Team 18: Japan

Kieran JonesNovember 1, 20103


Nations Cup Ranking: 18th (353 pts)

Men: 16th (163 pts)

Women: 19th (190 pts)

2010/2011 A Team (Best estimate)


Yuichi Onda

Nobu Naruse


Masako Ishida

Madoka Natsumi

What you may have missed last season:

Two years ago, during the 2008-2009 World Cup season, the Japanese ski team made history. Masako Ishida became the first Japanese national to win a World Cup medal by finishing third in an exciting battle in the 30k in Trondheim, the same day Alex Harvey made Canadian history by also placing third. However, in 2009-2010 on the World Cup, Ishida was shaky at best finishing in the top 10 just once. However, she fared better at the Olympics, saving her magic for another attempt at the podium when it mattered most – but ultimately coming up short and finishing 5th in the 30 k. If you want to know how your favorite Canadian male will do at at a big race, watch Ishida – there seems to be a slight correlation.

Ishida (L) battling for her podium spot with Kowalczyk and Steira

The best of the men’s team was Yuichi Onda, a strong classic sprinter. Despite being sub-par for the majority of the season, he peaked for the Olympics and cracked the heats to finish in the top 20 in the classic sprint. He then rode that peak to the classic city sprint Drammen, and on the same day Andy Newell finished on the podium, the 30 year old journeyman cracked the top 5.

What You Should Know For This Season

There is no reason to think Japanese success is just a flash in the pan. Much like the Canadians and Americans have done in the past few years, the Japanese have been building their squad around a few incredibly talented athletes (Ishida and Onda), and are now working to bring up the level of the others to where they can field a consistently strong team.

Also, despite being 33 years old, retired, and never having had a standout World  Cup season or race, Masaaki Kozu has intensity written all over his face in his FIS profile picture, so the FasterSkier staff is unwilling to write him off completely.

Watch out...

Who You Should Watch

The on man to keep your eye on has to be Nobu Naruse. This past season the 25 year old he was always on the bubble, finishing from 25th to 40th spot a whopping 10 times. Che will be able to throw down consistent fast skate sprints, and at least get some experience.

Kieran Jones

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  • naganoski

    November 2, 2010 at 6:40 am

    Hi, Thanks for the intro to the J team. Living in Nagano and knowing a little bit about the Japan team I should add my two yen’s worth.

    Masako Ishida is the first Japanese to podium in distance skiing, but follows Madoka Natsumi who was 3rd in the Stockholm sprint in 2008. With Masako Ishida she was also 4th in the team sprint at the World Champs in Liberec in 2009, and 5th in the individual sprint at Sapporo World Champs in 2007 – a classic sprint specialist.

    Yuichi Onda has made the Drammen sprint a specialty (loves a crowd) 6th in 2008, and 5th in 2007 (4th in Trondheim in 2009) – all classic – and would like to string more strong results together in one season. That’s as far as my living memory takes me for results for the current squad.

    You’ve got the 4 main Japanese racers picked just right. Currently a squad of 13 are prepping for the start of the World Cup season on the glacier in Tignes, comprising 8 men and 5 women. The biggest change is the Nobuko Fukuda who raced at Vancouver Olympics and has retired from international racing – she will continue to race domestically.

    Why the big squad? In addition to competing for World Cup starts, this year Japan will be racing at the Asian Winter Games (in Almaty, Kazakhstan) and the Universiade in Erzurum, Turkey – there are 6 university students in the squad. Added to last year’s squad are Akira Lenting (5th in the pursuit and 10k classic at the World U20s in 2010), Risa Abe (Japan Universities Champ) and Chihiro Kisahara.

    Hopefully Japan will qualify teams for the relays as well as individuals for Oslo – and keep pushing for overall consistency in results to have a greater impact at World Cup level. It is hard to maintain a team on the road for a long time, especially with no all-rounders competitive for the TdS.

    And just a tip for up-and-comers – Michiko Kashiwabara who was 4th (by a ski tip) in the Pursuit at the World U20s in 2010, will be back for the last time in 2011.

  • Nathaniel Herz

    November 2, 2010 at 7:00 am

    Having been at the World Junior/U-23 Championships last year, I’d add the the Japanese team for those events was really, really impressive. They had six top-five finishes, and a whole handful of folks who ended up no less than a lunge away from a podium. I’ll be really curious to see how that crew progresses…

  • Lars

    November 2, 2010 at 7:49 am

    I love this series of artickles with info about the lesser known teams on the world cup. And id really like for Japan and other ciuntrys to develope and progressin the sport.
    Maybe it could be helped if Japan, Canada and the US got regualr yearly race weekends ?

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