A Beginner’s Guide to Bouldering Around Tokyo

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  • What is Bouldering

    For those who are unfamiliar, bouldering is a form of rock climbing, usually on the walls shorter than 3 meters, and the climbers do not need any ropes or harnesses. I am a novice climber and I admire people who boulder because it requires not only lots of strength but also technique for traversing the wall by the x, y and z axes. The objective of the sport is to not only be able to follow and try new routes, but also to move naturally and gracefully across the wall. And now we are going to discover some places to do that in Tokyo!

    There are many climbing gyms in the area, but I will introduce several that my friends or I have been to :) They usually require a one-off membership fee of ¥1000-1500, another ¥1500 or so to climb for 2 hours (or free time depending on the place), and about ¥500 for shoes and chalk rental.

    Climbing gyms usually switch up the routes and positions of holds (the “rocks” on the wall) regularly to keep things exciting. There are many different types of holds, and some really test finger and arm strength and flexibility! The placement of these holds constitutes the route, which cause you use a particular type of technique in the climb e.g. overhang, dyno (google them!) etc. There is a chart that colour codes the level of difficulty of the route in each gym. The routes are indicated by coloured tapes in different shapes, put next to each hold. There is also an indication usually at the start position of whether feet must also follow the coloured route or are free, or te ashi (手足) and jiyuu (自由) respectively.

    However, much like the scale of measurement for earthquakes (the Japanese use a different scale from Richter!), this is a Japanese standard and is not one of the standards used globally such as Hueco or “V” scale in the U.S., or the Fontainebleau grades in France. Natural rocks may be classified officially by these grades.

    The people who we see at gyms range from amateurs, friends having some post-work de-stress fun together, to pros, and that includes kids who turn into gravity defying spiders when they get on the wall. Cries of encouragement “Gambatte, gambatte!” are pretty common :) The debut of Ashima Shiraishi, a Japanese American wunder kid who created a furore when she became national youth champion some years back sure helped to inspire and unleash some talents here!

    Check out this link to see how amazing she is:

    On another note, Japanese people have an odd practice of wearing clear plastic bags as socks, much like the ones in supermarkets that are used for fruits, tofu or other easily bruised products. A good guess would be that it is done for keeping the shoes sweat-free, but it’s still a strange sight to behold :)

    Rocky Bouldering Club

    Locations: Tennozu Isle, and 3 other gyms in Chiba
    Cost: ¥1,080 for membership, ¥1,512/1,728 for 2 hours (weekdays/weekends), ¥540 for shoes and chalk rental

    Website *Japanese only

    B-Pump Climbing Gym

    Locations: Ogikubo, Akihabara, Kawasaki (rope climbing too), Yokohama
    Cost: ¥1,620 for membership, ¥1,944/¥2,160 for 1 day (weekdays/weekends), ¥324 for shoes and chalk rental


    Dogwood Climbing Gym

    Location: Futakoshinchi (inside Kuji Golf Garden)
    Cost: ¥1296 for membership, ¥1620 for 5 hours, ¥540 for shoes and chalk rental


    Location: Takadanobaba, Shimokitazawa
    Cost: ¥1500 for membership, ¥1600/1300 for free climb (before/after 7pm), ¥300 for shoes rental

    Website *Automatic translation

    Miyashita Park

    Location: Shibuya
    Cost: ¥350 for 2 hours, climbing equipment available for rental
    Prerequisites: Miyashita Park rope climbing certificate, none for bouldering. (Space capacity only allows 10 rope climbers and 10 boulderers at one time.)

    Bouldering Studio Peki Peki

    Location: Shibuya
    Cost: ¥1,080 for membership, ¥2,160 for free climb on weekdays (¥500 off on ladies’ day), ¥432 for shoes and chalk rental

    Website *Automatic translation

    Bonus: Natural Outdoor Climbing Ogawayama (小川山)

    Location: 3.5 hours from Tokyo, arguably the best rock climbing spot in Japan
    Cost: Free


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