I was deep in the mountains of Okuchichibu moving a bit too quickly through a swift mountain stream when I fell.

It was almost cartoonish, like slipping on a banana peel. My right foot caught the edge of a rock hidden under the half meter-deep current, and my right arm shot out instinctively to break my fall. The only thing I managed to break, though, was the second metacarpal of my right index finger.

I felt a rush of adrenaline. I couldn’t make a fist. The Chichibu iwana (orange-bellied char) I had just hurried up the stream to catch now flopped helplessly in the bag attached to my climbing harness. As my three climbing companions gathered around me for a look, I realized the nearest hospital from where we were on the rural border of Saitama and Yamanashi prefectures was at least six or seven hours of strenuous climbing out of the mountains — and I would have to cover it all with one functioning hand.