Sure, it’s a bit weird. Kanoa Igarashi was born in Los Angeles and grew up in Huntington Beach but has the backing of all of Japan, and they often claim him as their own. Both of his parents are from Japan, and have storied and very extended roots there and from an early age instilled a very strong sense of the Japanese culture in him. And it’d be easy to think that was all for show, until you go to Japan with Kanoa.
Kanoa maintains a deep connection to the place and the traditions. He has a firm and fluent grasp on the language, the customs and his extended family is practically royalty throughout Japan. When he walks out of Haneda Airport in Tokyo, Kanoa is a Japanese man.
We spent a few days with Kanoa in a variety of settings, including the Interstyle trade show where he was mobbed more than Machado. To the streets of Tokyo, where mothers and kids alike would stop him in the crowded streets for photographs. Kanoa is the real deal in Japan. And until you see the way he operates there, it’d be easy to cast him off as an American sellout. This is very much not the case.