James Langridge is not your typical lawyer. During the day, the 27-year-old works as a trainee solicitor in Brighton, but once away from his office, he maintains a playful spirit. A lingering childhood fascination with Japan will bring him here next month — but not just for sightseeing.
Langridge arrives with the aim of skateboarding down Mt Fuji for charity. This will be his first trip to Japan, so his knowledge of the mountain is limited to online articles, images from Google Earth and advice from people who have visited.
Each year, droves of locals and tourists attempt to climb the 3,776-meter peak — focused on the ascent. Langridge, however, has his sights set on going down. From Fuji’s fifth station, at 2,300 meters, a paved road winds 26 kms to the base — perhaps the most extensive longboard route in the world. As far as Langridge knows, only one team has navigated down the mountain before him: a group of skaters who hit the slope in late spring 2005. They kicked off in the early morning to avoid traffic, and in under an hour descended from above the clouds to the mountain’s base. Their video documentary, posted on the website of Outdoor Japan, served as the inspiration for Langridge’s journey.
Like that group, Langridge plans to get an early start, and he’s been assembling a team that’s randomly come together since he first put word out. “Some of the Outdoor Japan people [who took part in the first descent] have said they might join me. A few people have also contacted me over the internet expressing interest — one from Hawaii, one from Baltimore, and one from Sweden,” he says. “People can contact me by email if they want to join in.”
But the ride isn’t just about having fun. Langridge will be raising funds for The Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths (FSID), a research and support organization concerned with cot death (also called sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS). The exact cause of this mysterious syndrome is still unknown, but organizations like FSID are helping to reduce the number of deaths.
“Some might say that it’s not as worthy a cause as feeding the starving and other similar problems, but it’s personal to me because my parents lost their first son to cot death a year before my twin sister and I were born,” Langridge explains. “Cot death is the leading cause of death in babies under 1 month old. It claims more lives than meningitis, leukemia, other forms of cancer, and household and road traffic accidents put together.”
For the past three years, Langridge has been staging similar events to help raise funds for the cause. He got his start when a friend suggested running a half-marathon to benefit FSID. “Having a reason for something like that makes training a lot easier,” he says. In 2006, on the 27th anniversary of his brother’s death, Langridge ran the 27th London Marathon. From these two events he has raised over 2,500 pounds (534,000 yen).
For the Fuji skate, the sky’s the limit, and all funds raised will go directly to FSID. “I think with a bit of determination we are a lot more capable than we think we are,” he says. “I never thought I’d run a marathon or go to Japan and skateboard down Mt Fuji. But I did and I am. We should follow through with our dreams before we start to forget about them.”
To learn more about the descent, email firstname.lastname@example.org. To donate, see www.justgiving.com/skatemountfuji. See www.fsid.org.uk for more information about FSID. This story originally appeared in Metropolis magazine (www.metropolis.co.jp).© Japan Today