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§45 People makes Hirafu colorful (8)

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.