Be it athletes or not, almost everyone seems to be so captivated by rock climbing. After all, you’ve got to give the props to all of those hard-working athletes who have enough courage and persistence to constantly defy gravity. In order to become a great climber, one needs a lot of endurance, strength, flexibility, nerves of steel, and – above all – to be stubborn as hell.
After all, rock climbing is all about grabbing for more and more, until you climb at the very top. And even when you come down, the thirst for new challenges never seems to be satisfied and it’s only a matter of time until you’d want to climb another rock.
But over the years, it seems that all the eyes slowly turned toward the Japanese climbers and their great results. Sure, rock climbing is not one of those sports where one country dominates all of the time, although there have been some periods with some national teams dominating in particular categories. However, looking at the results from the mid-2010s to now, the Japanese have been showing some noticeable consistent progress.
And this is exactly why many are wondering why have Japanese climbers become so strong all of a sudden. Well, the question itself is not that easy to answer and needs a deeper analysis, which is what we’re going to do here.
Cultural aspect, overall health, as well as a balanced diet, play an important role in any sport. Add to this amazing work ethic and it will be obvious to you why Japanese climbers are so strong and successful.
NOTE: Before we begin, bear in mind that the article is more in the vein of an opinion piece. We’re trying to answer this very specific question with a few theories based on various online sources. It’s not a definitive answer but rather a deeper look into a somewhat complex question.
Table of Contents
Why Are Japanese So Good at Climbing?
For the sake of this discussion, let’s first take a look at some of the IFSC Climbing World Championships results in the past decade or so. Just bear in mind that this should not be confused with the IFSC Climbing World Cup.
The event puts athletes into the spotlight to compete in three different disciplines – lead, speed, and bouldering. It was held usually every two years since 1991, with some exceptions when it was organized for two consecutive years.
In 2017 and 2019, Japan took the top spot in combined results of these three categories, with Tomoa Narasaki taking home the gold. In 2019, he was particularly good at bouldering, which helped him win in the end.
There are, of course, plenty of other great Japanese climbers who have shown great results over the years, including Kokoro Fujii, Sachi Amma, Natsuki Tanii, Miho Nonaka, Akiyo Noguchi, and many others.
Rock climbing has finally become an Olympic sport, and Japanese climbers have been eager to show what they’ve got in the 2020 Olympics, especially because it would all take place in Tokyo, Japan. However, as you may already know, the plans for the 2020 Olympics went sour, but we’ll see how it all turns out soon.
But It’s Not Just About Strength
Before we get into this deeper, you should know that rock climbing is far from being a sport that revolves just around pure raw strength. It also involves agility, endurance, flexibility, and a lot of coordination. It all sums up in a sport that requires a lot of skill and some very precise techniques in order to make it all work.
Of course, one should definitely not overlook the mental aspect of it. After all, this is a pretty stressful activity and you don’t really get to see people dangling from a small piece of rock, all while holding onto it with just a few fingers on one hand. Just imagine what it is like for those who practice free soloing, which is a topic on its own.
So instead of asking why Japanese climbers are so strong, we should focus more on why they are so good at it and answering that particular question.
Cultural Aspect Plays a Big Role
One of the most important things to note is that the cultural aspect can play an important role in a particular sport and an activity. And, as you may know, the Japanese have a reputation for being one of the most disciplined peoples in the world. This is especially present with their work ethic, which is also very noticeable in the sport and fitness industry. In short, anything that you think you take seriously, there’s a high chance that a Japanese athlete will be already a few steps ahead of you in that aspect.
Another important part of the cultural aspect is the overall health in Japan. In fact, they’re considered to be one of the healthiest groups of people in the entire world. An average Japanese visits a doctor four times more every year compared to an average American, and they do it all voluntarily.
This is just part of their disciplined ways and a very honest approach to life. As a result, the average life expectancy in Japan is officially at 84.6 (according to the UNDP data for 2019), which puts them in the second spot, right after Hong Kong.
With that said, you can only imagine how disciplined and dedicated Japanese athletes are. With a sport like rock-climbing, dedication, continuity, and consistency can only help you excel.
And while we’re at it, combine all of these with Japanese cuisine, which is one of the healthiest in the world. Compared to most of the world, Japan consumes a lot more fish, and combines it with other traditionally Asian foods, resulting in one very balanced diet. And just like for every sport, quality food and a very dedicated and disciplined approach can only be beneficial to one’s great results.
A Lot of Amazing Spots for Rock Climbing
Japan has a lot of great places that are pretty much perfect for rock climbing. This goes both for natural rock formations and climbing gyms. The country’s capital, Tokyo, is one of the biggest rock-climbing centers in the world.
Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, you’ll be able to find a great climbing gym for your needs. Quail, T Wall, Spider, and Apex are just some of the names that you should check out if you happen to be there. Of course, nothing really beats a good old outdoor spot, with Ogawayama being the most popular one.
Well-Developed Climbing Comunity
But nothing of this would really work well without a well-developed rock climbing community. And it’s not only about making a great climbing spot and organizing all the work around it but also keeping in touch with everyone within this community in case you want to progress.
In fact, the collaboration between different climber teams was crucial for Japanese climbers’ fast-paced climb towards the top. According to Takako Hoshi, one of the coaches of the Japanese national climbing team, the “secret” behind their success in the past decade or so is that they have good communication within the rock climbing community, with everyone sharing important data. This sense of healthy competition is what ultimately helps national teams achieve amazing results in pretty much every sport.
True sportsmanship is, by far, the most valuable asset that one community of athletes can have. According to Takako’s words, climbers always try to help each other out by immediately sharing their experiences after every competition or an important training session. At this point, this has become an important part of the Japanese climbers’ mentality.
Focus on Techniques, Tactics, and Mental Skills
As we already mentioned, Japanese climbers have shown great progress in the past decade or so, surprising all of the sport’s fans around the world. According to some, the main philosophy behind this was to focus on the technical, tactical, and mental aspects of it.
With these come different training methods and routines that can help climbers improve these aspects. For instance, many have noticed that Japanese climbers’ immense improvement and success went along with their more frequent climbing on volumes. For those who don’t know, volumes are prism-like features with plenty of spots where one can attach holds.
This particular addition makes it possible for them to fully customize the climbing walls. It adds more dimensions to climbing routines, bringing almost endless possibilities.
To Sum It Up
Whatever it is that you do in life, the urge for constant improvement is crucial for success. And this is exactly what we can learn from Japanese climbers, who have been implementing this kind of thinking into rock climbing.
So, to conclude, we can mention these few factors that make Japanese climbers so strong:
- Great work ethics and discipline
- Healthy lifestyle and diet
- Close-knit and well-developed rock climbing community (sharing of information and healthy competition)
- Focusing on improving techniques and mental skills rather than just physical fitness
- A lot of great spots for practicing rock climbing
- Tokyo being the first Olympics to host rock-climbing brought a boost in motivation