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  1. #1

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    Why not many pairs and ice dancers in Japan?

    Japan has a wealth of talent in singles ladies and men's fields. Is there a reason they don't have many skaters pursuing pairs or ice dance disciplines? It seems at least some good skaters who cannot make the world team in singles should try other disciplines, although I cannot specifically point out those skaters. I don't know enough about the Japanese skaters. However, if they really put their minds to it, I am sure they can progress rapidly in the other two disciplines.

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    Japan certainly have produced world class female pair skaters, so lack of talent is not an issue here:

    Kyoko Ina of Ina/Jason Dungjen and John Zimmerman;
    Rena Inoue of Inoue/Baldwin;
    Yuko Kawaguchi of Kavaguti/Smernoff;
    Narumi Takahashi of Takahashi/Tran.

    However, all these female pair skaters share one thing in common: all their partners are non-Japanese male skaters.

    I have read somewhere (maybe here or Golden Skate board?) that Japanese are overly concerned about being responsible for female pair skaters' injuries resulting from many dangerous looking tricks. Hence the lack of male pair skaters.

    I've lived abroad too long to know current prevailing wisdom in Japan, so someone more knowledgeable can enlighten us.

    As for ice dancing, Japan have had no tradition of couple/pair dancing like Russia (world class classical ballet), N. America (swing, broadway, etc), and Latin countries (Latin dance, whatelse .

    I know I am overgeneralizing it, but Japanese dance tradition is classical Japanese dance, and Noh, both of which are danced alone (or sometimes in group), expressing one's interiority.

    However, popularity of Reeds and/or the Shibs are slowly converting more skaters to ice dancing. For instance, I have noticed that there were only two dance entry at 2010 Japanese nationals; this year though, there were four entries without the Reeds.

    With the addtion of group tournament to olys, my guess is that the Japanese federation may become more active in encouraging the development of pair/ice dancing team formations - at least I certainly hope that's the direction they are going.
    Last edited by mineko; 12-25-2011 at 10:32 PM. Reason: adding addtional thought

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    I thought one of the reasons frequently stated for Japanese men not attempting pairs is that Japanese men's physiques in general are not equal to the Western and/or Chinese men? (Not as tall or as broad as most pair guys are in general and, therefore, less likely to have the height/strength to complete the required pairs moves?) I'm sure there are Japanese men who are tall enough/broad enough, but are they figure skaters?

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    Quote Originally Posted by mineko View Post
    However, popularity of Reeds and/or the Shibs are slowly converting more skaters to ice dancing. For instance, I have noticed that there were only two dance entry at 2010 Japanese nationals; this year though, there were four entries without the Reeds.

    With the addtion of group tournament to olys, my guess is that the Japanese federation may become more active in encouraging the development of pair/ice dancing team formations - at least I certainly hope that's the direction they are going.
    Damnit I knew I should have moved to Japan. I could have barely skated and still won a bronze medal at nationals!

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    Quote Originally Posted by easilydistracte View Post
    I thought one of the reasons frequently stated for Japanese men not attempting pairs is that Japanese men's physiques in general are not equal to the Western and/or Chinese men? (Not as tall or as broad as most pair guys are in general and, therefore, less likely to have the height/strength to complete the required pairs moves?) I'm sure there are Japanese men who are tall enough/broad enough, but are they figure skaters?
    The Russian pairs skaters are the way you describe them- tall, strong men with tiny partners. However, some men have been successful pairs skaters without having that advantage- e.g. Hongbo Zhao, Randy Gardner, Rudy Galindo (when he was skating pairs with Kristi Yamaguchi). May be it's just not glamorous to be a pairs male skater in Japan? I know that in the USA, pairs and ice dance (until the rise of B&A and D&W) have not received a lot of attention.
    Last edited by Vash01; 12-26-2011 at 05:39 PM.

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    I remember reading that Shizuka wanted to be a pairs skater, but japanese men were too small for her, so she opted for singles skating.

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    Quote Originally Posted by easilydistracte View Post
    I thought one of the reasons frequently stated for Japanese men not attempting pairs is that Japanese men's physiques in general are not equal to the Western and/or Chinese men? (Not as tall or as broad as most pair guys are in general and, therefore, less likely to have the height/strength to complete the required pairs moves?) I'm sure there are Japanese men who are tall enough/broad enough, but are they figure skaters?
    You make an interesting point. It is true that none of the current top single male skaters are particularly tall. Or rather, you may not have to concern yourself with height when you are a single skater.

    Parhaps when the pair skating become more popular, taller male skaters may consider trying pairs, just like pair skating has become very popular in China (and has attracted its share of tall male skaters).

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    I posted a link to this video of Inoue & Koyama a few years ago on a different thread; it got blocked eventually for some reason or another. Anyway, starting at about 00:20 is part of the 1992 long program for Rena and her first pairs partner. It's the only video I've ever seen of a purely Japanese "Japanese" pairs team. He's not all that tall, but he seems to have the necessary pairs skills and they look pretty good to me. Have no idea why they didn't continue skating together.

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    Quote Originally Posted by easilydistracte View Post
    I posted a link to this video of Inoue & Koyama a few years ago on a different thread; it got blocked eventually for some reason or another. Anyway, starting at about 00:20 is part of the 1992 long program for Rena and her first pairs partner. It's the only video I've ever seen of a purely Japanese "Japanese" pairs team. He's not all that tall, but he seems to have the necessary pairs skills and they look pretty good to me. Have no idea why they didn't continue skating together.
    Thank you for posting this what surely seems like a rare video. I've tremendously enjoyed watching young Rena's (only 15 year old!) impressive pair skating even at that young age.

    One thing that occurred to me that if the Japanese federation is serious about developing pair programs, and it's a big if, is that they can hire a qualified pair coach in Japan.

    All the first generation pair skaters in Japan had to go abroad to be coached. This arrangement is so prohibitively expensive - both financially as well as emotionally, that only very few could actually do so.

    Fortunately, qualified Japanese speaking coaches are now available, e.g., Kyoko Ina, Rena Inoue, so I hope that the Japanese federation at least consider such a possiblity to make pair skating more accessible to aspiring Japanese youngsters.

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    Quote Originally Posted by easilydistracte View Post
    He's not all that tall
    To say the least. He's 5'4".

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    Marie Arai and Shin Amano competed in the 1998 Nagano Olympics, but that was a pairing almost made exclusively for the Games at home, they did not competed after that season

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    Another issue is the amount and type of ice available in Japan. It's been reported here that the ice tends to be very, very crowded in Japan now. Normally, when you have pairs or dance on the ice, it's either on an uncrowded freestyle session, or on specific pairs/dance ice, because of the patterns being done, and the danger involved in pairs. I'd think that, based on reports of typically crowded ice in Japan, there may not be much or any ice for pairs or dance.
    And so, dear Lord, it is with deep sadness that we turn over to you this young woman, whose dream to ride on a giant swan resulted in her death. Maybe it is your way of telling us... to buy American.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GarrAarghHrumph View Post
    Another issue is the amount and type of ice available in Japan. It's been reported here that the ice tends to be very, very crowded in Japan now. Normally, when you have pairs or dance on the ice, it's either on an uncrowded freestyle session, or on specific pairs/dance ice, because of the patterns being done, and the danger involved in pairs. I'd think that, based on reports of typically crowded ice in Japan, there may not be much or any ice for pairs or dance.
    Another interesting point! I appreciate an insight a native Japanese person can provide.

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    Problem, there is not enough ice for pair sessions, then there are no coaches in Japan for pair skating. Then there are no boys who are tall enough. In summer the Japanese Federation looked at all available men and apart from one boy all where far too small, and the only questionable male, was as tall as Marvin Tran, who is also not very tall, and he had no interest in skating pairs.
    The girls are all getting taller in Japan and the boys who might be big enough don`t choose skating as a past time.
    Pair skating is also very challenging. There is not just the coach one has to work with , but also a partner, who has a say. Not many are willing to take up so much as Narumi or Yuki.
    If you choose a foreign partner, Oympics are out of the question as it is nearly impossible to obtain a japanese citizenship. The immigration laws are very strict.
    So that also makes it uninteresting for many japanese girl skaters and their families.

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    ^ Given what you mentioned above, it seems like one of the most feasible ways might be for the federation to be active.

    For instance, the Japanese federation could start pair/ice dance development programs with active soliciation of promsing youngsters with financial incentives and an offer of first rate coach with the say, aiming at long-term goals such as for 2018 Korean winter olympics.

    Of course, my suggestion is a moot point if the Japanese federation is not interested.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mineko View Post
    Fortunately, qualified Japanese speaking coaches are now available, e.g., Kyoko Ina, Rena Inoue, so I hope that the Japanese federation at least consider such a possiblity to make pair skating more accessible to aspiring Japanese youngsters.
    Also Yuka Sato and Jason Dungjen in Detroit.

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    Quote Originally Posted by madm View Post
    Also Yuka Sato and Jason Dungjen in Detroit.
    Yes, they are another excellent pair skating coaches, and Yuka Sato can speak Japanese.

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    Quote Originally Posted by grandma View Post
    Problem, there is not enough ice for pair sessions, then there are no coaches in Japan for pair skating. Then there are no boys who are tall enough. In summer the Japanese Federation looked at all available men and apart from one boy all where far too small, and the only questionable male, was as tall as Marvin Tran, who is also not very tall, and he had no interest in skating pairs.
    The girls are all getting taller in Japan and the boys who might be big enough don`t choose skating as a past time.
    Pair skating is also very challenging. There is not just the coach one has to work with , but also a partner, who has a say. Not many are willing to take up so much as Narumi or Yuki.
    If you choose a foreign partner, Oympics are out of the question as it is nearly impossible to obtain a japanese citizenship. The immigration laws are very strict.
    So that also makes it uninteresting for many japanese girl skaters and their families.
    I think if they had tall enough men for pair skating they would find ice and time. If that happened, coaches would come out of the woodwork.

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    I wonder if being a pair/ice dance male skater is considered to be a "wimp" or "sissy" in Japan?

    Even the Canadian federation had to do a concerted campaign to remind the public that figure skating is not a sissy/gay sport prior to the Vancouver Olympics in 2010.

    I don't know...maybe people who live in Japan may know much more than I.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mineko View Post

    As for ice dancing, Japan have had no tradition of couple/pair dancing like Russia (world class classical ballet), N. America (swing, broadway, etc), and Latin countries (Latin dance, whatelse .
    Japan has had world class ballet companies for decades, and Japanese dancers have medalled and won scholarships at major ballet competitions for years. Japanese male ballet dancers do all of the lifts and partnering that Russian, European, and North American male ballet dancers do.

    Quote Originally Posted by easilydistracte View Post
    I thought one of the reasons frequently stated for Japanese men not attempting pairs is that Japanese men's physiques in general are not equal to the Western and/or Chinese men? (Not as tall or as broad as most pair guys are in general and, therefore, less likely to have the height/strength to complete the required pairs moves?) I'm sure there are Japanese men who are tall enough/broad enough, but are they figure skaters?
    Are Japanese Ladies the same heights and size as most pairs women?

    Aki Sato, a Principal Dancers withRoyal Ballet of Flanders, is fellow Principal Wim Vanlessen's frequent partner, and he's about 5'6" and looks much taller than she on stage.
    "'Is this new BMW-designed sled the ultimate sledding machine for Langdon and Holcomb?' Leigh Diffey asked before the pair cruised to victory. I don’t know, but I know that sled is the ultimate Olympic Games product placement.." -- Jen Chaney

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