Japan Trad Blog 4 –  Should you go climbing to Kinkasan

all pictures are from Eddie Gianelloni

After all, that is the main question, isn’t it ? is Kinkasan worth the detour… and what a detour, I’d say.

Let’s analyse the cons first

Kinkasan is a six hour drive from Tokyo (no need to precise that Tokyo is the other side of the world), and the boats that used to ferry between the mainland and the island (we are only talking about a 20 minute traverse) have all been destroyed 5 years ago by the Tsunami. Now, you have to charter a boat, and it isn’t cheap. But if you are a good crew, it could work.

Once on the island, as Kinkasan is sacred, you are only allowed to sleep in the shrine’s accommodation. And well… of course such an old shrine (1300years old, only !) is definitly worth a visit, even if the accommodation is pricy (70E a night with full pension). Wherever you lay your eyes, there is perfection: in the wood work of the dragons that decorate the beams, the stone work of the stairs, the way trees have grown, the wild life. Kinkasan feels sacred. Really. And it is an immense privilege to be allowed to climb on the island. The monks decided, made the choice to welcome rock lovers, and hopefully their openness will be a good decision.

Here I go, I was supposed to talk about the cons first… Well, there is the 1H30 minute walk to access the best crags : exactly on the other side of the island from the shrine. And there is the small detail of leeches. When we came, the path to the rock was infested with leeches. We had to walk with extra long socks, tuck our pants in the socks, and still check every few minutes that no leech was climbing up a leg. Toru got no less that 13 leeches bites on a day where he forgot his socks. Yes, leeches have often been used in oriental medicine…. They are still disgusting.

But… apparently the problem is only momentary, resulting of the heavy rains. Hold on, why were we on the island during heavy rains ?

Ho, that is a long discussion…. Let’s cut it short, simply the weather has gone fairly crazy this year in Japan… no big surprise right, we get a lot of that in France and UK too. And it rains when it shouldn’t rain.

Lines, one after an other. every couple of meters, there is an other line demanding to be freed

So, yes, going to Kinkasan is complicated, expensive, and the approach is an adventure. But it is all work the effort. Why? Because of the rock. Tell me one sea cliff in Europe with perfect granite and less than 10 existing routes in total, but at least 200 potential lines? It doesn’t exist anymore, or if it does, it must be in Ireland where it rains every day. On Kinkasan, whatever your level, there is a million of routes to open, name, grade and propose. And that, this process of creating a route, that is priceless.


James, Toru and I didn’t get to open that many routes. “Light”, 7c+ “ish” has been first tried by Yuji, but being injured, he gracefully (do I actually need to say that Yuji is gracefull? That is written in his name) gave the line to young Toru who did it, along with quite a few easier solo first ascents. Light is the hardest existing route, with a crack allowing passage up an overhanging 30m wall. Toru couldn’t grade it precisely… because he did it when it was very wet, with the crack seeping. It was our only day, he tried and did it. Toru… I will have to tell more about Toru, one day. An exceptional, incredible climber.


James and I opened more lines, “Cloudy with a chance of leech balls” E6, “Well dunne Dave” E1 ish, and an other E6.  I couldn’t finish a very beautiful and hard project, James spot a couple of hard line, but for now, those will remain projects. We only had 2 days of sun at the end, and Trad takes time. It requires patience, but after all, if you come to Japan and don’t have any patience, the most praised quality in this country, maybe you shouldn’t have come. Each of this line is beautiful, and more deserve to be climbed… one day, for sure.

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