Japan Trad Blog 1

3 days already that we arrived in Japan, and we only just arrived in Kinkasan.

Kinkasan is a small island not far from Fukushima, on the north east side of Japan. From Tokyo it is a 6 hour journey.

Why did James and I pick a small dot on the other side of the planet ? Because Yuji told us about it. The last time Yuji proposed us a trip, we ended up in Kinabalu, the now ho so famous mountain of Malasia where untouched granite will overwhelm the climber. The Real Rock tout has thrown Kinabalu into fame, but 5 years ago, when we went there, no climber could even put it on the climbing destinations map. When Yuji Hirayama gives you a tip, you’d better follow it.


Yuji didn’t say that much : Kinkasan’s coast is covered with granite cliffs, and there is a shintao shrine on it. He mentioned as well the damages made by the tsunami…


Yuji on his last trip to Kinkasan

We began our journey with next to no expectations about the climbing, and a big question mark for the rest.


3 days in the trip, and I know exactly why we came: for Japan. 2 years ago we spent a week in this ho so unique country, and both James and I knew that we had to come back one day: how could I compare it? Well, the first time you taste wine, you have heard a lot about it. But you smell, and you only smell the alcohol, you taste and you can’t put words on it. Because wine is subtle, complicated, requests an education. You’ll have to go back to it, and learn to enjoy, differentiate, and remember. Japan is maybe a little bit like wine.


There is this astonishing mix of modernity (the Japanese toilets and their multi jets, music, self cleaning options give you an idea of the immensity of your difference) and spirituality, respect, focus.

We arrived at base camp, the gym that Yuji opened 5 years ago in Tokyo, and I oscillate between marvel and shame. I am a pro climber, and most of the boulders are too hard for me, the Japanese climbers around me seem to evolve so effortlessly, like flying cats on the wall. But then you realise: the world championship have just finished in Paris, and in the bouldering competition, 3 of the 6 medals are not only Japanese, but from Tokyo, from Base Camp. Yuji and his company help the athletes become professional, and they often climb together. Shall I repeat that? Half of the world’s medals come from one gym! Surely there is no wonder that Yuji owns that gym… But that is only just the very top of the iceberg, because behind this 3 medals, there are a lot of other athletes with an incredible level. I have never seen so many good , extremely good boulderers in one city. And I am a former competition climber, trust me, I know what I am talking about.

Why are they so good? The answer is surely complicated, but here are a few elements: climbing has become very trendy in Japan, with over a 100 gym in Tokyo. The Japanese body type is prefect for climbing, light, powerfull, explosive muscles. And the Japanese constant pursuit of perfection pushes the athletes to train hard, just like everyone around them simply accomplished every task with perfection.

base camp bouldering.... Note that Caro's as is definitely hanging a bit too low... don't you think?

But that, of course, is a mix of my first impressions and preconceptions. For more accuracy, I guess I’ll have to wait and see!


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