Japan’s snowboarding medal wins at Beijing Olympics sparking interest in the sport Share

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Participants in a snowboarding class learn basic skills from an instructor, right, at the Dynaland ski resort in Gujo, Gifu Prefecture, on Friday.

An increasing number of people are becoming interested in snowboarding after watching Japanese snowboarders win medals at the Beijing Winter Olympics.

Snowboard classes in many parts of the country have seen a surge in participants, and snowboards are selling well at sporting goods shops.

The number of snowboarders in Japan has decreased dramatically since the early 2000s when the figure peaked, leading those involved in the sport hoping that the Olympics will stimulate demand.

“I wonder what kind of scenery snowboarders are seeing while performing air tricks,” Shuhei Kato, 18, of Nishi Ward, Nagoya, said on Friday at the Dynaland ski resort in Gujo, Gifu Prefecture, where the third-year high school student was snowboarding for the first time.

About 100 people a day on weekends participate in the snowboard class that Kato took.

“The number of participants increased by 30% compared to last year,” said Hiroki Wada, 36, who runs the classes. “Since Gifu Prefecture-native snowboarder Kokomo Murase won bronze at the Beijing Winter Olympics, I think my classes will have more students going forward.”

On Feb. 11, when Ayumu Hirano, 23, won gold in the men’s snowboard halfpipe, five people, including a primary school student and twentysomethings, visited the Ushidake ski school in Toyama to learn how to snowboard. Many people learn how to ski at the school, but most of the participants during the Feb. 11-13 three-day weekend wanted to learn how to snowboard, according to the school.

The Snowboard Academy, affiliated with Albirex Niigata to which women’s halfpipe bronze medalist Sena Tomita, 22, belongs, has received nearly twice as many inquiries compared to last year. The academy provides information about halfpipe events to those interested in experiencing one.

Snowboarding’s popularity also affects sporting goods stores.

Liberty, a specialty shop in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, sells snowboards and gear from more than 50 makers. According to the store, the number of customers was up about 30% from the same period last year. Many people place orders for the Ayumu Hirano model snowboard.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Customers look at snowboards at Liberty sporting goods store in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, on Thursday.

According to a white paper on leisure activities published by the Japan Productivity Center, there were 1.6 million snowboarders in 2020 in Japan, the lowest number since the organization started collecting statistics on the sport in 1997. That figure represents a nearly 70% drop from the peak of 5.4 million people in 2002. Possible reasons behind the decline include the diversification of hobbies.

The snowboarding community wants to take advantage of the excitement generated by the Olympics to make winter sports popular again.