Ryokou: Chapter 5
“Ryokou” — the Japanese expression for the word ‘journey’ — is a story about the determination of an Australian athlete, set amongst the backdrop of the Land of the Rising Sun. The series explores Shane Perkins’ journey to re-define his career, whilst taking up the challenge to become a champion rider in the National Keirin Series competition in Japan, 2012/2013.
The documentary has been split into five chapters with one part being released every day this week. This is the final chapter and you can find chapter 1 here, chapter 2 here, chapter 3 here and chapter 4 here.
Here’s what Josh Capelin, co-producer of Ryokou had to say about the final chapter of Ryokou, entitled “Overcome”:
As you will see, all competing athletes, sometimes up to 150 of them, are locked down and live within the confines of the specially constructed velodrome building for the duration of a Keirin session.
Around mid morning on Zenken day, day 1 of 4, a hive of activity echoes around the concrete walls of the mechanics room as rider after rider enters the velodrome. Soon it’s buzzing with amplified sounds of bike chains and wrenches hitting the ground, the hi-speed clicking of camera shutters, the hum of man and bike. Amidst the media circus and the constant coming and going, riders spend time in this room contemplatively assembling their bikes alone. Pieces laid out like lego. The connection between man and machine is far more intimate than other sports. Once complete, bikes and riders would roll gracefully to a checking station where officials would inspect the piece as though it were a weapon. This rigorous process is to make sure the bike meets all the requirements to qualify as an official Keirin racer.
The same buzz hits each racing day thereafter as riders begin their preparation routines. The constant whir of sprints on roller machines mixed with the fervent footsteps of the Japanese media flocking together in packs as they hunt for interviews with superstars of the Keirin is a constant soundtrack. Usually these superstars are easy to spot. It’s the haircuts.
It’s quite a spectacle. Here you are living with your enemies yet a very civil, relaxed and even joyous camaraderie is omnipotent. Throughout the day riders sleep, watch TV, read stick mags and basically hang out. And each day for 3 days you wait your turn to race. There are 10 – 12 categories of racing with the highest number being the best, and which international riders are not permitted to race in. Shane would typically ride in the second or third highest category, depending on the field. We hope to share additional race footage over the coming weeks.
A race is an eerie event. Crowds flock and push up against fences and corporate looking rooms behind glass windows. Riders are paraded an hour prior to a race, much like horses are, for punters to view their physical shape and make emotional connections. When the starter gun fires, a race begins in silence. And when nine riders go hammer and tong, which sometimes causes one or two to crash and lie motionless on the ground on their way to the finish line, there is silence still at the end, for the fans don’t applaud. It just isn’t a part of this sport.
The riders come off the track, congratulate one another with smiles and token drink gifts. There is no anger. No arguments. They’re just doing they’re job.
Thanks for watching, it’s been a true pleasure and honour to share Shane’s story.
Josh Capelin, Matty Roberts and Davros.