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Climbing on

The following is a list of the Pump Sport Climbing Centers around the greater Tokyo area. B-Pump and B-Pump 2 are bouldering gyms; Pump 1 and Pump 2 cater to both the roped climber and boulderer. For lessons, call or email at least a few days in advance. Pump's staff is entirely Japanese so English is limited. For more information, visit www.pump-climbing.com

Fees
Monthly membership ¥10,000; Yearly membership ¥110,000
Pump 1, Pump 2: ¥2,000 (all day), ¥1,500 (night)
B-pump, B-pump 2: ¥1,800 (all day), ¥1,500 (night)

Pump 1
2-3-12 Motogo, Kawaguchi City, Saitama. Tel: 048-225-2919. Open Tue-Fri 1-10:30pm, Sat and hols 10am-9pm, Sun 9am-8pm, closed Mon. Nearest stn: JR Keihin-Tohoku line, Kawaguchi stn.

Pump 2
2-13-1 Nakanoshima Tama-ku, Kawasaki City, Kanagawa. Tel: 044-933-2594. Open Tue 5:30-10:30pm, Wed and Thu 2-10:30pm, Fri 6:30-10:30pm, Sat 10am-9pm, Sun and hols 9am-7pm, closed Mon. Nearest stn: JR Nanbu line, Nakanoshima stn.

B-Pump
2-20-10 Higashimotocho, Kokubunji City, Tokyo. Tel:042-324-6762. Open Mon-Fri 1-11pm, Sat and hols 11am-10pm, Sun 10am-9pm. Nearest stn: Kokubunji.

B-Pump 2
1-8-1 Hiranuma, Nishi-ku, Yokohama. Tel: 045-313-3672. Open Mon-Fri 1-11pm, Sat and hols 11am-10pm, Sun 10am-9pm. Nearest stn: Yokohama.





 

 

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Like a rock

Climbing instructor Luke Kearns gets a grip on Tokyo's best indoor climbing gyms.

 

Rock climbing is often associated with chiseled bodies, and heights where only birds and window cleaners feel comfortable. But the accessibility of indoor rock climbing has broken down the barriers of this rough-and-rugged extreme sport, and given the average, not-so-chiseled Joe a taste of the thrill it has to offer.

Here in Tokyo, Pump Sport Climbing Centers have stood atop the city's artificial rock climbing scene since the opening of its first gym in 1993. Since then an increasing number of Tokyoites have discovered the fitness benefits of climbing, from ripped muscles to greater flexibility. Seasoned cliffhangers, meanwhile, will find these local spots have plenty of steeps and overhangs to keep them smiling.

 

Bouldering
A short walk from Kokubunji station on the Chuo line from Shinjuku, B-Pump is one of the few exclusive bouldering gyms in the world. Most gyms cater to the roped climber and have only a sidewall or two for the boulderer, but B-Pump and its sister gym, B-Pump 2 in Yokohama, have answered the explosion in bouldering enthusiasts with two unmatched facilities.

Boulderers get their fill of caves, corners and pillars at Saitama's Pump 1.

Bouldering originally developed as practice for "roped" climbers who used boulders to train for their next outdoor excursion. This meant doing the same type of climbing, but closer to the ground so they could climb without a rope, and without a partner. But as time went on and climbs got harder, so did the bouldering. Climbers from around the world soon found that these close-to-the-ground movements were beneficial, and extremely challenging.

Dai Koyamada is the current leader of the Japanese bouldering movement. Aside from two victories at the All Japan Championship, Koyamada has earned international respect, most recently for establishing a route on his home turf of Kyushu that some suggest may be the toughest rock ever climbed. Its horizontal roof and handholds are only large enough for single fingers.

But bouldering's not just for the experts, as B-Pump proves. "There's something for everyone here," says Michael Schleakel, a climber of 30 years from Munich Germany. "There are endless routes, lots of easy ones for the beginner, and plenty of difficult ones to keep the strong climbers happy too."

B-Pump's dead overhanging roofs turn to mellow, less-than-vertical walls topping out at around 5 meters. Covered with a rainbow of holds, the walls offer endless possibilities as well as several preset routes or "problems," as they're called in bouldering. They are also separated into several rooms and bouldering caves, creating corners, roofs and pillars that mimic the unique features of outdoor rock.

B-Pump offers daily introductory lessons for kids and adults alike, and has spotters for more experienced climbers. Like most gyms of its kind, it has a friendly and supportive atmosphere. To get started, all you need are two things: specialized shoes with sticky rubber soles, and chalk to keep your hands dry. B-Pump provides both, in addition to an in-house pro shop with all the gear a climber could ever desire.

 

Roped climbing
For those who dream to clamber up where the air is thinner, roped climbing is the way to go. But the sight of climbers dangling from the ceiling can be a bit unsettling for the first-time climber. As one person climbs, a "belayer" stands below holding the other end of the rope. It's their job to secure the rope in case the climber falls or needs to rest.

A roped climber hangs on at Pump 1, Japan's second-largest climbing gym

With its futuristic open-dome ceiling and towering walls of all angles, Kawasaki City's Pump 2 is Japan's largest indoor climbing facility and perhaps the best place to try your hand at roped climbing. Professional instructors and fixed lessons at Pump 2 and Saitama's Pump 1, the nation's second-largest gym, make it easy for the beginner to get comfortable climbing up high. Each gym also has a bouldering wall, which is a great way to warm up before hitting the ropes. For experienced climbers, both Pump locations are equipped with "lead" climbing walls.

Lead climbing originated outdoors as a way to get the rope to the top of the climb. On most climbs, it's not as easy as walking to the top of the cliff and setting up a line. A lead climber typically has to ascend first and attach the rope to the top of the rock. Because of the greater difficulty of lead climbing, practice indoors is a great way to hone the necessary skills.

Lessons for this and more basic roped climbing skills run daily, but call or email ahead, and book you and your partner at least a few days ahead of time. You may even find yourself climbing alongside World Cup climbing legend Yuji Hirayama, who along with Kodayama practices and gives talks at Pump gyms in between record-breaking climbs around the world.

As these two champions can attest, while climbing indoors can be a thrill, it's also great experience for the aspiring outdoor climber. From a few stops outside Shinjuku to the Japan Alps in Nagano to Okinawa, there are a number of established and newly developed climbing areas across Japan. And putting in the hours inside is the ideal way to get the all-important back, fingers and forearms in shape to test the routes this spring.

Photo credit: Martin Hladik

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