I doubt that there is a single kid in the western world who, when watching the 1933 classic movie King Kong for the first time, didn’t think ‘I wish I could climb walls like that’, and then spent an afternoon being told off by their mother for clambering all over the furniture. (Surely it’s not just me.) Well, as we grow up we learn that, unless we are a Marvel action hero or the Human Spider, it’s not going to happen. But that’s not entirely the case, because in recent years bouldering has taken off in a big way.
While sounding like a heat in the World’s Strongest Man competition, bouldering is in actual fact a discipline of rock climbing performed without the use of ropes or harnesses. However, unlike free solo climbing, in bouldering the climbing path is usually, like many boulders, less than six metres (20ft) tall. The sport originated in the mid-1800s as a way of practicing tricky rock climbing manouvers at a safe distance from the ground. During the 20th century the sport grew with the advent of crash mats to prevent injury from falls and indoor bouldering providing all-weather access. The coming of You Tube in the 2000s has since helped the sport grow even further as those unacquainted with climbing gained knowledge of the challenges involved.
Of course Tokyo is pretty thin on the ground when it comes to boulders, however there are still plenty of bouldering centres around the city, most of which offer lessons for beginners just getting to grips with the idea of rock climbing. Below are just a handful of the places you can try.
T-Wall are probably the biggest players on Tokyo’s bouldering scene with four locations across the city. Each place has a distinctly different style ranging from a mammoth 11m (36ft) wall to urban settings. The great thing about T-Wall other than this variety is that registering at any one place gets you admission to all four.
There are two locations for B-Pump in Tokyo – Okikubo and Akihabara – but it is probably the latter that is more popular. There are three floors with various levels of difficulty but its most original selling point is the third floor black-lit neon room. It is sounds quite ridiculious yet it is entertaining at the same time. On Friday evenings, there is a women-only class for beginners.
There are eight levels of bouldering difficulty on this, the largest wall in the capital measuring four metres (13ft) in height and a whopping 40m (130ft) across. Slopes range from 80 to 150 degrees and there are lessons for those just starting out. Then, when you are done with the wall, you can try out the other sporting activities in the huge Tokyo Dome City sports leisure centre.
If you are unsure as to whether bouldering is a thing for you, why not take advantage of Peki-Peki’s first-timer’s free lesson? There are three floors in this small but stylish climbing space including a floor dedicated just for kids. Once you feel like you have had enough of a workout for a day, you can take it easy in the terrace and lounge areas.
If you are feeling that you want a bit of fresh air while you climb and are happy to brave the Tokyo summer heat, why not head over to Miyashita Park in Shibuya (just across the street from Peki-Peki)? At 350 JPY for two hours of climbing, this Nike sponsored park is probably the best bouldering bang for your yen you’re going to find. On the downside, it is quite small and they only allow eight climbers at a time, but if you find yourself with time to kill, you can always check out the skate park and futsal court which is right next to it.
If you grow tired of the fabricated climbs and want to experience the real thing, the shoreline of the Tama River that runs through Tokyo Prefecture has plenty of large jagged boulders. From Shinjuku JR station it takes just 80 minutes to Mitake station in Ome city, which is a great place to get to the river. In fact some of Japan’s best bouldering problems are found in the Mitake area, with names such as Ninja Rock and Dead End. Of course, falling even from these relatively short heights will still be pretty painful, but you can rent crash mats nearby specifically for this purpose.
Photo: flickr.com "_MG_9207" by BLOCKHELDEN - Boulderha (CC BY-SA 2.0) -Modified