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Skater's Gold Medal Inspires Young Japanese (April 21, 2006)

Arakawa performs the Ina Bauer. (Jiji)
The image of Arakawa Shizuka winning the gold medal in the women's figure skating at the Torino Winter Olympics is still fresh in the memory. The people of Japan were blown away by her accomplishment, and the excitement has still not abated. While the skater's exposure in newspapers, TV, and other media has dropped off somewhat, reverberations of her achievement, or the "Arakawa effect," are still evident.

Booming Business for Skating Rinks
One such effect is the sudden increase in the number of people taking up skating. Rinks all over Japan are flourishing as never before, and skating rinks have become packed with parents and children and couples gliding across the ice. Particularly in Japan's Tohoku region, where Arakawa grew up, rinks have become so crowded that on some days they have been forced to limit the number of skaters. Skating equipment had been in short supply prior to the start of the Olympics, but sales of figure skating boots in particular increased by more than 20% following the Olympics. When children were asked in a recent survey what they wanted to be when they grow up, for the first time one of the top answers among young girls was "figure skater," which suggests that the future of the sport will be bright indeed.

kinmemai rice (Jiji)

Rice, CDs, Earrings . . .
Arakawa-inspired merchandise is also jumping off the shelves. Orders have flooded in to Toyo Rice Co. for kinmemai, a new brand of rice promoted by Arakawa in a TV commercial. The rice was previously sold mainly in Tokyo, but after Arakawa won her gold medal, it became so popular that it went nationwide sooner than planned. Orders have also poured in for CDs of Turandot, the music Arakawa skated to when she won her gold medal. Over 30,000 people downloaded the tune immediately after it was made available as a ring tone by Toshiba EMI, the distributor. Lazare Diamond's three-stone diamond earrings (valued at ¥300,000 [about $2,542 at ¥118 to the dollar]), which Arakawa wore during her winning performance, have also become a hot item. And a DVD providing glimpses of the skater away from the limelight is also selling well.

Products indirectly inspired by Arakawa are also popular. A soba noodle restaurant in Shizuoka Prefecture offers "Ina Bauer Soba." The dish, which features shrimp tempura bent backward (in the opposite direction from usual) and is decorated with gold leaf, has been such an unexpected hit that the entire limited daily offering of 20 dishes quickly sells out.

The Ina Bauer is a skating technique invented by its namesake, Ina Bauer, a skater from the former West Germany who competed in the 1950s. The move entails spreading the legs forward and back, opening the toes 180 degrees, and skating sideways. From this position, Arakawa bends her upper body so far back that many people have mistakenly assumed that this is what the Ina Bauer refers to. Though few people had heard of this term prior to the Olympics, today there is hardly a person in Japan who is unfamiliar with it. This is just one more example of the "Shizuka Effect."

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Copyright (c) 2006 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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