In Japan, as in most snow-covered areas of the world, snowboarding is experiencing huge growth. There are close to a million snowboarders in Japan this season, triple the number just two years ago.

To accommodate these passionate buyers, there are an estimated 600 specialty shops, with a total market sales of close to one-billion dollars.

Similar to the United States, there are two major trade shows serving the Japanese snowboard market. The earlier of the season, the Active Collection, is similar to the Action Sports Retailer show in the United States in that it has snowboarding, surfing, and skateboarding. This year’s spring Active Collection show, held February 21¿24 in Tokyo, featured over 200 snowboard suppliers¿two thirds of all their exhibitors¿with a majority consisting of American companies. It’s also the older of the two shows, celebrating its tenth year.

Primarily a retail show, the Active Collection does open one of the halls up to consumers where they can view more than 50 1995¿96 boards, clothing, a fashion show, a skateboard demo, and see interviews with pro snowboarders like Andy Wolf and Dave Seoane. For retailers only, the show hosted a seminar discussing the snowboard markets in Japan and the United States. Speakers included representatives from Action Sports Retailer, Burton Snowboards, Ski Industries America, and TransWorld SNOWboarding magazine, who fielded questions from the audience for 90 minutes.

The following week, snowboard companies converged once again in Yokohama at the Pacifica auditorium for the Japanese Snowboard Association trade show. “The show was a little smaller than the Active Collection and featured mostly the hardgoods companies,” says Joey Santley, sales manager of World Jungle. “However, we definitely wrote more orders at the show, even though there were less buyers.”

To American companies, the Japanese market remains tremendously important, comprising anywhere from 20 to 50 percent of their total business. “We do about 35 percent of our business in Japan, and I know a lot of other companies that do a lot more,” says Santley. And its not surprising, considering that the Japanese market makes up almost a third of the total world market.