How did Japan become industrialized in the 1940s as one of the greatest powder skiing destinations in the world?

American skier Hayden Buck in Hokkaido, Japan. Image is in public domain, Flickr.

When most people think of Japan, they might think of Tokyo, sushi, or ramen. Most people would never guess that some of the best skiing in the world is in Japan, in a small island north of Tokyo called Hokkaido. Now, skiing is the largest part of the economy in Hokkaido, as it serves as a tourist destination as well as a site for locals to indulge in some of the best skiing in the world. The unique geographic positioning of Japan allows the snow to be a perfect balance of wet and dry and creates some of the best powder “pillows” that skiers dream of. Because of Japan’s snow, as well as the unique and beautiful environment, the industrialization of skiing has taken over the island of Hokkaido. However, this happened only in the past century, and skiing has been around for centuries in other areas especially in Europe. How did skiing become introduced and then embraced in Hokkaido? How did it contribute to the industrialization of the entire island to be ski focused instead of primarily fishery and mines?

Trail map of small resort in Niseko, Hokkaido, Japan. Image is in public domain, Flickr.


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