“Ski”, Takada (Joetsu), Japan, c. 1915.

1910sAmusements & RecreationsHistoric EventsSports & Athletics
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“Ski”, Takada, Niigata Prefecture, c. 1915. The caption reads “高田 高等女 スキー 繰習”, trans. “Takada high-class women ski practice.” Takada (now Joetsu) became the birthplace of skiing in Japan when, in 1911, Austrian Maj. Theodor Edler von Lerch first taught skiing to the 58th Infantry Regiment of the Imperial Japanese Army. Unlike modern skiing, which uses long skis and two poles, the method taught by Lerch, a disciple of Matthias Zdarsky, used shorter skis and one pole (as seen used by the skiers above). Every January 12th in Japan is celebrated as “Ski Day” in honor of von Lerch.

“Skiing was introduced into Japan in 1911 by Austrian Army Major Theodor von Lerch who taught Japanese soldiers at Takada [now Joetsu, Niigata Prefecture] the rudiments of the sport. The first Japanese skiers wore skis made of Zelkova wood, and used one simple, long pole instead of the present two.

“As soon as von Lerch completed his instructions a ski club was formed in Takada; such clubs were set up elsewhere in Japan’s snow country as interest in this new sport grew among children and adults. Competitions were held under the auspices of both the army and the new clubs. In 1920, Japan’s first long-distance ski race was held over the 40-kilometer distance between Sapporo and Otaru in Hokkaido.

“In the 1920s, as skiing skills improved and enthusiasm for the sport spread to various parts of the nation, the All-Japan Student Championship Tournaments were organized. The affiliation of the Ski Association of Japan (SAJ), founded in 1925, with the International Ski Federation (FIS) paved the way for the first Japanese participation in the Winter Olympics in 1928 in St. Moritz, Switzerland.”

“More than 8 Million Take to the Slopes: Skiing is the Most Popular Recreational Sport”, Japan Information Service, Consulate General of Japan (NYC), January 16, 1977

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