Climbing to Fluency – Exploring Japan’s Ritch Rock Climbing Culture

Known for its breathtaking landscapes and rich culture, Japan is also a country where rock climbing thrives. For those of you seeking adventure and immersion in the language, this unique blend offers a fascinating opportunity. In this blog, we will explore how rock climbing in Japan can not only enhance your climbing experience but also significantly improve your Japanese language proficiency. 

Coto Academy is a Japanese language school located in Tokyo and Yokohama. With its small class sizes and flexible course schedule, we ensure the students find their community here in Japan and learn practical and useful daily-life Japanese by focusing on conversational practice.

Quick jump to

Immerse Yourself in the History and Culture

Japan’s popularity with rock climbing stretches back to the early 20th century, with the formation of mountaineering clubs and pioneering efforts by well-known figures like Saburo Matsukata (松方三郎) and Tamotsu Nakamura (中村保). Most notably, Junko Tabei (田部井淳子), who was the first woman to conquer Mount  Everest and ascend the Seven Summits, cementing Japan’s presence in the global mountaineering scene. 

Junko Tabei (1939 – 2016) – Photo by National Geographic

Climbing’s popularity soared during the postwar period, fueled by advances in equipment, international influence, and the introduction of Western climbing techniques. Japan boasts a very large and thriving climbing community encompassing competitive and recreational climbers. Climbers like Tomoa Narasaki (楢崎智亜) and Akiyo Noguchi (野口啓代) have turned Japan into a force to be reckoned with in the climbing world. Narasaki, with his double Olympic gold, absolutely insane speed, multiple World Championships, and an all-around mastery of all types of climbing and styles you can think of, is practically royalty in the sport. But, despite his achievements – his dynamic movement and problem-solving skills are truly a joy to watch, and he’s inspired a whole new generation of climbers around the globe and in Japan.

From the beautiful limestone cliffs of Okinawa to the rugged granite boulders of Ogawayama, Japan’s diverse climbing scene offers a playground for anyone who loves the thrill of ascent, from seasoned veterans like Narakaki-san to wide-eyed beginners. This variety attracts climbers from all corners of the globe, creating a vibrant international community.                       

Tomoa Narasaki – Japanese Record Holder – Photo by Norqain

Respect for the Rock

Although it’s not just about the challenge, Japanese climbers share a deep respect for nature and the places they explore. Like in Japanese culture, they follow a strong “leave no trace” (痕跡を残さない – konseki o nokosanai) ethic and actively build positive relationships with the local communities sharing these precious landscapes. These values go beyond borders – they’re the principles that every climber, anywhere in the world, can take with them, whether they’re scaling a Japanese peak, tackling a route back home, or simply navigating everyday life.

Kodomo Gaeshi, Mitake. Photo by Eddie Gianelloni

Useful Japanese Phrases When Climbing

がんば!, がんばれ!Ganba!, Ganbare!You got this!
ヒールフックHīru hukkuHeel hook
ニーバーŌbāhanguOver hang

Hopefully this helps you converse a bit better with your fellow climbers!

For those who aren’t just climbers but also love manga, we highly recommend the internationally acclaimed manga series “Kokou no Hito” (孤高の人, The Climber). Ranked 39th in global manga popularity, this series follows the journey of Mori Buntarō, a quiet climber loosely based on the real-life mountaineer Buntarō Katō. This story dives deep into climbing culture and even deep into personal growth. It’s a great read, and I can’t recommend it enough!

Enhance Your Japanese Through the Community

One of the most captivating aspects of the global climbing community is its diversity, offering countless opportunities to connect with climbers worldwide and immerse yourself in different cultures and languages. Japan’s climbing destinations are no exception, with a vibrant mix of local and international climbers circulating in the gyms and crags.

Participating in climbing events, workshops, and online forums provides a perfect environment for language exchange and cultural immersion. Climbing with the locals isn’t just about conquering a wall; it’s a window into Japan. Chatting with Japanese climbers lets you peek behind the curtain and discover their customs, traditions, and unique way of seeing nature. It’s a chance to learn more than just how to say “good climb” in Japanese. Not only that, but the supportive atmosphere of the climbing world often creates lasting friendships and connections, surpassing linguistic barriers. Who knows? You might even find yourself discovering a special someone amidst an accent!

Location: Ogawayama

When climbing in Ogawayama most people choose to stay at Mawaremedaira Camp Ground (546-2 Kawahake, Kawakami, Minamisaku District, Nagano 384-1401, Japan).

It can be challenging to find your way around Ogawayama’s crags due to there being no English guidebook, but embrace the adventure, it’s a part of the experience!

Price: The campsite offered is free as long as you bring your own camp equipment. The campsite also offers a number of small bungalows at ¥6000 per night. The main Mt. Kimpu Villa also accepts guests for ¥6800 per night with two meals from May through November.

Mount Ogawayama Photo by Explore-Share

  • Basecamp your adventure at the Mawaremedaira Camp Ground and swap stories with fellow climbers under the stars.
  • Famed for its technical, slabby routes, Ogawayama is a must for those who love a challenge. The iconic Mara Iwa pillar stands out, boasting routes for all skill levels. 
  • No English guidebooks are available yet, so embrace the challenge of exploring!

Location: Mizugaki

When climbing in Mizugaki most people choose to stay at Mizugakiyama Natural Park Campsite (〒408-0101 8862-1 Obi, Sutama-cho, Hokuto-shi, Yamanashi). Unlike Mawaremedaira Camp Ground which is a bit trickier to navigate, Mizugakiyama Natural Park Campsite is found at the foot of the granite spires putting the crags within walking distance.

Price: You can easily enjoy camping without reservations, free in all areas, and you can set up a tent at any point you like.

Kōfu, Japan Photo by 27 CRAGS

Seeking a scenic adventure?

  • Mizugaki boasts breathtaking multi-pitch routes alongside excellent crack climbing opportunities in the Tochimen area.
  • Camp at the Mizugakiyama Natural Park Campsite and wake up ready to conquer the imposing granite spires.

Location: Futagoyama

Unlike the other climbing sites Futagoyama (Matatoge, Kawarasawa, Ogano, Chichibu District, Saitama 368-0113, Japan) does not have any accommodation near by despite it being some of the most well known limestone to climb in Japan.

Price: Completely free! Be safe!

Futagoyama Photo by Gripped

  • One of the best and most famous Japanese Limestone crag. Amazing quality rock, steep long and challenging routes, short and easy approach. More than 200 routes from 5.10 to 5.15 and some multi-pitch 
  • Here, the legendary Yuji Hirayama is actively bolting new lines, adding to the area’s rich climbing history and helping boost local tourism.

Location: Bichu

Much like Futogoyama, Bichu (Bitchucho Shitoyoze, Takahashi, Okayama 716-0301, Japan) does not have any accommodations nearby.

Price: Completely free! Be safe!

Crack Climbing Photo by Mapo Tapo

  • Over an hours drive from Okayama
  • This hidden gem boasts the highest concentration of limestone sport routes in Japan, offering a unique climbing experience.
  • Some spots have access issues as many spots near crowded places. So please ensure you follow the recommendations of local climbers and behave responsibly.

Location: Mt. Hiei (Kyushu)

Mt. Hiei (Kyushu) (Kitakatamachi Sugebaru, Nobeoka, Miyazaki 882-0233, Japan) does not have many popular or recommended accommodations nearby. Might be best to make it a day trip!

Price: Completely free! Be safe!

Mt. Hiei Photo by Jen Wysocki

  • For crack climbing enthusiasts and boulderers, Mt. Hiei in Kyushu is a rising star.
  • With its vast potential and the famous 8c boulder problem “Horizon” established by Dai Koyamada, this area is poised to become a top climbing destination.


Japan offers a unique climbing experience with a welcoming community, beautiful scenery, and various rock types. While the climbing may not be endless, its rich history and vibrant community make it a must-visit for many climbers.

Follow our social media channels for updates on upcoming events, special offers, and useful information about Japan.

Want to learn more about Japanese language and culture?
Book a free level check consultation with us to join!

Test your Japanese level!

Do a self-test to see which course fits you.

Check your level