Archives: 2012年5月

With happiness of skiing and reverence for nature in my heart.

Former Mayor, Kutchan
ITO Hiroshi

ITO Hiroshi served as the mayor of Kutchan for 12 years since 1995. During his term of office, Hirafu had changed dramatically. He talks about his thoughts on skiing and memories during his service.

第46回、元 倶知安町長  伊藤 弘さん

I was born in Muroran, 1942. I love skiing since I could remember. I went to Kutchan high school by train from Nepp (now Kuromatsunai). The lifts of Hirafu were opened in my third year of high school. KIDA Yoshinari under one grade, came aboard the train I was riding in Rankoshi. I was not able to ski down the “Ni-kabe” very well at that time yet. KIDA overtook me often with outstanding skill of skiing. I thought jokingly that KIDA was younger than me but cheeky. He participated in the Innsbruck Olympic Games and the Grenoble Olympic Games Olympics later.

After graduating from high school, while I was going to a night college, I worked in Hokkaido prefectural government. I worked mainly with regard to fisheries. Even though I was out in the world, of course, I did not lose my passion for skiing. When I was a manager, I was encouraged to run for Kutchan mayor by various people. I thought that if I became the mayor of Kutchan, I could ski in Hirafu more frequently than now at the bottom of my heart. I can say now such a trivial reason was one of motives to run for the election.
When I became the mayor, I formed a “JAGATA Ski Team” in the town office. (“JAGA” means potato that is famous produce in Kutchan.) On the Internet was beginning to spread at that time; we sent the information of the ski team. Through it, we were able to interact with people outside of Hokkaido. I was known as the mayor of loving ski, so Kutchan became more famous. I always wore the jacket with the character of the town “JAGATA” on my back on the slopes. My handle name on the net was also “JAGATA”.

第46回、じゃが太君ジャケットを着た伊藤 弘さん(元 倶知安町長  )

No matter how much I build up stress in the office, skiing relieved me from it. I used to ski about 40 times in a year. I was looking forward to skiing with the torch of the new year. I was so crazy about ski that some officer might possibly be bored.

Hokkaido Takushoku Bank went bankrupt in November 1997. Hokuyo Bank was the main bank of St. Moritz Lifts company that was operating Alpen Lifts. However, since loans of Hokkaido Takushoku Bank in Hokkaido were transferred to Hokuyo Bank, Hokuyo Bank evaluated loans more strictly. St. Moritz Lifts company had been suffering from excessive debt through capital investment. I heard that assets of St. Moritz Lifts company might be seized.

The opening of the ski season of the year was just around the corner. If assets of St. Moritz Lifts company would be seized, the lifts could not be operated. And I concluded that cancellation of lift service adversely affect the economy of the town. Immediately I went to the head office of Hokuyo Bank (Sapporo), and I petitioned to continue operation of the lift. Eventually, Hokuyo Bank decided that they would restructure St. Moritz Lifts company. So we avoided difficulty. In the 21st century, the two lift companies, St. Moritz Lifts company and Niseko Kogen Kanko company, merged into the one company as Niseko Grand Hirafu. I think that the form of today is very good as a result.

I met a lot of people through skiing, and they got to know Kutchan. I was called “Mr. JAGATA” often on the slopes. They didn’t know I was the mayor, and I was their fellow who purely loves to ski. I used to guide après-ski, not to speak of the slopes. To increase the tourism from Australia, I visited Australia as part of the Visit Japan Campaign by Japanese government. I promoted actively the attractiveness of Hirafu to travel agencies and travel related companies.

When I got off the lift at 1000m-Daichi, blizzard was blowing. I did not see anything, did not know left from right, all of my sight was just pure white. In such conditions, I had to endure snowstorm alone. Then mountains, snow and nature awed me. I believe that people should always keep the feelings of reverence for nature. I am happy because I met skiing in my life.

The origin of the “town of ski” is inviting the plywood factory.

Former Mayor, Kutchan

MIYASHITA Yuichiro was deeply involved in opening of the lifts in December 1961, as a town official of Kutchan. He served three terms as the mayor since 1983. In the initial plan, the lifts were not for skiing, but for transportation of bamboo grass, raw material for plywood. The details are written in the 11th and 12th installment s in this series.

第45回、元 倶知安町長  宮下 雄一郎さん

In January 1959, TAKAHASHI Seikichi, the former chief of Shiribeshi branch office, was elected mayor of Kutchan for the first time. Mayor Takahashi created the planning office in the general affairs division for inviting companies and promoting tourism. I became the first chief of the planning office at 34 years of age. The mayor went in person for the invitation of Hokkaido fiberboards’ plywood factory. Raw material of the plywood is bamboo grass. I was accompanied to the mayor.

As a result of the effort, we succeeded in inviting the factory. Factory construction headquarters was established in the town office. Mayor Takahashi himself was appointed a chief of the headquarters.

Please read the 11th and 12th installments in this series about the background of changing the purpose of the lifts from the plywood factory to skiing. Miyashita was involved as a management staff of the 40th All Japan Ski Championship Alpine competition. The competition was an opportunity for the ski-lift installation in Hirafu. For more information about the competition, please read the 14th installment in this series.

The 40th All Japan Championship Alpine skiing competition, with honor of the attendance of Takamatsunomiya, was a major event since the beginning of the town. Mayor TAKAHASHI Seikichi became a chief of the competition management headquarters.

Clearing snow (for example, a distance of 4km between Hirafu station and the Hirafu ski area) and development of race courses were carried out in full cooperation of the SDF of Kutchan garrison. Shiribeshi branch officials and employees of Japan National Railways (now JR Hokkaido) served on the staff of competition management. They were playing a major part of Kutchan Ski Federation.

Anyway, even the snow removal of the national highway begun only two years before. Parking lots were only trod down without removing snow. Preparing for snow removal of the road, and arrange for power and telephone construction made me hectic. There was no precedent in all things, and we had no example at all.
That’s when we became able to drive cars easily in Kutchan downtown during the winter finally.

In the spring of the year when the competition was held, movement to realize a quasi-national park of Shakotan Niseko area begun. The movement was lead by town mayors of Kutchan, Kaributo (now Niseko) and Rankoshi. Shiribeshi branch office played a central part to set up Shiribeshi tourism liaison committee. Kutchan, Rankoshi, Kaributo, Iwanai, Shakotan, Furubira, Yoichi, Suttsu, Kimobetsu and Otaru were member towns of the committees. Then, Niseko-Shakotan-Otaru Kaigan Quasi-National Park was designated in July 1963. In Kutchan town office, the tourism section was promoted to the tourism division. I became the first chief of the tourism division.
In retrospect, in this time, tourism started to grow to be the key industry, along with the primary industries, in Kutchan.

Other memorable events are the National Sports Festival of skiing held in 1970 and 1986. I am particularly impressed with the event in 1986. Because I just became the mayor, and served as the vice chairman of the executive committee.

The town with only 20,000 populations held the National Sports Festival twice. That brought a lot of confidence and pride in residents and concerned persons.