japonisme: Yarigatake: The Matterhorn of Japan

12 July 2009

Yarigatake: The Matterhorn of Japan

The first person to stand on the summit of the 3180m Mt Yari was the priest and mountain ascetic Banryu in the late Edo Period (19th century).

This was the first recorded ascent of the peak which is now revered by climbers across the country, and it occurred in July 1828; some 37 years before Wimper became the first person to climb the Matterhorn.

Then in 1880 an Englishman named Gowland reached the summit before dubbing the mountain panorama that lay before him “the Japanese Alps.”

It was this name which would later be popularised by Walter Weston, another Englishman, who first summited in 1892. Weston spread news of Mt Yari to the climbing fraternity around the world.

Although not renowned for his mountain-climbing prowess, the well-known author Ryunosuke Akutagawa [Rashomon] has also climbed Mt Yarigatake.

On the 12th August 1909 the 17 year old Akutagawa reached the top together with 3 classmates. You can read about his exploits in the mountains in works such as “Diary of my Mt Yari Ascent” and “Mt Yari Journal.” 1

Recreational hiking in Japan is relatively new in the nation's long history: the mountains were con- sidered foreboding and inhospi- table, the realm of mountain priests and the gods, until a pair of Englishmen, William Gowland and Walter Weston, climbed them in the late 19th century.

Gowland dubbed the region "The Japan Alps" while Weston's lectures and books introduced the region to Japanese and foreigners alike. 2

Banryu scaled Yari-ga-take and other major peaks as part of his religious devotion. 3

a statue of him stands today.

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Blogger Roland said...

Beautiful post. Must find away to get to Japan soon. I am working on a project based on Japan at the moment and find your blog invaluable. Thank you so much.

13 July, 2009 02:10  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

thank you so much, roland. i hope you get there soon. i would love to know more about your project.

13 July, 2009 05:49  

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