The soul of snow – with Gentemstick founder Taro Tamai

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If you love snowboarding in Niseko’s powder and you want to try riding at the next level you should try a Gentemstick. If you haven’t heard of Gentemstick boards before, it is a snowboard brand based in Kabayama area of Kutchan. Taro Tamai, a native of Tokyo founded Gentemstick Snowboards in 1998. His journey to start the company is just as exciting as riding his unique snowboards.

Taro has been interested in the outdoors from a young age, skiing from the age of 4 with his family, and spending time with his father who is also an outdoor enthusiast. At age 10 Taro was already venturing out alone, taking busses, trains and bicycling to his favorite fishing spots. The locals who he met along the way were intrigued by him and often let him stay with them at their houses.

In 1973, when Taro was 11 years old, he saw a film of someone “surfing” down the snow. He immediately felt “this is what I’m going to be doing”. Unfortunately, snowboards weren’t available anywhere in Japan until the early 80’s.

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When Taro was old enough to get a job, a few snowboards were finally available. He saw the boards, but he could tell these snowboards wouldn’t perform well in Japans powder. So he bought a snowboard for about 100,000 yen that was made of fiberglass so he could customize it himself. That same year, he worked at a ski lodge in Joetsu area, 200km northwest from Tokyo. He packed his customized snowboard, rode it and got hooked on it immediately.

“A snowboard is a tool. A tool to satisfy your spiritual playfulness”.

As snowboarding got popular, more ski resorts started to ban snowboarders. Taro said “this rejection movement of the ski resorts prompted snowboarders to go back country riding”. As he was always travelling and in search of new terrain, he eventually ended up finding Niseko in the early 90s.

The 90s saw a snowboarding boom. Competition among snowboard makers grew and the resorts were starting to accept snowboarders. However, Niseko took longer than other resorts, and so it remained a secret spot for Taro and his friends to ride for a long time.

In 1991, Taro worked with a snowboard company to make his first signature model. All ideas finally became reality. Taro waited until 1998 to start his own brand and made just 20 snowboards that year. They were made for the fans of his original signature snowboard who had waited 7 years. Taro’s ideal snowboard is one that you can ride in any terrain. The Rocket Fish model was the most difficult board to make, says Taro, as it has the widest nose of any board on the market.

Taro’s love for powder riding is reflected in every snowboard he makes. He said “A snowboard is a tool. A tool to satisfy your spiritual playfulness”. He hopes that Gentemstick riders are able to experience a closer relationship with the Nature. The meaning of the red dot logo is the human soul, blood and passion. He said, “We need to keep communicating and hopefully Gentemstick to become a tool to connect people”.

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