Japan was the first country in Asia to host the 1972 Winter Olympics. Since then, the popularity of these sports has grown, with Japan hosting the first two Asian Winter Games in 1986 and 1990. in addition to the Winter Olympics in Nagano in 1998. The cold air mass coming from Siberia causes some regions to the north of Japan to receive heavy snowfall in winter.
Another factor that favors winter sports in Japan is its geographical composition. Four fifths of Japan are made up of mountains. On the main island of Honshu, for example, run the Japanese Alps. The peaks of some mountains in this chain reach 2,500 meters and are covered with snow in winter. Many of these areas can be reached by train or road.
Participation in various international competitions has increased interest and helped improve the athletes’ techniques. The first international winter tournament held in Japan after World War II was the speed skating tournament. Japan has been a great participant in these sports since the second Winter Olympics was held in Switzerland in 1928. With the exception of Oslo 1948, Japan has participated in all winter tournaments.
The 11th edition of the Winter Olympics took place in Sapporo, Hokkaido in 1972. It attracted 1,128 athletes from 35 different countries and was the first time that a Japanese athlete won the gold medal in the 70-meter ski jump. The 18th edition took place in Nagano in 1998, which featured 2,300 athletes from 72 different countries. On this occasion, Japan obtained five medals, in the categories of ski jumping, speed skiing and freestyle skiing.
Most of the winter sports areas in Honshu can be accessed by train and the mountain can be climbed by chairlift. Many ski areas are located along the Joetsu Line, which ends in Tokyo. Zao is a resort on the edge of Miyagi and Yamagata prefectures, and has a reputation for being the largest and best-equipped ski area in the Tohoku region. It is also famous for its “snow monsters”, ice-covered pine trees. Another very popular region is Hokkaido, the northernmost region of Japan. There you can ski until the end of April. It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner or an expert, there are several hills of different difficulty here.
Today, winter holidays are about more than sports. Like many aspects of everyday life, recreation spaces in Japan have accelerated and the ways in which people enjoy sports have changed. Before, going skiing meant staying in a ryokan, or a hostel run by families. However today ski areas with large hotels have sprung up and there is more to do than ski. There is a wide variety of Japanese, Chinese and European food restaurants, golf courses, shopping centers and spas. Today, winter sports offer more than sports.