History of Japanese Figure Skating | Golden Skate

History of Japanese Figure Skating

BlissfulSynergy

Record Breaker
Joined
Sep 1, 2020
Country
Olympics
I learned in James R. Hines' book, Figure skating in the formative years (2015), that there were Japanese competitors at the World championships as early as the 1930s! Previously, I had thought Japanese competitors first competed at Worlds in the 1950s.

Hines covers the early beginnings of the sport, through the start of organized ISU competitions up to 1939. I learned about the first Japanese competitors by reading Hines' Addendum, which had full lists of competitors at major competitions, including Worlds, Europeans, etc. Under ladies singles, the first Japanese female competitor at Worlds was Etsuko Inada. She placed 10th out of 17 competitors at 1936 Worlds in Paris, France. She was 12 years old. Inada competed that same year at the Winter Olympics in Germany, again placing 10th (out of 23).

The first Japanese male competitors at Worlds competed in 1932. Worlds was held in Montreal that year. The competitors from Japan were: Kazuyoshi Oimatsu (7th), and Ryoichi Obitani (8th). There were only 9 male competitors that year. In 1936, at Paris Worlds, Kazuyoshi Oimatsu competed again, placing 15th out of 17 male competitors. Oimatsu was joined by teammates, Toshikazu Katayama (13th); Zenjiro Watanabe (16th); and Tsugio Hasegawa (17th). In 1932, Oimatsu and Obitani competed at the 1932 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, finishing 9th and 12th out of 12 competitors. The same Japanese male skaters who were at 1936 Worlds, also competed at the 1936 Olympics with female compatriot, Inada.

I wonder if Japanese fed has a museum where this history is documented? The sport, in general, does not seem to place much energy into celebrating its history. The history of fs is fascinating to me. It would be nice to learn more about these athletes. Since the Hines book only covers competitions through 1939, there are no lists of competitors provided beyond that year. During that era some countries, including Japan, frowned upon couples performing close together in public, so pairs and ice dance were not disciplines pursued by Japanese competitors.

I did further checking and found an article on the history of Japanese figure skating from Ryan Stevens' skateguard blog, an invaluable historical resource! 👏 Ryan provides more detailed information, especially about Inada, with photos. The 1940 Winter Olympics was scheduled to take place in Sapporo, Japan, but was canceled due to WWII, thus setting back international competitive progress for Japanese figure skaters until Nobuo Sato in the 1950s. Sato is a famous coach, as well as a 10-time Japanese National champion (and the father of Yuka Sato).

 

denise3lz

On the Ice
Joined
Apr 10, 2018
Country
Japan
few tidbit

Fritzi Burger, 2 time Olympic silver medalist (1928, 32) married to Japanese men and lived some period in Japan.
She was one of person infuenced early Japanese Figure Skating.

Tsuyako Yamashita, 2 time National champion (1954, 55) began coaching after retirement in 1955.
Her first student was Nobuo Sato and Kumiko Okawa.
Her own daughter Kazumi Yamashita competed Grenoble(1968) and Sapporo(1972) Olympics.
Her last student was Rika Kihira.
She died in 2021 aged 92.
 
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sadya

On the Ice
Joined
Feb 10, 2006
Country
Netherlands
The only name I know is Inada because of skating documentaries. I had no idea there were more international competitors.

And Burger was married to a Japanese man. Looking her up, I only now learn her family was Jewish and after the annexation of Austria she moved to Britain with her husband. She also lived in Japan and the US. Is there a documentary about her life?

I wonder if there is footage of the early Japanese skaters.
 

denise3lz

On the Ice
Joined
Apr 10, 2018
Country
Japan
Japanense version of Wikipedia "History of Figure Skating"

1877 An American teacher William P. Brooks brought skates to Japan.
1897 An American called Debison taught Figure Skating to children at moat of Aoba castle in Sendai.
1909 A German teacher called Wilhelm taught basics to high schooler in Sendai.
1914 Shirou Kawakubo translated "A Handbook of Figure Skating" by George Henry Browne.
1920 Kawakubo established umbrella organization of skating.
1922 All Japan competition was held in Nagano.
1924 1st Intercollegiate was held.
1925 Joined to ISU.
1929 JSF was established.
1930 1st Japan Figure Skating Championships was held.
 

denise3lz

On the Ice
Joined
Apr 10, 2018
Country
Japan
Kozo Nagai was known as Etsuko Inada's coach.

He wasn't competitive skater.
He initially went europe to learn painting.
He was fascinated with skating instead.
He found Inada at Osaka rink and offered volunteer coaching.
Inada's parents paid for him.

Nagai was also coached Tsuyako Yamahsita (nee Ikuta) and Kinuko Ueno (nee Nakamura).
He re-started coaching when he could it after WW2.
Being aged man, he appointed a former woman student as assistant.
She brought ten years old her son named Nobuo to the rink.
Nagai coached Nobuo Sato only 3 days before his death.



Kinuko Ueno was silver medalist of 1938-39 Nationals
but couldn't competed 1940 winter olympic because of WW2.
After WW2, she began coaching and involved to organize FS clubs in Kobe.
She later became ISU judge and assistant referee in 1972 olympic and judge in 1980 olympic.

Her daughter is Junko Hiramatsu (nee Ueno), 5 time national champion and two time olympian.
As ISU Referee and ISU technical controller, Hiramatsu was one of person to enact current ISU judging system.
 
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Diana Delafield

Frequent flyer
Medalist
Joined
Oct 22, 2022
Country
Canada
I learned in James R. Hines' book, Figure skating in the formative years (2015), that there were Japanese competitors at the World championships as early as the 1930s! Previously, I had thought Japanese competitors first competed at Worlds in the 1950s.

Hines covers the early beginnings of the sport, through the start of organized ISU competitions up to 1939. I learned about the first Japanese competitors by reading Hines' Addendum, which had full lists of competitors at major competitions, including Worlds, Europeans, etc. Under ladies singles, the first Japanese female competitor at Worlds was Etsuko Inada. She placed 10th out of 17 competitors at 1936 Worlds in Paris, France. She was 12 years old. Inada competed that same year at the Winter Olympics in Germany, again placing 10th (out of 23).

The first Japanese male competitors at Worlds competed in 1932. Worlds was held in Montreal that year. The competitors from Japan were: Kazuyoshi Oimatsu (7th), and Ryoichi Obitani (8th). There were only 9 male competitors that year. In 1936, at Paris Worlds, Kazuyoshi Oimatsu competed again, placing 15th out of 17 male competitors. Oimatsu was joined by teammates, Toshikazu Katayama (13th); Zenjiro Watanabe (16th); and Tsugio Hasegawa (17th). In 1932, Oimatsu and Obitani competed at the 1932 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, finishing 9th and 12th out of 12 competitors. The same Japanese male skaters who were at 1936 Worlds, also competed at the 1936 Olympics with female compatriot, Inada.

I wonder if Japanese fed has a museum where this history is documented? The sport, in general, does not seem to place much energy into celebrating its history. The history of fs is fascinating to me. It would be nice to learn more about these athletes. Since the Hines book only covers competitions through 1939, there are no lists of competitors provided beyond that year. During that era some countries, including Japan, frowned upon couples performing close together in public, so pairs and ice dance were not disciplines pursued by Japanese competitors.

I did further checking and found an article on the history of Japanese figure skating from Ryan Stevens' skateguard blog, an invaluable historical resource! 👏 Ryan provides more detailed information, especially about Inada, with photos. The 1940 Winter Olympics was scheduled to take place in Sapporo, Japan, but was canceled due to WWII, thus setting back international competitive progress for Japanese figure skaters until Nobuo Sato in the 1950s. Sato is a famous coach, as well as a 10-time Japanese National champion (and the father of Yuka Sato).

I saw Nobuo Sato skate in the 1960 Worlds in Vancouver at the old Forum. Or at least, I still have the program that says I was there. I was one of the little flower girls, though (which at that time meant giving bouquets to the medallists, not picking up flowers tossed on the ice, which wasn't done then). I can't honestly say I remember seeing any of the competitors actually skate. My big brother and his fiancee were in the audience, more to see me trot out holding a bouquet as big as I was than to see the skating. By the end of the long evening, they went backstage to pick me up as arranged and I'd fallen asleep on a bench in the dressing room, and my brother had to carry me out to his car so they could drive me home, zonked out the whole time. So I can't say it was a vivid memory, although I'm pretty sure I had a new blue skating dress for the occasion :love:.
 

denise3lz

On the Ice
Joined
Apr 10, 2018
Country
Japan
I did further checking and found an article on the history of Japanese figure skating from Ryan Stevens' skateguard blog, an invaluable historical resource! 👏 Ryan provides more detailed information, especially about Inada, with photos. The 1940 Winter Olympics was scheduled to take place in Sapporo, Japan, but was canceled due to WWII, thus setting back international competitive progress for Japanese figure skaters until Nobuo Sato in the 1950s. Sato is a famous coach, as well as a 10-time Japanese National champion (and the father of Yuka Sato).

I found that he wrote more than 10 articles about history of Japanese figure skating after this overview.
Great blog.
 

denise3lz

On the Ice
Joined
Apr 10, 2018
Country
Japan
Mitsuhiko Kozuka started skating in Manchuria.
After WW2, he returned to Nagoya, Japan.
He organized local federation in 1948.
He helped to make first ice rink of the region, named Nagoya Sports Center in 1953.
He coached future leading coach Machiko Yamada and Yuko Monna.
He invited USSR skaters to exhibition before NHK trophy established in 1979.
His son Tsuguhiko is 3 time national champion and 1968 olympian.
His grandson Takahiko is national champion and 2010 olympian 2011 world silver medalist.
From 1989, Kozuka trophy competition have been held.
He died in 2011, aged 95.
 

SkateGuardBlog

Rinkside
Joined
Nov 11, 2022
I wonder if Japanese fed has a museum where this history is documented? The sport, in general, does not seem to place much energy into celebrating its history. The history of fs is fascinating to me. It would be nice to learn more about these athletes. Since the Hines book only covers competitions through 1939, there are no lists of competitors provided beyond that year. During that era some countries, including Japan, frowned upon couples performing close together in public, so pairs and ice dance were not disciplines pursued by Japanese competitors.

I did further checking and found an article on the history of Japanese figure skating from Ryan Stevens' skateguard blog, an invaluable historical resource! 👏 Ryan provides more detailed information, especially about Inada, with photos. The 1940 Winter Olympics was scheduled to take place in Sapporo, Japan, but was canceled due to WWII, thus setting back international competitive progress for Japanese figure skaters until Nobuo Sato in the 1950s. Sato is a famous coach, as well as a 10-time Japanese National champion (and the father of Yuka Sato).


Thanks so much for sharing @BlissfulSynergy! I'm not very active on here so I didn't see this until now. I'd love to do more on Japanese skating history, but the language barrier makes it very challenging. I did a piece on Ryuichi Obitani, who was one of the Japanese men who competed at the 1932 Olympics a couple years back. Another really interesting story I worked on was that of Jack B. Jost, an American skater who was drafted to serve in the Korean War, who won the Japanese men's title in the 50s. As for museums, I don't believe there is one dedicated to Japanese skating history, though the Sapporo Olympic Museum does have some skating memorabilia including a pair of Midori Ito's skates.

Sadly, figure skating history is something that is hugely underfunded and supported by most skating associations, as well as the ISU.
 

BlissfulSynergy

Record Breaker
Joined
Sep 1, 2020
Country
Olympics
Thanks so much for sharing @BlissfulSynergy! I'm not very active on here so I didn't see this until now. I'd love to do more on Japanese skating history, but the language barrier makes it very challenging. I did a piece on Ryuichi Obitani, who was one of the Japanese men who competed at the 1932 Olympics a couple years back. Another really interesting story I worked on was that of Jack B. Jost, an American skater who was drafted to serve in the Korean War, who won the Japanese men's title in the 50s. As for museums, I don't believe there is one dedicated to Japanese skating history, though the Sapporo Olympic Museum does have some skating memorabilia including a pair of Midori Ito's skates.

Sadly, figure skating history is something that is hugely underfunded and supported by most skating associations, as well as the ISU.
Hi Ryan! It's great to hear from you. I found out so much from your Skateguard blog that filled in a lot of fascinating details, and put faces to some of the names of Japanese competitors listed in James Hines' book. Thanks for all you do. And thanks for letting us know about the skating memorabilia at the Sapporo Olympic Museum. 😊

I want to remind everyone to check out your Skateguard blog, and your Instagram! I also enjoyed the wonderful interview about early skating history that you did with PJ Kwong circa 2021. I saw it on YouTube early last year. Also, thanks for the books you have published! I am still enjoying the two I purchased recently, Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps (Foreword by Donald Jackson); and Jackson Haines: The Skating King. 👌👏

You deserve so much credit and praise, Ryan, for keeping figure skating history alive! 🩵🎗❤️
 

SkateGuardBlog

Rinkside
Joined
Nov 11, 2022
Hi Ryan! It's great to hear from you. I found out so much from your Skateguard blog that filled in a lot of fascinating details, and put faces to some of the names of Japanese competitors listed in James Hines' book. Thanks for all you do. And thanks for letting us know about the skating memorabilia at the Sapporo Olympic Museum. 😊

I want to remind everyone to check out your Skateguard blog, and your Instagram! I also enjoyed the wonderful interview about early skating history that you did with PJ Kwong circa 2021. I saw it on YouTube early last year. Also, thanks for the books you have published! I am still enjoying the two I purchased recently, Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps (Foreword by Donald Jackson); and Jackson Haines: The Skating King. 👌👏

You deserve so much credit and praise, Ryan, for keeping figure skating history alive! 🩵🎗❤️

That's so kind of you to say! :) I've been at this for over a decade now and I wouldn't do the work I do if I wasn't passionate about it. Jim Hines deserves a lot of credit for the important work he did. Ben Wright, who wrote the ISU and USFSA history, took Jim under his wing with it in mind he would take over his role. Sadly, both of them have since passed away.

Glad you enjoyed the book and hope you enjoy reading my next one, which is coming out in September. :)
 

BlissfulSynergy

Record Breaker
Joined
Sep 1, 2020
Country
Olympics
Ben Wright was so wonderful! He was a lifetime contributor to figure skating as a competitor, judge, ISU official, usfigsk president, and historian, among many roles. I had the honor and privilege of speaking to him once. He was so generous with his time and knowledge! I am so glad you were friends, Ryan, and that he passed a lot of his knowledge on to you.

Thanks for sharing that about Ben Wright taking Jim Hines under his wing! 💞 I didn't know that. I was also unaware that Mr. Hines has recently passed away, too. 😢 Everyone should read the revealing books written by James R. Hines. What I have learned in Mr. Hines' books has expanded my understanding of the breadth and depth of figure skating.

Thank you, Ryan, for carrying on their legacy. ✨️ Kudos to you, too, for your passion and dedication, which matches what Ben Wright and Jim Hines gave to the sport. 🥹
 

Diana Delafield

Frequent flyer
Medalist
Joined
Oct 22, 2022
Country
Canada
That's so kind of you to say! :) I've been at this for over a decade now and I wouldn't do the work I do if I wasn't passionate about it. Jim Hines deserves a lot of credit for the important work he did. Ben Wright, who wrote the ISU and USFSA history, took Jim under his wing with it in mind he would take over his role. Sadly, both of them have since passed away.

Glad you enjoyed the book and hope you enjoy reading my next one, which is coming out in September. :)
I pre-ordered the new book, and having been in competition during the era it covers, am interested to see how many of the rumours that used to reach Canadian club dressing rooms were true or just gossip ;):ghug:.
 

SkateGuardBlog

Rinkside
Joined
Nov 11, 2022
Ben Wright was so wonderful! He was a lifetime contributor to figure skating as a competitor, judge, ISU official, usfigsk president, and historian, among many roles. I had the honor and privilege of speaking to him once. He was so generous with his time and knowledge! I am so glad you were friends, Ryan, and that he passed a lot of his knowledge on to you.

Thanks for sharing that about Ben Wright taking Jim Hines under his wing! 💞 I didn't know that. I was also unaware that Mr. Hines has recently passed away, too. 😢 Everyone should read the revealing books written by James R. Hines. What I have learned in Mr. Hines' books has expanded my understanding of the breadth and depth of figure skating.

Thank you, Ryan, for carrying on their legacy. ✨️ Kudos to you, too, for your passion and dedication, which matches what Ben Wright and Jim Hines gave to the sport. 🥹

Thank you so much for kind words - they mean a lot! ❤️ Ben was amazing! He had a textbook knowledge of the sport's history - much of which he experienced first hand and/or had a role in through the ISU and USFSA. He was still judging dance tests in his 90s, had an incredible memory and was able to share some wonderful insights into the sport's early stars with me. Jim Hines wrote one last book not long before he passed away called "The End of The Compulsories", which talks all about the history of the compulsory figures and compulsory dances. He only did a print run of 100 copies, but if you can get your hands on a copy - it is a gem.

I pre-ordered the new book, and having been in competition during the era it covers, am interested to see how many of the rumours that used to reach Canadian club dressing rooms were true or just gossip ;):ghug:.

Thank you so much for your support Diana and I really hope you enjoy the book. If you're looking for a gossipy tell-all, that's not what this book is, but I put in just enough scandals and backstage stories that I think people will find it interesting. Hope you enjoy reading it!

Thank you both so much for your kind comments but I hate hijacking the Japanese skating history thread to answer them - Who's got some early Japanese skating history Q's to stump me? LOL
 

sisinka

Medalist
Joined
Nov 25, 2006
Thanks for this topic.

I think that every country has interesting history in figure skating, it would be nice to have Main Thread (like the Edge, Le Cafe, ...) : History of Figure Skating with Threads of different countries and their beginning with this beautiful sport. Also having other Threads with skating history - boots, edges would be interesting.
 

CoyoteChris

Record Breaker
Joined
Dec 4, 2004
Ice skating was wildly popular at the Heart mountain internment camp where Kristy Yamavuchi''s grand mother was interned. If you ever go to Cody WY, stop at the camp' s museum and look at the skates and pics.
 
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