National

Akie Abe urges older leisure-seekers to ski again

by Yoshino Matsui

Kyodo

In an attempt to revive the popularity of skiing in Japan, an event will soon be held in Yamagata Prefecture to lure back middle-aged people who used to hit the slopes during the go-go days of the late 1980s bubble economy.

The event’s bizarre name — translated as “I’ll Go Skiing Even If You Don’t Take Me” — is a pun in Japanese on the 1987 blockbuster film “Take Me Skiing.” The idea was conceived of when Akie Abe, the 52-year-old wife of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and one of the organizers of the event, went skiing with friends in Fukushima Prefecture in 2013.

“It was my first ski trip in a really long time and was so much fun,” she recently said via email.

She and her friends laughed out loud on the lift, recalling “how we were adorable and innocent during the ’80s like the heroine of the film” and agreed the “air of dignity we have now” no longer makes it possible to utter such a cute phrase like “take me skiing.”

Abe said she laments the rapid disappearance of skiers over the past two decades.

According to an annual survey by the Japan Productivity Center, the skiing population hit an all-time high of 18.6 million in 1993, the year the boom sparked by the film peaked. By the end of 2010, the number had fallen to 5.7 million.

After the trip to Fukushima, Abe and her friends decided to hold an event to promote the sport.

It is scheduled for Feb. 27 to March 1 at Yamagata Zao Onsen Ski Resort and targets fellow members of the “bubble generation.” Abe said she believes it is a good time for them to return to the slopes now that their children are grown and their careers are maturing.

“They have weathered a difficult time in child-rearing and work. Combined with a recent pickup in the economy, they are now able to enjoy winter sports again,” she said.

The first lady will serve as honorary president of the event, which will be organized by people including representatives from the sightseeing industry and professional skiers, who will give lessons to the participants.

For the after-skiing entertainment, a disco party — another popular pastime from the booming 1980s — will be held under the supervision of Japanese disco pioneer DJ Osshy, who will play hits from the era.

The organizers hope the event will also contribute to Tohoku’s recovery from the March 2011 disasters.

The organizers are taking applications via the official event website (ski80s.jp/index.html) and plans to accept about 150 people.