Japan has competed in every Olympic Winter Games except for 1924 and in 1948, when it was not invited. Ranks 17th in the all-time medal standings with 32 medals (9 gold, 10 silver, 13 bronze).
Hosted the XI Olympic Winter Games in 1972 in Sapporo (which was supposed to be the site for the 1940 Winter Games, which were not held) and the XVIII Olympic Winter Games in 1998 in Nagano.
Chiharu Igaya won the country's first Olympic Winter Games medal in 1956, taking home the bronze in the slalom. Since then, Japan has not had much success on the Alpine slopes but has been successful in ski jumping.
In 1972, before the home fans, the Japanese swept the normal hill competition. Yukio Kasaya took home the gold while Akitsugu Konno won silver and Seiji Aochi got the bronze. Kazuyoshi Funaki continued their legacy by winning three medals - including two golds - in Nagano.
Speed skater Hiroyasu Shimizu won Japan's first medal in Nagano, setting an Olympic record in the 500m. It was also Japan's first Olympic gold medal in any form of skating. He added a bronze in the 1000m. Four years later, he claimed silver in the 500m in Salt Lake.
Figure skater Midori Ito earned a silver medal in 1992 and was the first woman to land a triple Axel in Olympic competition. She also played a large role in helping Nagano land the 1998 Games. Tokyo also hosted the Games of the XVIII Olympiad in 1964.
Freestyle skier Tae Satoya became the first Japanese woman to earn a gold medal at the Winter Olympics in 1998 by winning the moguls event. The second was figure skater Shizuka Arakawa who won Japan's only medal at the 2006 Games, a gold in the ladies event. With most of the world focused on the Sasha Cohen - Irina Slutskaya showdown, Arakawa snuck in to claim gold. After receiving a congratulatory phone call from Prime Minister Junichio Koizumi, Arakawa returned to Japan an instant celebrity while her signature Ina Bauer entered the Japanese lexicon. Fumie Suguri finished fourth in the same event.