The oldest person to climb Mount Fuji last year was 93-year-old Masashi Toyoda, from Toyohashi, Aichi Prefecture, according to records at Fujisan Hongu Sengen Taisha, a shrine at the foot of the mountain.
“My body is not as strong as before, but I would like to climb (Fuji) again this year,” said Toyoda enthusiastically.
Every year from July to September, Sengen Taisha, located in Fujinomiya, Shizuoka Prefecture, opens to the public two smaller shrines under its supervision — Okumiya and Kusushi — located at the top of Mount Fuji.
Only climbers aged 70 and above under the traditional age system (where people are considered to be 1 year old when they are born) are permitted to register their date of birth, address and other personal information at either of the shrines.
Most seniors hike during the summer period, so the records can essentially be used to rank hikers in terms of their age. There were 2,104 recorded hikers last year, of which seven were aged 90 or above. There was also another 93-year-old hiker, but Toyoda’s birthday was earlier so he took the top spot when he climbed Mount Fuji last August.
According to Sengen Taisha, the oldest climber ever recorded was a 103-year-old man.
Toyoda started hiking around at the age of 74, after he quit working as president of a construction company. Following the advice of an employee, the first mountain he climbed was Mount Hongu in Toyokawa, Aichi Prefecture, which has an elevation of 789 meters. “I was sweating and panting all the way up, but I felt such a sense of accomplishment as if I had conquered the mountain,” he recalled.
He fell in love with hiking and joined Katakuri no Kai, a group for hiking enthusiasts in Higashimikawa. Even now, he continues to climb Mount Hongu more than 20 times every month. Toyoda first climbed Mount Fuji when he was about 76 years old. Since then, he has returned almost every year and has reached the summit 20 times. “Mount Fuji is a symbol of Japan, so the sense of achievement you feel is different. I’m also motivated by the fact that my name will remain in the records,” said Toyoda.
At 80, Toyoda suffered a stroke. He was near the start of the trail for Mount Hongu when his legs became unsteady, and he drove himself to a hospital in Toyohashi. He was hospitalized for two months, but he underwent arduous rehabilitation and climbed up Mount Hongu again a few days after he was discharged. “When I was in the hospital, all I could think about was getting back up the mountain as soon as possible,” he noted.
“It is impressive that he continues to climb mountains at the age of 93 after surviving a stroke,” said Dr. Motohiko Nishida, 58, who has been attending to Toyoda for more than 20 years.
“He is older than us and we’re all inspired by his determination,” said Koichi Kamiya, 73, the head of Katakuri no Kai.
This section, appearing Tuesdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published on March 15.