Having recently got back from a trip to Niseko, which was epic by the way, I realized Japanese snow tends to lend itself a little better to snowboards rather than skis. In any case, there were definitely more snowboards than skiers on my trip. But it got me thinking, what are the best Japanese ski brands? and do they even exist?
Well after a considerable amount of research (and a lot of Google translate) I’ve managed to collate 8 Japanese ski brands that I think are worth your time, money, and interest. Some make and sell their own skis, whereas others are just Japanese ski clothing brands.
It’s worth mentioning that there are smaller Japanese ski brands floating about, but I’ve intentionally left them off this list because I don’t want to recommend a company that ends up going out of business in a couple of years, or one that doesn’t have decades of experience like most of these do. Who knows, in 5 years’ time if they’ll still around, I can always add them on 🙂
Anyway, let’s get going!
First up we have ROKO Skis, a company based out of Japan’s most famous snowsports destination, Hokkaido. Their ski designs are incredibly playful (something I’d like to see more ski companies doing), but highly capable when it comes to conquering the island’s legendary powder.
The ROKO Project was born from the desire to create the perfect ski for Hokkaido’s conditions, specifically for Niseko. ROKO wanted to design skis that would rise to the challenge, and as far as I’m concerned, they have.
It’s the go-to choice for local riders, backcountry explorers, weekend warriors, ski patrolers, and those who consider skiing an everyday ritual. These are the folks who are always on the hunt for those dream powder stashes, and they trust ROKO to get them there.
So, whether you’re carving up the slopes or chasing untouched powder, ROKO is a brand that has your back, and your skis (and safety gear like beacons!), covered. It’s a name synonymous with quality, precision, and a deep passion for the slopes of Hokkaido.
Out of all the Japanese ski companies on this list, these are the people who’re making me consider trading in my old Armada TSTs – they’re so cool
Next up is Kei Ski, a Japanese company that specializes in high-performance skis and has a relevant history to back them up.
In the early 1990s, Kazama, a well-established ski manufacturer in Japan, aimed to become a global leader in the industry by attempting to compete in the World Cup. They partnered with the Slovenian team, and Hideo Komori, now KEI-SKI’s manufacturing manager, played a pivotal role in developing skis and building trust with the athletes.
By 1997, just as Kazama was poised for global success, they withdrew from the competition, and Komori’s journey with the company ended. In December of that year, Komori and his colleagues in Joetsu used their combined knowledge to launch KEI-SKI.
KEI-SKI’s unique approach involves crafting completely customized skis for each customer, ensuring meticulous craftsmanship and customer satisfaction. Even tune-ups are performed at the factory, reflecting their complete commitment to quality.
If you’re looking for Japanese ski brands that are inspired by some of the best ski racers in the industry, this is the place to buy from.
3. ID ONE SKI
Officially launched in 2000, ID One Ski is a relatively new Japanese ski brand but is still very much deserving of its place on this list. Something that sets these guys apart from a lot of other ski brands (and some Japanese snowboard brands) is that they’re 100% committed to using a wooden core in their skis.
That commitment shows when you look at the wide range of skis they offer customers. No matter what type of skiing craving, they’ve got the equipment you’ll need:
MOGUL Ride – The best choice for people who are interested in riding moguls. I used to hate doing this, but it’s definitely become more fun as I’ve gotten more proficient at skiing. In fact, I proactively hunt them down on my ski trips!
FREE Ride – These seem to be the company’s big mountain skis, but also some kind of all-mountain ski. I’d suggest going for this type if you’re after that ‘workhorse’ type of ski.
TECHNICAL Ride – Technical ride skis are perfect for anyone who loves a bit of on-piste skiing. So whether you’re just starting out or are training to be an instructor, these will be able to keep up with you.
SLOW Ride – I can’t quite tell what these skis are, but IDONESKI says they make them for people who want to really enjoy skiing. So I suppose you could consider them the long boards of snow, great for cruising and having fun, but you won’t see them in competitions any time soon.
4. Ogasaka Ski
Ogasaka Ski is a Japanese ski brand that makes a LOT of skis. Here’s a list of all the different types I could find on their website:
- Keo’s SERIES -TECHNICAL
- TC SERIES -TECHNICAL COMPETITION
- UNITY SERIES -ALL SITUATION
- TRIUN SERIES -ALPINE RACE
- E-TURN SERIES -MOUNTAIN
- LONG CRUISE SERIES -VINTAGE
- CF SERIES -UTILITY
- YOIDON SERIES -UTILITY
- JUNIOR SERIES -INSTRUCTIVE
- AG SERIES -SUMMER
Based out of Nagano, Japan, Ogasaka Ski was founded in 1912 which makes it (apparently) the very first ski manufacturer in the country. What followed is over 100 years of rich history that has led ogaska ski to become one of Japan’s most premium ski brands and well worth the investment if you’re looking for a new pair.
We’ve spoken about Descente before when we talked about Japanese sports brands, and they fit nicely into this list as well. Following the company’s success of Japanese baseball uniforms in 1953, Descente broke into the skiwear market shortly after in 1954, changing its direction forever.
After partnering with Japan’s first professional skier, Kazuyoshi Nishimura, Descente firmly established its roots as a ski brand.
Fast forward 3 years to 1957 and the announcement of the ‘RWSB Jacket’. It was a portable windbreaker that could be self-contained in a pouch and was also Descente’s first self-developed and made product.
The rest is history.
From self-heating Jackets to clothing for Japan’s first ascent of Everest, Descente certainly knows how to keep people warm and dry from the snow.
And we all know how much Japan can snow!
‘Design that moves’
They sell a lifestyle before they sell the product, and that’s the kind of marketing a lot of people can get behind. Including me, who put this exact point in an article about why I love Japan.
Penix was one of the harder companies to find much information about, but from what I have found, it’s a Japanese ski clothing brand that (obviously) sells snowsports clothing. They have around 55 products in total (in the snowsports category), though the majority of those can be bought in quite a few different colors.
All of the gear seems to be high quality and aimed at a wider demographic of skiers (both beginner and advanced), with some of their top clothing (a one-piece race suit) aimed at professional skiers.
When you look at the front page of the Goldwin website, it’s fairly easy to see that they’re marketing to a younger crowd and to those who want to be fashionable on and off the mountain. This style of marketing is relatively uncommon in Japan (though when they do it, they do it well), and I’d assume it’s likely just because they’ve branched out globally as to the reason why they’ve made this choice.
This Japanese ski clothing brand sells ski jackets and ski pants for all ranges of abilities, though the focus seems to be on those who are more advanced. With outlets in Canada and America, it’s easy to see how much success this Japanese ski brand has had.
Goldwin’s history is an interesting one. They started from Tsuzawa Knit Fabric Factory in Oyabe City (Toyama), and 8 years later (1958) became a fully-fledged sporting goods company. Of course, it took a fair while for them to become the Japanese ski company they are today, but they’ve got a lot of experience crafting some of the best gear on the market.
Last but by no means least, we have ONYONE. With over 60 years worth of experience, the official supplier of the Ski Instructors Association of Japan, and perhaps the funkiest looking ski clothing from any Japanese ski brand on this list, I love ONYONE!
They stock a wide variety of products (legitimately some of the coolest I’ve seen) shell Jackets, work vests, overcoats, and even racing suits. It seems like they’re a ski brand that has fallen through the gaps because I’ve heard of most of the other Japanese ski clothing brands on this list but never these guys.
In any case, they know their stuff and produce some seriously high-quality clothing. Definitely worth considering when your current ski bum-esque clothes look like they need a change!