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Conversation with: Rip Zinger Learn to properly eat sushi with the legendary Japanese photographer, tour guide and enthusiasm expert

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If you go to Japan and want to skateboard, you must go with Rip Zinger. Rip is a photographer, skater, tour guide, enthusiasm expert and general Japanese Lord of Dogtown. He took our van full of skaters and media madness on the roads of Japan. And we couldn’t have done it without him. And among other things, he taught us how to eat sushi like a local. Just remember: “Rice is the bass drum, wasabi is the high hat.”

WHAT YOUTH: The Zing Master, what’s going on? 

RIP ZINGER: What’s up!

Wanted to talk to you about how you got into skateboarding and all that.

OK, well I started taking photos when I was like 18 or 19 years old and in 1996 I published a photo of a smith grind for my friend’s interview. And then since then I’m just hanging out with all these people who come to Japan from all over the world. Just hanging out with them and taking photos. Basically I’m just hanging out with everybody coming to the city.

Who were the first dudes you were shooting with? 

Originally Japanese guys, then one of the first teams that came was éS with Koston, Rick McCrank, Rodrigo TX. A bunch of different guys. So basically anyone who comes to Japan, the Japanese magazines would want me to shoot. So I would just shoot around as a photographer and just show people around and photos would come up. Basically just hanging out with everyone [laughs].

Do you think you helped Japan become a skate destination?

When I was skating growing up in high school, it was all jump ramps and transition. And there was no transition here, so we could make jump ramps, and we could dream about skating transition from watching videos. But once it came to the street and curbs and stuff… when, like Girl, and Mouse and those kinds of skateboarding came in. Thats the time we could skate like that, because we have the same obstacles and buildings and stuff. So that was the generation that Japan developed a scene because we had a lot of ledges and the security didn’t stop us back then.

So you wouldn’t get kicked out of spots back then?

Not really, because we were not really that aggressive. Ollies were not as big — tricks were smaller. Maybe we didn’t make as much noise? They would just look at you doing it, you know? But now because skateboarding is so sophisticated, they just kick you out right away because they have the experience. Back then there was no skate stoppers either.

So on the trip, you taught us how to eat sushi correctly. Run us through that again

So if you get the sushi, the rice is the bottom and the wasabi is on top of the rice, and the fish on top of the wasabi and rice. And then sushi never put any ingredients on. It’s just a piece of fish. So the chef, they will see the texture and taste and they will decide how to cut it. And how to cut it will change the texture and feeling of chewing and the flavors are not too rich or too fishy. And so cutting is the only way to decide a taste and flavor, and entertainment of eating things.

Secondly, to reduce the fishy taste or expand the taste of fish they use wasabi and the amount of wasabi between the fish and the rice is decided by the chef. And they put the decent amount of rice, you know? You’re supposed to enjoy wasabi near the nose. It’s more like a smelling thing. Enjoyed by the smell, it’s on the upper part of the mouth. Then soy sauce is thick like the bass and then wasabi is the high hat [laughs].

Basically you want to grab the sushi with your fingers and put it upside down, and put the soy sauce on the fish part — but only a little bit! Then, put it upside down into the mouth.

So right now it’s  different from how you guys eat, but the meat part is on the bottom and touching to the tongue. Rice part is up close to the nose. So that way you can taste the fish better than you can taste the rice.

So if you’re making a lake of soy sauce and mountain of wasabi and mixing together and you put the rice part in the soy sauce wasabi then put in the mouth on the tongue, you never taste the fish part!

And you can do this with all foods! You can do it with burgers or strawberries if you’re conscious about it.

I remember when we got home from Japan everybody was asking, “Dude how was the sushi in japan?” I’m curious what you would say the difference is from American sushi to Japanese sushi. 

I’m enjoying California-made sushi — like California roll. But mostly because I think there are a bunch of Japanese sushi chefs who open up sushi joints in California. One thing though I must tell you, the more simple the better for your sushi. How you cut decides the taste or enjoyment, not putting anything on it. No adding anything. Rice, wasabi and fish. Nothing on it, right? I think it’s a beauty of the simple, so I love that efficiency. That’s Japanese sushi. But California is like “Oh, let’s put this one on top of this one! And let’s add this one and then put this sauce and add this thing because it looks better.”

America is condiment culture — everybody put all these things before they taste what it actually tastes like —  the condiment culture!

In Japan who did you like watching skate the most? 

Fuck yeah, Raven’s my favorite for sure. You know, future John Cardiel for sure. And Ishod, I love. I was thinking of it, Ishod is like amazing to look at him not on the contests or demo or anything. Just like bird flying around for play. Like when he’s in-between tricks, just rolling up or playing around — that’s the time when it tells me that he’s insane and a really good skater, and he’s really enjoying it and not skating for anything else but his love.

What was up with that crazy lady that was yelling at him the whole time?

She was like drunk girl but she’s not drunk or anything. She’s just stoked. She just kept saying “You gotta make it, I wanna see you make it, you can do it!” Like cheering on her own kid. She just loved it. She just loved to be in front of whatever was going on there, even though she doesn’t know shit about skateboarding.

Yeah, she was calling him Michael Jordan and freaking out! Remember when she tried to kiss him?

Yeah! She got lucky! She got to kiss Ishod. That was sneaky! But you know, I think skateboarding has that energy. Like, maybe she’s not even like that ever! I think that’s the natural nature of skateboarding energy, the power! And that’s why skateboarding is amazing, even if you aren’t skateboarding, you got the vibe.


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