It is thought that skiing first came to Japan in 1911, when Major Theodor von Lerch of the Austrian Army gave lessons on Mt Kanaya in Niigata, to members of what would become Japan's first ski club. However, the sport got it's first real boost in the 1930's when the Japanese government put Austrian Hannes Schneider on the payroll to give lessons to the public. This was done on a major scale with thousands of people being taught at the same time on Mt. Fuji, apparently with the use of a loudspeaker.
Ski areas starting appearing left, right and center from this point on, with the Japanese keen to embrace this new fashionable sport. In 1956, matters got back on the right track after world war II with Chiharu Igaya winning a silver medal in the Winter Olympics. She remains even now the only Japanese person to have won an olympic medal in Alpine skiing. In 1972, the winter Olympics were held in Sapporo, Hokkaido and were a smashing success. This led to a skiing boom in the 1980's, during which time the sport received a level of popularity not seen again, even today.
Snowboarding appeared in the 1990's, and although at first most Japanese ski resorts did not welcome this new "fun" sport invading into the more seriously orientateds territory of skiing, the decline in skiing in the 1990's helped change that. One by one the ski resorts relented, and with it came a new breed of customers-young and into everything fun- such as powder, tricks and just riding for the sake of riding. It was about this time that the 1998 Winter Olympics were held in Nagano, and this was Japan's most successful Olmpics to date, winning 5 gold medals, and 10 altogether, the most memorable being the gold medal in the Team Ski Jump held at Hakuba village.
Nowadays, snowboarding rivals skiing for popularity at the ski resorts, and large areas are set aside for terraine parks where snowboarders (and skiers too!) can challenge themselves on all types of jumps, rails and the like. Few resorts ban snowboarders (though there are still some). The gradual decline in popularity of snowsports in Japan has been somewhat stifled by the influx of foreigners "discovering" Japan and coming back season after season to their favourite haunts.