Interview: Hachi crew

Hachi are a crew of friends, riding and filming together in the Japanese backcountry. While you may not know the name, they have been pushing all mountain freestyle in the Hakuba area for years. They represent the spirit of friendship and the DIY ethos in snowboarding, as well as being the guys sending it with style whether the cameras are running or not. As close as brothers, overcoming the tragic death of original member Kyota Miyake has only made them more focused. Japan Grabs caught up with Yuta  Kobayashi and Masaki Kitae from  Hachi to find out what’s next for the Hakuba crew.

Let’s start with the basics. For those that don’t speak Japanese, what is “Hachi” and where does the name come from?

Yuta: Our home mountain is Happo-one which means ‘eight ridges’ in Japanese and as you might know Hachi means eight. Basically, HACHI represents our backyard. And it also means infinite, when you flip the eight on its side  ∞ .

Did all of you grow up in Hakuba? How did you get into snowboarding?

Yuta: Keita and I grew up in Hakuba. Kyota is from Ina in the south of Nagano prefecture. Mackie (Masaki) is from Yokohama. I started snowboarding when I was in high school. Some of my high school friends had already started and it looked cool. As soon as I saw them, I started riding with them right after.

Masaki Kitae Hachi
Masaki ‘Mackie’ Kitae throwing out some style at a D.I.Y. banks session back in 2011 – before bowl riding was the hot trend!

Watching the Hachi movie you ride mostly natural terrain. Is that a conscious decision to hit natural features rather than ride park or build jumps?

Masaki: I’m just doing straight up snowboarding. Like, skaters ride in the streets, surfers ride on the waves, snowboarders ride on the snowy mountains. Just simple as that. I don’t trying to look like a skater or surfer when I’m on a snowboard. And I don’t like to be in a line waiting for a jump. I’d rather keep going with the flow and find some hits.

I heard you put together the Hachi movie without a main filmer – just filming each other. That’s pretty unusual these days. How did you make that work? 

Yuta: We all have our own cameras to film each other. The tough thing is getting a professional quality footage ourselves. You easily can fuck up your buddies footage! Even if it your buddy did the best line of the season. The good thing is that we can stack our footage just for ourselves, so we can decide what to do with it. We’ll keep filming each other when we don’t have a filmer.

Yuta in attack mode in Hakuba’s powder banks.

Masaki: It’s hard to get the best angle. Because we all wanna ride fresh pow. Many years, we end up with footage from the same kind of angle from behind the rider. You know, filming your buddies right before you drop into pow. I always think I should’ve got a better angle when I’m editing the movie in summer. The good thing about those angles is that it’s an uplifting angle in a way – you can imagine that you in the mountains watching your buddies ripping down the hill. But you know, I’ll be stoked if we have a filmer with us. We need a filmer!

Japan is now really popular in the global snowboard scene, with so many film crews coming over to shoot. How do you feel about the popularity of Hakuba now?

Yuta: Our family runs a Japanese restaurant in the town, so I think it’s cool to see more people coming to Hakuba. But with that popularity, I see more people heading into the backcountry without avi beacons on. People really need to get educated and quit doing that shit!

That’s true. The Film For Food (previously Sol Food) crew stayed in Hakuba for a long time and really connected with Hachi and the local scene. How was working with Aaron and Forest? Did that influence you?

Yuta: Those guys are true to snowboarding. It was good inspiration to ride with them for sure. They stayed with us in Hakuba and then we went over to the States the next season. It’s pretty cool to connect with people around the world like that. Now they are like our best riding buddies but I always wish I could speak English better with them!

Your movie ‘Lifeline 2: Kaze’ got us stoked to ride. What rider’s video parts have made you stoked to go out and shred recently?

Yuta: Gigi and Mark Landvik

Masaki: I don’t really watch other people’s movies these days but Travis’ new flick was so sick. Seeing that made me want to shred and to explore more to find sicker terrain. Those guys kill it like nobody else.

Yuta Kobayashi floating one off a fully loaded avi barrier.

It seems like Japan is influencing snowboard a lot recently with super directional powder shapes and bowl-style park features. What would you like to see going from the Japan scene to the world?

Yuta: I’m stoked if the simple pleasure of freeriding and powder culture spreads more to the world.

Masaki:  Now both people in Japan and people coming to Japan are getting to know how awesome it is to spend a pow day in the mountains. It’s a universal truth. It’s even cooler if they understanding the humbleness and how Japanese people respect the mountains.

Hachi lost one it’s original members with the passing of Kyota Miyake in 2015. This affected everyone in the Hakuba scene deeply. How would you like the snowboarding world to remember him?

Yuta: When it came to riding, he was a straight up rock’n’roll badass, committed and true to snowboarding.

Masaki: Kyota was most hard-working, truly pure snowboarder ever. He amazed me all time! I really miss that guy!

Kyota Miyake

I noticed ‘Life Line 2 : Kaze’ was shown again at the Yokonori Nippon Film Festival. How did that come about?

Masaki: Yeah, KAZE is our movie from last year. Usually people are showing their new films at these festivals, but for us KAZE is more than just an annual release snowboard video. We made this video for our fallen brother, Kyota Miyake, and for the people who want to keep this video in their collections forever. So for that deeper reason, whenever we get the chance to show this video in public, we’re down.

What’s next for Hachi? Any plans to film outside of the Hakuba area in coming seasons?

Yuta: We’re planning an Alaska trip! That and catching up with the Film For Food crew.

Sounds good. We’ll be looking forward to seeing the footage from those trips. Before we wrap it up, anyone you want to give a shout out to?

Yuta: To my sponsors, thank you for supporting me over the years! And to my family, thanks for letting me keep snowboarding!

Masaki: My wife Yuka, my son Ryuki and all my family. Ride Snowboards, Deeluxe, Dragon, Gnarly, AFDicegear, Oneballjay, GARAGE 902 and 12WP. All the filmers and photographers I’ve worked with, and all my homies! Big thanks for all of you! You guys are the best!

Thanks for the interview!

If you haven’t seen it, here’s the trailer for ‘Life Line 2: Kaze’: 

The full movie is available on Vimeo on demand here. For the raw Hachi experience you can follow them on Facebook and Instagram and you’ll be seeing more of them here on Japan Grabs.