Here is the interview with York Uno, japanese flatland pioneer and founder of ARESBYKES.
Back in 1998 York traveled to the US and was the first japanese flatland rider winning an international pro flatland contest. After this success he decided to start his own BMX brand, ARESBYKES.
Nowadays he is one of the most famous flatland riders in the world and still in business.
After 18 years of riding, he’s still searching for symbolic and original forms of riding.
Read what he has to say about flatland, ARESBYKES, music and the disasters in Japan.
This is the first interview in a series of interviews with riders from ARESBYKES.
Read the french version on agoride.com.
Give us some basic background information of yourself (age, years of riding, hometown)
My name is Yosuke Uno (York Uno). I was born 26th of May in 1975. I live Kanazawa. I have been riding BMX for 18 years.
How and when did you start riding flatland?
When I was in junior high school, I watched BMX on TV, and I fell in love with it. At that time it was hard to get a BMX bike, because there were only a few shops selling BMX. I made a big mistake and bought a MTB bike. After riding 2 years of MTB racing I finally bought a BMX freestyle bike. Around the age of 17, I decided to ride flatland seriously.
What means flatland riding to you? How often do you ride, what inspires and motivates you to keep riding?
Flatland is my lifestyle. I ride almost everyday, since 18 years. My motivation is the freedom I feel when I ride. When I spin, there is nothing in my mind, just the moment itself.
Only when I do shows or participate a contest I really focus on BMX riding as work.
What’s a normal day for you?
It’s different throughout the year. I have been working hard on internet marketing for the last 2 years. I update my blog and my facebook profile with my experiences frequently.
For myself it serves as a memo on what I have done and where I have been, for other people I hope it can help to read my experiences and maybe they can learn something out of it.
When I work at my office, I work from around noon until evening. In this time I coordinate the product schedule and organise my show schedule. Especially from spring to autumn it’s a very busy time, and it is difficult to organise my schedule.
How do you see the development of flatland in the last few years, and how do you see the future of flatland?
Before I started riding BMX, flatland was dominated by pogo tricks. When I started riding, scuff tricks were state of the art, nowadays turbine tricks are the new way of riding. We are currently moving towards an even more exciting, booming era of Flatland. Flatland in Japan is evolving, in a good way, with riders entering a new period of change that aims for a more distinctive riding style.This has the effect of narrowing down the riders who are able to survive in this period of change. I believe that this proves our current ability to make an accurate judgment as to which riders should stand out in this new era within the bountiful Flatland scene in Japan.
Do you follow the european flatland scene? If so, what do you think about it? Any favorite riders in europe?
There are many influences from Europe, like fashion, music or art I follow, it’s not only flatland I am interested in. I don’t have a favorite european rider. There are many good riders in europe, newschool and oldschool riders.
How do you see the influence of the internet on flatland?
With growing possibilities, we move away from reality. To compensate for this loss of reality, I think it would be great if one could use these new possibilities, such as the internet, to experience in a live transmission the real joy of riding. And of course, one could use other media channels such as TV and magazines.
If you ask a flatland rider in europe for the country he would like to visit, 90% will answer “Japan”. Any favorite country you would like to visit in Europe?
I would like to visit England and Switzerland, Italy and Czech republic. The reason is that I just have never been there.
We all heard about the horrible disaster in your country. In what way did that incidents change your life and your way of thinking?
Yes, it has changed a great deal. The earthquake disaster has made me realize that I am always living in a state of danger. It used to be that accidents and earthquakes only occurred on TV and films…
But now, I am living my life accepting that these events are part of my reality.
Bikes are driven by natural energy so I would like it to become more widespread. Bike culture is definitely more advanced in Europe than in Japan, so I feel that this is the right time for Japan to undergo a shift in mentality.
After riding 18 years of flatland, you still have a very contemporary riding style. How important is progression and style for you? What do you think about trends?
Musicians who create hits can gain plenty of fame and fortune with just one track…
But if it was me, I would feel that true progress is the ability to continue creating masterpieces that surpass those hits. My own personal challenge is to think of new symbolic, original forms and riding lines, and to always keep on trying.
The perception is that the current trend has taken flatland one step further to become an exciting biking genre. Riders possessing their own personal style always seek to improve it, regardless of the fashion at the time.
How important are contests to you? Do you still participate many contests?
I am planning to participate in contests taking into account how they fit in with my plans and schedules.
I tend not to think of a particular contest as important. But rather, I take the view that all contests are important as that is why they are being organized in the first place. I intend to participate in various contests regardless of their size, but in doing so I will be taking into account their timings, distances, estimated costs, etc.
How is it that the japanese flatland scene is so big? Is it still growing? How are you involved in supporting/encouraging young riders in Japan to ride flatland?
I think that the Flatland scene in Japan is larger than in other countries, but compared to just recently, it seems as if the flatland fever has actually gone down. To some extent, I believe that this is because Flatland riders around Japan are unable to envisage what should come next. By this I mean, for example, what happens after winning a contest, or after reaching a professional level. There are very few riders in rural areas of Japan who are able to head towards a specific direction, staying within the flatland scene but being outside of bike riding itself. Everything is just concentrated in Tokyo. Having a breakthrough or coming up with a new way to develop the flatland scene is something that is done locally by local people.
When and why did you have the idea to launch your own BMX brand?
In 1998, I started by imagining a future strategy whereby I would be the first Asian person to win an international contest.
As a rider, when do you reach your limits? There is no way of knowing. And so in order to compete in equal terms with the rest of the world, I decided that it was necessary to have a sponsor.
Compared to today, it was much more difficult for me to find a sponsor around that time, which naturally led me to the idea of creating my own brand. Mr. Sera, president of FFC (funfancy.jp), still continues to support my brand to this day. And thus, ARESBYKES was born, with me looking after product design and ensuring riders have a good product range to choose from, and Mr. Sera being in charge of financing, product sales and marketing.
Who is responsible for the design of ARESBYKES parts? Where do you produce them? What is the most important thing for you when you design a part?
Basically, the riders create new products. Market design and logo design is done by Mr. Masashi Nakamura.
My main focus when designing our products is to use the best qualities in the materials to achieve strength and lightness.
I design flatland products that allow Japanese people to control the bike easily without physical efforts, so they can perform well out in the world.
How are the other ARESBYKES riders involved in the daily business of ARESBYKES? Who is part owner of ARESBYKES or part of the business management?
Within ARES & Co, I am the person in charge of products and the management of the riders.
Overall management is done by Mr. Sera, and Masashi is in charge of the overall design.
Although, of course, there are many other people involved as well…
Other riders contact the managers as and when required. My role within ARESBYKES is to unify everyone in an environment where there is a tendency for people to do their own thing. And to this end, I can sometimes take an approach that could be considered rather determined.
This is because I have decided that ARESBYKES, a brand that I have created myself, will only finish when I have finished with the sport myself. Maybe it’s something like a samurai spirit? The beauty of the ARESBYKES brand is the Japanese way of thinking: “if I am going to lose, it will be on my own terms.”
Why do you make a difference between ARESBYKES and ARESTIC? What is the idea behind it?
Basically, ARESBYKES is for the body of the bike. ARESTIC represents the bike parts.
There is so much going on with ARESBYKES lately. Superb**, Folk city bike line, many new ARESBYKES stuff. What is planed next? What can we expect in the future from ARESBYKES?
There are only few flatland only bike brands in the BMX scene. ARESBYKES aimed to have the first success, and then proceeded to develop a new line straight afterwards. Everything until now, as well future projects, has been and will be a challenge for us. We can not to give you any more detailed information at the present time, but we are still in the process of working out our future strategy. Stay tuned!
Most of your edits include your own music. How important is music to you? How much time do you invest in music?
I heard that if you exceed 10,000 playbacks on YouTube then you get into copyright issues.
Because of this, I started creating my own music as much as possible.
With music, the amount of time spent listening is definitely longer than the amount of time spent creating it.
As I want to be influenced by a variety of genres, I always try to listen to a wide range of music.
Any recommendations for beginners?
If you enjoy riding flatland, don’t think, and just get on the bike. That’s the main thing. Once you become good at it, you will have plenty of time to think. The main thing I would like is for everyone to chill out and enjoy Flatland.
Last words, any thanx?
Thank you for the interview.
Interview by Adrian Badertscher