Okurayama was the main ski jump used in the 1972 Winter Olympic Games, hosting the 90 meter Large Hill events. It has spectacular views over Sapporo city. Okurayama is a prime training facility for Nordic events, and athletes ranging from World Cup participants to high school students can regularly be seen flying off the hill. Unless there is a major event in process, anybody can take the chairlift to the top of the ski jump where you can look “straight down the barrel”, the same view the ski jumpers see when sitting on the plank preparing to plunge down the glide.
This destination can be enjoyed in any season, as the jump hill has even been resurfaced with Astroturf to enable training for ski jumping in the middle of summer. If you use Google Earth, the coordinates are 43°03’04″ N 141°17’17″E. Okurayama Jump Hill has completed a five-year makeover to meet the new standards of the FIS (International Ski Federation) – it is one of the best jump stadiums in the world, with state of the art facilities and excellent spectator comforts.
Sapporo has several major ski areas, but Okurayama Jump Station is by far the most famous. The Okurayama hill was originally built in 1931 using a private budget of 50,000 yen, with the personal assistance of Yasuhito (Crown Prince Chichibu, the then Emperor’s younger brother). It was a smaller facility, a 60 meter class jump about the same as the current medium hill. The stadium was then donated to the City of Sapporo as part of an on-going government sponsored program to encourage participation in sports and the development of athletes capable of competing internationally. A few months after opening it was named Okura by the Mayor (also the Chairman of the Sapporo Ski Association)
It was completely redeveloped at a cost of 770,000,000 yen for the 1972 Sapporo Olympics, the first time the games were held outside Europe or the USA. The new facility was named Okurayama, and became one of what was then only a handful of 90 meter class jumping hills in the world with a 110 meter K point and room for 50,000 spectators.
Ski jumping has a particularly important place in the memory of Japanese winter sports fans, because the first medals won by Japan at Olympic level were won here in Sapporo in 1972, when Yukio Kasaya, Akitsugu Konno and Seiji Aochi won gold, silver and bronze respectively in the Normal Hill event – the first time a non-European country had managed a clean sweep in any Winter Olympic event. Those medals were not won on the Okurayama Hill though, as this facility was the host of the Large Hill event (the gold being won by the brilliant Polish jumper Wojciech Fortuna). The feats of Kasaya, Konno and Aochi were performed off the nearby Miyanomori Jump Hill (70 meters).
Okurayama is easily visible from Odori Park, when night jumps during major events are illuminated, and amongst Japanese spectators ski jumping is one of the most popular winter sports. Kazuyoshi Funaki, a Sapporo resident, is an absolute superstar in this town after winning 2 gold (including 1 team gold) and 1 silver in the 1998 Nagano Games, despite being the youngest member of the Japanese ski jump team at the time. His spectacular 132.5 meter second jump, combined with perfect style points from all five judges – an absolutely unprecedented achievement in the sport – helped him fly from 4th place to gold in 30 seconds of drama that is still vividly remembered here.
The Start House (Okurayama Observatory) can be reached by chair lift anytime the stadium is not being used for world cup or other elite ski jump events, or when maintenance is required. The cost is only 500 Yen, and the lift usually opens at 8:30am, closing in the late afternoon or early evening depending on the season.
The small kiosk in the start house sells some of the best ice cream you will find in Hokkaido, matching the location. The views of Sapporo are awesome, making the hill a popular spot to observe the scenery of Sapporo and the Ishikari Plains. The views are comparable during daylight hours with those of nearby Mt. Moiwa, and of course the views of the jump itself are simply superb, especially when training is in progress.
If ski jumping takes your fancy, after you descend (via the chair lift, though there is a faster, albeit riskier way down) it is worth visiting the wonderful Sapporo Winter Sports Museum located at the bottom of the jump hill. The ski jump simulator is seriously cool, though best avoided if you have just enjoyed lunch.
Lift operations for April 16th – October 31st are 8:30am – 18:00pm, November 1st – March 31st are 9:00am – 17:00pm. The lifts are closed April 1st – April 15th. Contact details are Sapporo, Chuo-ku, Miyanomori 1274, Okurayama Ski Jump Stadium, telephone (011) 641-1972
How to Get There:
Use the Tozai subway line to get to Maruyama Koen station. Take the JR bus headed for Miyanomori Kyogijyo and alight at Okurayama Kyogijyo Iriguchi. It is about a 10 minute stroll from the bus stop. There is a 200 yen shuttle bus operating periodically. By taxi it would cost about 1200 yen from Maruyama Koen station.