Strap on Your Skates in Kansai This Winter

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Umeda Skating Rink

Ice skating goes back a long way. Skates made of animal bones from 5,000 years ago have been found at the bottom of a lake in Switzerland. It is not known when Japanese enthusiasts strapped on their first ice skates but modern skating did not come organically to the country. The Japan Skating Federation organized in 1929 and it was said that “Japan learned skating from the written word.” Skating may not have been a natural recreation in Japan but the people were eager students.

Japanese figure skaters began competing in international competition in the 1932 Olympics and started an inexorable climb up the world rankings. The first artificial ice rink arrived in the country in 1950 and soon there were more than 250 indoor and outdoor rinks across the nation. In 1959 Kazuo Ohashi, a Japanese national figure skating champion four years earlier, built a famous ice slide in Osaka for the Mainichi Broadcasting System Sportland Rink. Skaters would climb stairs to the top and barrel down the course hoping to grab a bit of the wall in self-preservation.

In 1967, the Fuji Kyuko Express Railway Company constructed the largest man-made outdoor skating complex in the world in the shadow of Mt. Fuji. There were five rinks and over 26,000 square metres of ice – about the size of 17 hockey rinks. A typical weekend at Fuji-Q Highland would see about 40,000 people paying admission to glide around the vast expanses of ice.

Ice or No Ice, Osaka and Kobe Are Ready for Skaters

The passion for ice skating in Japan has not abated since. Even though the temperatures in Kobe and Osaka do not drop as far as other places in Japan there are plenty of places to get your wintry fix. Be sure to abide by the common sense rules posted at the area’s public ice rinks. Here are some to try:

Grand Front Osaka. Who needs ice to go ice skating? You can skate to your heart’s content in downtown Osaka at Umekita Plaza on a surface with no water but special resin plates called “Xtraice.” It still gets cold out there so don’t forget your gloves. The rink in Grand Front Osaka will be in operation until February 18, 2017. Last admission is 8:00 p.m. and there is an admission fee; skates are available for rent.

Naniwa Sports Center. Courtesy of the City of Osaka there is no need to wait until the temperatures plunge to get in your sessions on the ice. The Naniwa Sports Center’s ice skating rink is open year-round. The rink is a full 60 metres by 30 metres, ready to host international competition; it is open from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Umie Ice Marina. With the inspiring views of Kobe in the background, skaters take to the ice on the Takahama wharf at Harborland. This is real ice and it is illuminated at night to promote the magic of the moment. There is an admission fee which includes skate rental. Helmets, knee and elbow protectors can all be strapped on courtesy of the rink. The Umie Ice Marina open will be open every day until January 15.

By Mc681 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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