Niseko has a number of residents who have achieved great feats in their chosen field. One of these is Higashiyama Prince Hotel manager Jiro Kamiharako, who was one of the pioneers of the V ski jump and represented Japan at the 1992 Albertville Olympics. We find out his story and try to convince him to open the restricted areas at Higashiyama while we’re at it.
Why did you decide to move to Niseko?
My company, the Seibu Group, transferred me here eight years ago as manager of the Higashiyama Prince Hotel.
When did you start skiing?
I think I must have been about three. Growing up in Sapporo, right from the start, I was always attracted to skiing and was confident on skis. I loved the sense of speed. Then when I was seven we had the Sapporo Olympics in 1972 – right in our back yard – my friends and I went ski crazy. I started to become interested in the ski jump and there was a boys’ ski jump club in the area. So I joined the Sapporo “Boys Jump Club” and got started on my ski jump career.
How did you begin ski jumping?
I started to practice the ski jump on small jumps when I was about 10. I started the normal hill (70m high) when I was 13, and the large hill (90m high) when I was 15.
How often did you train?
I always loved the training, so I usually trained more than the other boys.
We understand you were one of the first to do the V shaped ski jump.
How did you begin doing the V ski jump? Who was the first to realise it was better?
I initially used the simple parallel style, like everyone else in those days. Then in the summer of 1991, I thought that if I was going to be selected for the Albertville Olympic six months later, I had to do something different. Myself and another younger jumper who I trained regularly with decided to make 1/8 miniature model skis and traveled to the wind tunnel laboratory at Tokyo University to test the aerodynamics of different jump styles. The results showed quite conclusively that the V Jump was better than the traditional parallel style. After that the national team began doing it also.
Japan has a long history of ski jumpers. Did you feel a heavy pressure to perform?
When I was in the starting position for my jump at the Olympics, I imagined that the entire world was watching me on television. Of course I felt pressure then. However for me I felt more pressure at the selection for the Japanese team.
Did the team come close to a medal?
We got 4th in the team event. We never got close to challenging for the bronze.
Do you ever do a full ski jump? When was the last time you did one?
I have not jumped since February 1994.
Are there any plans to open the restricted areas in the Higashiyama bowls?
So far, we have no plan for opening Mizunosawa this winter. We still need to investigate this further.
Drats. Pretty please?
What three things would you recommend all visitors to Higashiyama do?
1) Enjoy the best powder snow on the planet. I have seen so many ski resorts all over the world when I was a ski jump athlete. I think this place Niseko is the No.1 ski area that gets powder snow constantly. I like skiing down from Limited 1 to the course where Natural Half Pipe Masters is held, near the old Gondola.
2) Enjoy the beautiful view of Mt Yotei. My favorite view of Mt Yotei is from Higashiyama, half way down the hill.
3) Enjoy the food. Niseko is lucky; we get fresh seafood and tasty vegetables from the beautiful local environment. People from all over Japan envy the food we get here, so enjoy!