic Games programme for the Tokyo 2020 Games. She is in awe at the level of Japanese skateboarders who participate in national and world competitions, and she supports all the athletes who will compete at the Tokyo 2020 Games.

Rika enjoys skateboarding as her hobby. As a day job, she works with her husband pulling a rickshaw in Kakunodate, Senboku City, designated as an important traditional building preservation district. Black wooden fences run along both sides of the 700-metre street dotted with cherry trees during spring. A number of samurai residences (bukeyashiki) have also been beautifully preserved making it a must-see site.

Rika tries to welcome visitors with warm hospitality so they leave with a good impression of Kakunodate, Akita and Japan. As a torchbearer, and as a rickshaw puller, she would like to express her passion for skateboarding across the world.

How did you first encounter skateboarding?

I started snowboarding when I was 18, and the following summer I began skateboarding as an off-season training activity. On the second day I broke my ankle. I said to myself that I would never skateboard again. When my ankle healed, though, I didn't want to give up and I loved the feeling when I successfully completed a trick. I became hooked.

What is the appeal of skateboarding?

As the names of skateboarding types imply, the sport was born out of street culture. Each athlete has their unique style, and can display different technical forms for the same trick - the initial move or posture going into the trick, the way they land, and so on. Skateboarding is a sport, but it started out as a street culture and an art. Don't miss the fashion of each athlete too.

As a rickshaw puller, what is most important when you provide hospitality to your customers?

Communicating the history and charm of Kakunodate is important. I listen to my customers, and sometimes I talk about myself too. I have direct communication with the customers riding my rickshaw, so I try to present Kakunodate, rickshaws, and myself so that people feel 'this is a nice place. I would like to come back again.'

Can you recommend the best spot in Kakunodate?

Kakunodate features streets and buildings that have a 400-year history. The width of the roads and the street blocks have been preserved with little change. The huge trees lining the street are over 300 years old and they create a different scenery each season. I invite people to walk around and think about what it must've been like back in that age.

As a torchbearer, what message do you wish to give to people?

I participated in competitions and events across Japan and met a lot of people. These encounters made my life richer. The people I meet on my rickshaw are always warm and they encourage me. I will run the torch relay with a sense of gratitude toward all those people and hope I can promote the charm of Kakunodate, Akita and skateboarding to as many people as possible.