Skiing and snowboarding are popular winter sports in Japan,
and the number of skiers has grown in the last two decades.
Various ski resorts, hot springs, and winter events attract
skiers and snowboarders from all over Japan.
There are more than 300 ski slopes in Japan, and most of them
are open from December through March. Many skiers and snowboarders
enjoy the combination of hot springs and ski slopes. Nozawa,
Kusatsu, and Manza ski resorts are well known for their hot springs.
Nozawa is located in the Nagano prefecture and is 207 miles from
Tokyo, five hours by train. Kusastu and Manza are in the Gunma
prefecture and both are about 110 miles from Tokyo, 3.5 hours
by train. Nozawa provides 20 ski courses and 24 ski lifts. Kusastu
has more than an 80-year history as a ski town. Manza provides
more beginner and intermediate courses. After skiing, people
enjoy the hot springs, which offer healing warmth to bodies stressed
by cold and action on the slopes.
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Also, many skiers and
snowboarders enjoy winter ski festivals. The major area for
ski festivals, Zaou, is located in northern Honshu, Japan’s
main island, in the Yamagata prefecture. Zaou is well known
for Jyuhyou, trees covered with ice that yield some of nature’s
most beautiful scenery. The Jyuhyou Festival, which features
ski slopes at night with all the ice-covered trees lit up,
starts in late January and continues through February. Zaou
Hot Spring is also famous and has been in use for more than
Naeba Ski Resort, in the Niigata prefecture also in northern
Honshu, is a popular ski resort for young people and couples.
It was developed and is owned by the Prince Hotel group. Naeba
resort has longest tram line in Japan spanning 3.4 miles and
that provides transportation to ski areas such as Mitsumata,
Kagura, and Tashiro. These ski resorts were used as scenes in
a popular movie in 1987, entitled Watashi wo ski ni turettette,
which means take me skiing, and which influenced many young people
to start the sport. The movie reinforced the ski boom in Japan.
Many skiers and snowboarders enjoy the unique combination of
musical concerts and ski slopes. A famous Japanese singer, Yuming,
presents a special concert at the Naeba Prince Hotel every winter.
TV ski commercials also reinforced the ski boom. Alpen is one
of the top sports equipment retail stores with outlets all over
Japan. Its ski commercial series has been popular since 1992,
using songs such as “Romance no Kamisama,” which
means God of Romance Song by Koumi Hirose. The commercials linked
images of romance with skiing and snowboarding.
Moreover, the Winter Olympics sensationally attracted people
to Japan’s ski slopes. The Winter Olympic Games were
held at Nagano in 1998. Tae Satoya won the first gold medal
mogul. In the long jump, Kazuyoshi Funaki won the gold medal,
and Masahiko Harada won the bronze. Also, Team Japan won the
gold medal for the group jump games.
Most ski resorts provide hotels or inns and ski outfits for
rental. Also, they offer ski schools or private lessons.
provide a gondola to carry skiers to the top of a ski slope,
which allows guests to travel to skiing points at a greater
speeds compared with a regular lift.
Skiing is one of the social sports today. Many people go
to ski resorts by car, after work on Friday night, for the
Also, many universities have ski clubs and university students
enjoy skiing or practicing for ski competitions.
Skiing has become more convenient. Ski equipment is heavy,
so major delivery companies deliver ski equipment to hotels
one to two days. Skiers no longer need to carry their equipment
uphill due to this service.
With the popularity of skiing and snowboarding, problems
have arisen. Some beginners are not able to get on or
off a lift
by themselves, so they sometimes make a whole lift stop
Passengers often have to wait on the lift, high above
a forest, until it is restarted.
Another problem is an increase of injuries. In 1995,
there were 608 ski accidents and 805 snowboard accidents,
Far East Research Co. Of the snowboard accidents, 88
percent of the victims had snowboarded fewer than 10
prevent in covering to skiers, some ski slopes are
either not available
for snowboarding, or provide separate areas for snowboarding.