“We enjoyed climbing trees as kids, but it’s difficult to keep on doing that as an adult. Rock climbing is good because you can become a kid again and climb as much as you like,” says Makoto Kitayama, president of the Japan Freeclimbing Association.
Fortunately, if you want to get in touch with your inner climbing child, Japan abounds with both natural and manmade climbing spots.
Mount Ogawa in Nagano Prefecture is one of Japan’s oldest and most famous climbing sites. Located in Chichibu National Park, 100 km northwest of Tokyo, it has granite outcrops in fantastic shapes and sizes. The rocky mountain is known for easy-access and various climbing routes accessible to both beginners and the more experienced.
“What is also nice about Mount Ogawa is that it is a beautiful place with a great view and a good campsite. It’s a really nice place to spend your holiday,” says Kitayama.
Popular climbing sites are also located in Tokyo’s Okutama area and Gunma, Saitama and Kanagawa prefectures. In the Kansai region, the Rokko area in Hyogo Prefecture offers a comfortable climbing environment with sufficiently challenging rocks. Details on many climbing routes can be found in guidebooks available at major bookstores.
However, before scaling the rock faces of the great outdoors, you might want to learn the ropes at an indoor facility. An increasing number of gyms in the metropolitan area now offer a variety of climbing walls where you can practice under the supervision of skilled instructors. Classes for beginners teach the necessary skills, such as basic footwork, how to use climbing gear and ropes, and how to belay (or secure) others.
Indoor climbing gyms are also good places to collect information about natural climbing sites from both instructors and other climbers.
Climbing equipment, such as rubber-soled rock-boots, a harness, a rope and nuts for fastening the rope to the rock are sold at outdoor stores, but many gyms have all the necessary equipment available for rent.
Following is a list of climbing gyms in the Kanto and Kansai areas:
Tokyo T-Wall Edogawabashi 2-5-23 Suido, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo, a five-minute walk from the No. 4 exit of Edogawabashi Station on the Yurakucho Line. (03) 5802-2273. www.nona.dti.ne.jp/~t-wall
2-10-12 Mori, Koto-ku, a seven-minute walk from JR Kinshicho Station. (03) 3634-0730
Climbing Gym 7a
3-17-11 Sanda-cho, Hachioji-shi, basement of NS Bldg., a three-minute walk from Nishi-Hachioji Station on the JR Chuo Line. (0426) 69-5330
Kanagawa Pump 22-13-1 Nakanoshima, Tama-ku, Kawasaki, a seven-minute walk from Nakanoshima Station on the JR Nanbu Line. (044) 933-2594
2-10-19 Nishi-Koigakubo, Kokubunji-shi, basement of Tokyo Bldg., a five-minute walk from Nishi-Kokubunji Station on the JR Chuo Line. (0423) 22-8133
1708 Shimo-Tsuchidana, Fujisawa-shi; take the No. 2 bus from the Odakyu Line’s Chogo Station and get off at Shimo-Tsuchidana. (0466) 44-0777
Saitama T-Wall Iruma 1097-1 Shimo-Fujisawa, Iruma-shi, an eight-minute walk from Musashi-Fujisawa Station on the Seibu Ikebukuro Line. (042) 963-6259
Pump 12-3-12 Motogo, Kawaguchi-shi, a 20-minute walk from Kawaguchi Station on the JR Keihin Tohoku Line. (048) 225-2919 www.yk.rim.or.jp/~pump/p1.htm
Osaka OCS City Rock Gym
2-3-35 Tagawa-Kita, Yodogawa-ku, Osaka, a five-minute bus ride from Juso Station on the Hankyu Line. (06) 6306-0914 www.cityrockgym.com
1-13-23 Nakajima, Nishi-Yodogawa-ku, Osaka, a 10-minute walk from Dekijima Station on the Hanshin Dentetsu Nishi-Osaka Line. (06) 6475-4406 www.yk.rim.or.jp/~pump/p3.htm
16-9 Hiroshiba-cho, Suita-shi, a seven-minute walk from Esaka Station on the Midosuji subway line. (06) 6310-6105 home.interlink.or.jp/~crux
Outdoor climbing sites
Mount Haruna, Kuroiwa Misato-machi, Gunma-gun, Gunma, a 40-minute drive from Maebashi IC on the Kan’etsu Expressway
Ogano-machi, Chichibu-gun, Saitama, a 90-minute drive from Hanazono IC on the Kan’etsu Expressway
Kawamata, Naguri-mura, Iruma-gun, Saitama, a one-hour bus ride from Hanno Station on the Seibu Ikebukuro Line
Kawakami-mura, Minami-Saku-gun, Nagano, a 90-minute drive from Sudama IC on the Chuo Expressway
Okutama-machi, Nishitama-gun, Tokyo. Take a bus bound for Higashi-Nippara from Okutama Station on the JR Itsukaichi Line and get off at the Shirotae Bridge bus stop
Kajiya, Yugawara-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa. Take a bus bound for Gorojinja from JR Yugawara Station and walk 20 minutes
Kita-ku, Kobe-shi, Hyogo, a 20-minute drive from Nishinomiya-Kita IC on the Chugoku Expressway
Komori Dani (Bat Valley)
Yamada-cho, Kitaku, Kobe-shi, Hyogo. Take a bus from Minotani Station on the Kobe Dentetsu Arima Line