/ NEWS: INTERVIEW: Toru Nakajima

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UKC News - on 12 Dec 2012
Toru Nakajima on Asagimadara, ~8C/+, 4 kbA couple of years ago, after he had made his now legendary visit to the Peak district where he stunned the gritstone community by repeating and making first ascents of some very bold lines, I made an interview with Toru Nakajima.
His ticklist that time included climbs like

Meshuga, E9 6c,...

ERU - on 12 Dec 2012
> Meshuga, E9 6c, Burbage south, climbed in a slight drizzle

Did it move? I thought it was at Black Rocks?
SARS on 12 Dec 2012
In reply to UKC News:

He's right that there's a limited amount of 'developed' rock in Japan for someone like him to put up new routes. However, there's a ton of undeveloped stuff which if cleaned up would be amazing. A few of the guys I used to climb with in Japan would go out and try some of this "off-piste" stuff. One of the guys I climbed with (American Japanese, probably best natural climber I ever climbed with) said that he was amazed by the lack of newly developed places in Japan given the potential.

Two main problems appear to be:

a) Japanese seem prefer to redpoint hard developed stuff than break new ground.
b) there is a debilitating safety first culture, which probably puts off climbers from exploring.

To give an example of the latter. The area know as Yugawara, where the first ever 7a+ put up in Japan is (and probably the best 7a+ in Japan), has been closed off for about 4 years. I think in fact I was one of the last people to get to climb this. The reason - rockfall from another small crag about 300m away!
TonyG - on 13 Dec 2012
In reply to SARS:

> b) there is a debilitating safety first culture, which probably puts off climbers from exploring.

Are you talking about Japanese climbing or Japanese society in general? I'm reluctant to disagree with your personal experience of Japanese climbing, SARS, as it could well be grounded in different areas to mine, but I have to admit that I haven't really noticed this... Ancient rusty old ring bolts, in-situ pitons that are so degraded you can snap them with your fingers... These things are not at all unusual in Japan, and it tends to be implicit in suggested timings on many alpine routes that you'll be running it out unprotected on steep exposed terrain between climbing sections. It's certainly a huge pity about the crags at Yugawara, I used to enjoy going there myself, but I'd be surprised to hear that it's closure comes from within the climbing community.

I'd definitely say that anyone who enters Ichi-no-kura-sawa on Tanigawadake had better be prepared to step well outside of any safety-first national culture...
masa-alpin - on 13 Dec 2012
In reply to SARS:
I confirm a part of Yugawara, from Tentomushi (=ladybird) Rock Area to New Area, covering Shomen-heki (=Front Wall), seems to be still banned for climbing at 2012.
Source (in Japanese): the JFA news: and
Izu-Joyama blog:
The cause of the ban was, reportedly, due to a massive rock fall in the Tentomushi Rock Area in January 2008.

Other areas, including bouldering areas, in Yugawara are open, apparently. Just remember to follow the local code, such as, brushing off the chalk after bouldering sessions.

I agree the first half of the problem (b) SARS mentioned: there is a debilitating safety first culture.
That is annoying and I consider is harmful on balance even for the society itself. But I see climbers' attitude there is somewhat different from the social standard (after all who would want to be a climber if they strictly follow "debilitating safety first culture"?), and in that sense I don't quite agree on the second half of your statement (b).

Allegedly Mt Tanigadake, which encompasses infamous (or superb) Ichinokura-sawa, has seen more death toll than any other mountain in the world... It is presumably because of the combined factor of its harsh weather particularly in winter, proximity to the massively populated area (30 million, Tokyo) and relative ease of access, as well as the exploratory spirit of early mountaineers. I suppose those many fatal accidents did not help overturn the safety-first culture.

SARS on 13 Dec 2012
My point about safety first culture was more to do with non climbers.

Why is the Yugawara area which holds Spiderman (the afore mentioned 7a+) closed? Because of the rockfall at Tentomushi and the fact that the crag lies within a plum park. By the way, 'massive' rockfall is a slight exaggeration. Tentomushi is a tiny are about 15ft wide and < 30 ft high. Sure the rock that fell was big enough to hurt/kill, but anyway the Spiderman area is way away from the actual plum park - and only climbers go to that part of the area.

Jogasaki, my favourite sports crag in Japan, was also almost closed because someone (I think a hiker) decided to try and descend into the crag area (an abseil is needed). Unfortunately one of the rotten fixed ropes broke and he died. The local authorities response was to almost ban climbing in the whole area. An amazing location - better than any sports location in UK. Fortunately this was avoided with careful negotiation with the Japanese climbing federation.

Another non climbing example: if you see revolving doors in Tokyo you'll notice most of them don't work. Why? Because a long time ago a child died after being caught in the door. The Japanese response was to stop all these doors revolving.

So my point was, the lack of exploration of new areas is quite likely to do with this culture. That climbers are banned from opening up areas, in effect.

As for my first point - it's a slightly different point but also a truism. Having climbed regularly (ie every weekend) outside with Japanese - locals who couldn't speak English just to frame the picture - I rarely saw onsight attempts. It was almost always get to the crag, warm up, and then jump on the 8+ project for the rest of the day. This is not a criticism, just an observation.
owensum - on 13 Dec 2012
I think there would be some interest in a UKC article focused on japanese climbing culture. Its something I know little about, yet Ive met several fantastic climbers from japan, and the stream of climbing phenoms keeps coming: not to mention Toru Nakajima (Iguess I just did) but Dai Koyamada, Yuji Hirayama, Tomoko Ogawa, and japanese-american Ashima Shiraishi.
kamon - on 14 Dec 2012
In reply to owensum:

I second that! Japan is pretty much off the map as a destination for climbing holidays but it is a great place to visit and to climb. Reading through the responses to this article took me straight back to my Japan days.

In Yugawara: the shrine at the base of the giant tree where the bus stops; hiking up to the crag past the plum blossoms; a cracking bath house nearby; drinking beers on the train that we had bought from a vending machine!

ice.solo - on 14 Dec 2012
In reply to UKC News:

safety first only seems to apply to bouldering - they are lunatics in winter and in other parts of the world, and the local attitude to bolting and placing trad gear is indeed giri giri.

interesting to see tanigawa mentioned: i lived at the foot of it in yubiso for 4 years and have seen the accident reports (available to anyone at the info center at its base at tenjin). harrowing. during the late 60s/early 70s up to 30 a year were getting killed. i had a friend killed on the white valley side just last spring - wed climbed all sorts of sketchy stuff around yunozawa together, he knew the deal.

climbing is technically restricted during winter around ichinokura - one needs only sit and watch for 10mins to see the amount of stuff that comes down. but its ignored. living at the base wed hear helis regularly, and i cut my 'real' rescue teeth on its slopes.
much is to do with topography: northern gunma gets so much snow (over 100cms just in the last few days...) but is relatively warm, on top of shit rock.
ice.solo - on 14 Dec 2012
In reply to owensum:

...dont forget 50 years of top level alpinists too.
nigel pearson - on 14 Dec 2012
In reply to UKC News:
very impressive climbing, well done
pascalbrown - on 14 Dec 2012
In reply to UKC News: Sorry to hijack this thread, but it's sort of on topic by virtue of the fact I'm trying to find climbing info for Japan.

I'm going to be in Japan for 2 weeks during late february. I've been desperately trying to find information on where we can climb during this time but the limited English information I have found indicates most things will be covered in snow or it will be too cold.

If anyone has any info on where to go bouldering in late February in Japan then I'd be very grateful for a quick conversation. I won't be travelling with bouldering pads so any info on hire is also appreciated.

SARS on 15 Dec 2012
In reply to pascalbrown:

Mitake will be your best bet if you need somewhere near Tokyo. If you search online there should be some info. You can hire bouldering mats - but not sure about in February.

Be warned though - it's not great bouldering.
douwe - on 18 Dec 2012
In reply to pascalbrown:
Mitake has some bouldering in a nice riverside setting.
Very easy access by train from Tokyo (JR Chuo line to Ome, JR Ome line for Okutama). Especially in the weekends there will be plenty of other boulderers with bouldering pads available. When you exit Mitake station there's a small climbing shop on the lefthand side where you can rent a bouldering pad for the day.
Mitake is a small bouldering area and has some good problems, especially if you climb 1kyu (6C+/7A) and up.
Ogawayama in Yamanashi seems to be a superior climbing site btw.

Here is a link with some other climbing near Tokyo:

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