Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Japan! (and two climbing gyms there.)

Well I've been back from Japan for over a week, and I still have not blogged about it. Honestly, to write a comprehensive report of the trip would be incredibly time consuming, and might very well trivialize just how amazing the experience was. My brother, David, and his girlfriend, Yuko, both had a week off from work for the "Golden Week" holiday, and my visit spanned the weekends before and after this week. We started in their small(ish) city of Matsuyama on the small(ish) island of Shukoku, and over the course of nine days, by way of ferry and bullet trains, eventually made our way to Tokyo, where we departed for our respective homes. Instead of giving you a play by play, I'm simply going to caption my photos and you can use your imagination to fill in the gaps.

Waiting for my flight from Tokyo to Matsuyama on my first day
A Park in Matsuyama
Slackline party in the park
Daichi, the slackline samurai, teaching me the finer points.
from L to R: me, David, Yuko
The famous and very ancient Dougo Onsen, Matsuyama
The delicious Dougo Brewery
Shrine at the base of Matsuyama Castle
Matsuyama Castle, famous as it is one of the few castles that was not damaged during WWII. Some parts of the castle are over 800 years old.
Storming the castle in my Evolv Cruzers
Matsuyama Castle
Gate at Matsuyama Castle
Old school
View from inside the castle
Dressed up in replica samurai armor in Matsuyama Castle.
One of the two gyms I climbed at while in Japan was Ascent Ray, a very efficient training wall in Matsuyama. They have some strong climbers and a few really hard problems.
Bouldering session at Ascent Ray
The Crew at Ascent Ray
Taking the ferry to Hiroshima

That's right, STOP! I loved the signage everywhere I looked in Japan.

Approaching Hiroshima on the ferry from Matsuyama
Hiroshima, rebuilt and modern.
We took another ferry from Hiroshima to Miyajima, a sacred island covered in temples and shrines, and populated by cute, domesticated deer in every which way.


Monk writing caligraphy on Miyajima.
Hiking to the top of Mt. Misen, the summit of Miyajima island.
On top of Mt. Misen, Miyajima. As I looked out I saw entire mountain ridges covered in vast granite boulder fields.

View from Mt. Misen, Miyajima.
Mt. Misen, Miyajima.
View from Mt. Misen, Miyajima.
Atop Mt. Misen, Miyajima.
Miyajima at night
Okonomiyaki in Hiroshima
The A-Bomb dome. This building is left as a memorial to the victims of the atomic bomb and sits just at the entrance to the Hiroshima Peace Park, adjacent to the T-bridge, which was the bomb's target.

In the Peace Park. Each colorful piece of paper is an origami crane.
Scale model of central Hiroshima before 8:15 AM, August 6th, 1945.
Scale model of central Hiroshima after 8:15 AM, August 6th, 1945.
before and after photos.
View through the Hiroshima Peace Park towards the A-Bomb Dome, from the Museum.
Approaching Kiyomizu-dera, Kyoto, after our Shinkansen (bullet train) from Hiroshima.

View of Kyoto from Kiyomizu-dera
Dave and I drinking from the sacred fountain at Kiyomizu-dera.
Nijo Castle, Kyoto, the site where the Shogun announced that he was returning power to the Emperor, a key component of the Meiji Restoration

The Golden Pavilion Temple, Kyoto

The world's largest wooden building? Nope, just the gate to it.

Yes, the world's largest wooden building, Todai-ji, Nara (near Kyoto)

The giant Buddha in Todai-ji
Buddha guardians mean business.
Lanterns at Kasuga Grand Shrine, Nara
Kasuga Grand Shrine
Six stories of escalators in The Cube, Kyoto
View from The Cube, Kyoto.

Kyoto Tower from The Cube
Shinkansen (bullet train) from Kyoto to Tokyo.

Throngs of people on their way to Senso-ji temple, Asakusa, Tokyo
Senso-ji, Tokyo

Auguste Rodin's The Gates of Hell, National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo.

Tokyo National Museum of Art

Tokyo National Museum of Art
Tokyo National Museum of Art

Looking up at Tokyo Tower, just before we went up.
Carp banners
View from Tokyo Tower
View from Tokyo Tower
View from Tokyo Tower
View from Tokyo Tower, the famous Rainbow Bridge in the distance.
Yaki Niku (grilled meat, which you actually grill on your table) for dinner.
s-loads of onigiri (delicious rice and meat/fish snacks)
Yes, a Gundam Cafe, with a line past the next store, but check out the line for the AKB48 Cafe. Don't know who AKB48 are? Neither did I.

Flee market in Akihabara. Got Godzilla?
Akihabara, Tokyo
Akihabara, Tokyo
B-Pump Bouldering. A GREAT gym in Akihabara, Tokyo
The bookshelf at B-Pump. Lots of American destinations here!
Working some harder problems at B-Pump.
My new friend, Keisuke Kitamura (Kitamu), at B-Pump.
Great setting! B-Pump has awesome terrain and obviously some good setters.
The B-Pump scene. Very friendly collective vibe.
Kitamu and myself going through the beta on one B-Pump's hardest problems.
Mario and Pacman! Akihabara, Tokyo.
There's nothing like Yakitori to recover from a hard bouldering session.
"Maman" by Louise Bourgeois, at Roppongi Hills.

Inside Roppongi Hills.
Tokyo Tower and the full moon.
At "Geronimo Shot Bar" the proprietor, AJ, told us to go around the block to get amazing all-you-can-eat Shabu Shabu. Amazing.
Yuko working the shabu shabu magic in Roppongi, Tokyo.
Again, I loved the signage.
"Bear Claw," "Because I'm a Bear," and sad animal families missing their dads. T-shirts in Harojuku, Tokyo.
Donated sake barrels at the Meiji Shrine, Tokyo.
Two gates and the Meiji Shrine in the distance.
half tree at the Meiji Shrine.
Meiji Shrine
Street art in Yoyogi Park, Tokyo
People doing their thing, Yoyogi Park, Tokyo.
Yoyogi Park
This guy was seriously impressive! That box he's wearing is pumping electronic beats, which he can slow down and scratch and mix digitally right on the box. Simultaneously, he dances (non-stop!) and creates these lovely spray paint, stencil, paint, and oil stick pieces on paper.
As soon as he finished one, he would start another.
Shibuya Crossing, Tokyo.

Delicious tempura, soba, udon, and sake for my last dinner in Japan.
Duck and leak udon.
Tsukiji tuna auction. 5:00 am.
Tsukiji tuna auction. These things are HUGE and go for several thousand dollars each.

From the auction, to a 6:30 am sushi breakfast! Freshest fish I've ever had.
We bought a little dragon head sweet and the woman proprietor of the stall insisted that we enjoy it with some green tea. Tsukiji fish market, Tokyo.
This guy has a stall where he sells hand-made knives. Here he is sharpening one that I took back to the states as a gift. Tsukiji fish market, Tokyo.
This temple is different in that it is made of stone and not wood.
On the grounds of the Imperial Palace, Tokyo.
Moat, Imperial Palace, Tokyo.
And lastly, the famous view of the two bridges and the Imperial Palace, Tokyo.
I hope you enjoyed my visual tour of Japan. I would love to go back for another visit and hopefully get to climb outside next time! (Record rain flooded the bouldering area of Mitake, which we had hoped to visit when in Tokyo.) As always, stay tuned for more sports action climbing posts soon!


  1. Awesome photographs. A beautifully compelling country, isn't it?

  2. Ah, I remember it like it was just last week. ;-)
    It was great to see you, Isaac.

  3. Anonymous6:40 PM

    Photo #96 is amazing! Great report, man hope to climb with you sooner than later.


  4. Anonymous6:41 PM

    whoops, comma fail...

  5. Beautiful pictures! Love the guidebook selection.

  6. Alex Chujo7:48 PM

    Awesome Isaac! I was there in 08 visiting fam. Todai-ji, Golden Temple, and the food! Looks like you had great tour guides!

  7. Richie Wong10:26 PM

    Great blog. I enjoyed this a lot.