Meet the Visionary Behind Japan’s Most Important Outdoor Brand
Lisa Yamai was blushing. Earlier in the night, the heiress to Snow Peak, the largest camping brand in Japan and started by Lisa’s grandfather, swept in and manhandled our campsite. First, she finagled a finicky camp stove into working shape and then went around lighting fires with a jet-engine-like blazing torch. After dinner, we settled around a stainless steel fireplace under a sky full of stars in Niigata prefecture in Japan, a region anchored by 8,000-foot mountains, rice paddy-filled valleys and, well, Snow Peak’s headquarters.
I wanted to travel to Japan to find out more about the brand — whose footprint in the U.S. is small, but highly regarded for its impeccable aesthetic and smart, functional design — as it celebrates its 60th anniversary. Snow Peak’s success is predicated on products like beautiful and modern camp-kitchen cookware, stainless steel camp stoves, minimalist dining setups, tarps and tents. While the U.S. only makes up around 20 percent of the brand’s total sales, you’ll find that at Japan’s campgrounds, Snow Peak is one of the major players, with Coleman and Montbell thrown into the mix. The brand, however, is not lost on America’s camping-obsessed, even with all of the lower-priced competition; over the years, I’ve seen many a diehard camper unveil their few bamboo-and-steel Snow Peak products with special care and presentation, like artifacts to be revered. Suffice it to say they have a following.
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