I first meet Eiji Kataoka (pronounced A-Ge) in Sydney at DownUnderGround in mid 2010. His style was wild and crazy and full of energy. After Sydney I did not hear much about Eiji except for a few rumours about him being out in the bush working. A video surfaced some time after of Eiji riding at a small spot in Tully Queensland. Eiji had come to Australia on a working visa with the intention of working in the agriculture industry, like most people who come to Australia on working visas. Finding work at a banana plantation in Tully Eiji took the work and started the typical backpacker life style with his wonderful girlfriend Mika. In February 2011 working and living in Tully all came to an end when Cyclone Yasi ravaged the east coast of Queensland. Yasi was a category 5 cyclone, the biggest cyclone Australia had seen in generations, with winds gusts at 200Km/h and Tully was right in its path. The town was evacuated by some and the others, like Eiji and Mika took refuge in the Church. In conversation with Eiji and Mika about the cyclone they both had different views on the experience. Eiji was full of excitement and a sense of adventure while Mika was concerned and worried. They both did realize how sever the ordeal might be when they had to write their names on their arms as a precaution of what might happen. Cyclone Yasi It passed straight over the top of Tully. The noise was furious and then instantly the noise, the wind and rain stopped. The eye of the cyclone was passing through Tully. It was quite, no wind, no rain and the stars in the night sky could be seen. Then as the eye has passed, in an instant the noise, the wind and the rain started. As daybreak came Yasi had passed leaving Tully totally devastated. The biggest destruction in the area was the banana plantations. They were flattened. Due to Yasi the price of bananas in Australia tripled. This of course meant no more work in the area. Eiji and Mika did manage to stay in Tully for a little while to harvest what bananas were left on the ground. This was when Eiji had his run in with a snake. Picking up the bunch of bananas to put on his shoulder to carry them, a fellow worker saw a snake in the bunch. Had he not seen the snake and cautioned Eiji it would be fair to say I would not have had Eiji and Mika stay with me in Perth for a few weeks.
Eiji riding in Tully
Due to the lack of work now in the Queensland area they managed to get a job in Kununurra in the far north of Western Australia. When DownUnderGround took place in Melbourne in August of 2011 Eiji made the long trek to attend. A journey of great proportion. After staying in Kununurra it was time to move on so Eiji and Mika along with two French backpackers drove down to Perth taking in all the magnificent scenery along the way. At one point they even managed to experience sea turtles laying eggs on the beach but that was only after dodging many Kangaroos on the night drive to the beach location.
Eiji and Mika have been travelling Australia for almost two years now and although I’ve lived in Australia all my life they have experienced more of Australia’s natural beauty and disasters than I could even imagine. I am looking forward to seeing Eiji and Mika again at the Sydney DownUnderGround as they will be leaving Australia soon after. I know that it will be a long time until I see them again as they will be travelling after Australia into South Asia. I am pleased to have had met and rode with Eiji as he and Mika have definitely inspired me in both riding and travelling.
The below interview is only a brief encounter with Kataoka San.(Mr Kataoka) If you get the chance to ride with him you most definitely need to for your own good sense. No doubt.
Where do you originally come?
I’m from Osaka Japan.
Why did you want to come to Australia?
Well, I was keen to keep travelling with my girl to see more outside of my country. Escaping from big-city miserable reality for fuck sake. I’ve heard Australia is such a productive country where you can make, save heaps of money for future trip.
Easy to get visa. Economic reason. TV broadcasting a lot of beautiful part of Australia in Japan. Little bit of spontaneous state of mind.
For how many years have you been riding?
I’ve been riding since age of 14. fuckin hell, 12 years already mate. This question sort of drives me nuts. In few years I gotta say half of my life.
What was it that lead you to take up riding flatland?
When I first saw fella’s riding BMX, it looked freaky cool n easy to me. I kinda fancied this is a way to make girlfriend. I was totally wrong at this point by the way… If you are thinking about starting flatland for making girlfriend or some shit, change your mind right away. Only if you like masturbation, you will love flatland!
You seem to have a crazy go for it style has that always been the case?
I quit, restart riding tons of times since 2006 when I got travel started. No riding, no You Tube. But still thinking about tricks. That kinda no-riding period makes me interesting perspective I guess.
How many years have you been riding at a pro level of skill?
I competed in KOG at a pro only once, I guess that was 2005 or 6. I haven’t ridden much, others goes next level afterwards. So never more.
Where has been your most favourite place to visit in your world travels?
Well, I love bush and quiet beach where not so many moving around. This may not be the correct answer its supposed be. I would say bush. I am basically hater of big city. As exception, Melbourne is cool place to visit though. Yeah, Vancouver, Amsterdam as well.
From your travels where would you recommend others not to go to?
Somewhere totally programmed by authorities, like North Korea for instance. I haven’t and will never.
You have travelled around Australia a bit, what has been the most scenic place you have been to so far?
Well, it’s bit difficult to pick only one. I would say Kununurra WA. I had been in Caravan Park. Behind it, national park called “mini bungle bungle” emotional majestic scenery from there. I almost wept like a bush pig.
Have you found it hard to understand the Australian culture and customs that we have?
Racism. Yeah may be Australia is only country still exist. Fuck your mother, enjoy your fantastic life.
The media and education. They tell/broadcast whatever u should like. Damn you like it. Many people haven’t realized still… you are programmed. Okka accent. Many flies flying around mouth, move your mouth mate. Difficult to figure out, but I totally love them!
Was it an easy or difficult decision to get an agriculture visa for your time in Australia? Would you recommend other to do the same?
As easy decision about 2th visa for me. Extra 1 year man. So why not. That’s the thing most of backpacker do. My opinion especially Aussies should do. Here is your country. Why counting on backpackers! Australia government giving big number of working holiday visa. One of biggest reason is that. In fact, so many job positions even outside of agriculture are taken by people with working holiday visa. Then many jobless Aussies eventually now. You know what I mean? For some information, it’s fun! Bare foot, half naked, incredible sweat, bloody dirty, do things like bush man. That may change your way of life. You never know till you try.
You made it to Melbourne for the finals of the DownUnderGround can you tell us a bit about your journey to get there and what you had to go through?
I took holiday for DUG. I could make big money if I worked for that period. I spent a ton of money for bus, plane and some shit. Fuck it, more than that, I wanted to motivate myself for riding back then. I knew DUG is only event that we can ride, drink, share rad time together in Australia. Which can lift up rider’s motivation, spirits. So that’s behind it.
What is the story behind the singing bowl?
Not much. I stopped riding in Kununurra. Nothing to do middle of nowhere. Just wanted to start something new. Singing bowl is easy to play, but pretty deep. Get green mind, play it, you would go universe.
Are you concerned about your homeland and the whole nuclear situation that happened after the tsunami?
Yes, of course.
How long do you think it take to get back normal?
Still typical government bullshit going on.
Give an example of the last time you were spontaneous?
Right now. I’m freaky spontaneous to jot this shit answer down.
At the finals in Melbourne you did a no handed time machine at the end of your run how long had it been since you did that trick prior to doing it in Melbourne?
I first did that trick is like 10 years ago I guess. Back then not so many people did no-handed trick. I used to do that at comps to win. By the time I competed at expert class, I finally got old with that stuff. Also the others as well. Don’t remember since when, anyway stopped doing that. Notable thing is even now 2012 still dialled.
How has flatland affected your life?
Yes mate. Completely changed my way of life. Like, I didn’t have anything what I can be crazy about before started. I spent most of time for riding. Also flatland isn’t only about riding. For me it’s like friend, education, perspective, travel and everything. If I didn’t get it started, I wouldn’t be travelling.
Within the Japanese culture if you had not taken up flatland what would you have taken up as a sport/past time?
Who knows man? Redneck may be.
All photos – Shaun Jarvis unless marked
Videos from Eiji Kataoka