Junko Tabei

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Junko Tabei
Junko Tabei.jpg
Junko Tabei in 1985 at Communism Peak
Born (1939-09-22)22 September 1939
Miharu, Fukushima, Japan
Died 20 October 2016 (aged 77)
Kawagoe, Saitama, Japan
Nationality Japanese
Occupation Mountaineer
Known for First woman to summit Mount Everest; first woman to ascend the Seven Summits

Junko Tabei (田部井 淳子 Tabei Junko?, 22 September 1939 – 20 October 2016)[1] was a Japanese mountaineer. She was the first woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest, and the first woman to ascend all Seven Summits by climbing the highest peak on every continent.[2][3][4]

Early life[edit]

Tabei was born in Miharu, Fukushima, the fifth daughter in a family of seven children.[5][6] She was considered a frail, weak child, but nevertheless she began mountain climbing at the age of 10, going on a class climbing trip to Mount Nasu.[5][7] Although she was interested in doing more climbing, her family didn't have enough money for such an expensive hobby, and Tabei made only a few climbs during her high school years.[6]

Adult life[edit]

From 1958 to 1962, Tabei studied English literature and education at Showa Women's University, where she was a member of the mountain climbing club.[6] After graduating, Tabei formed the Ladies Climbing Club: Japan (LCC) in 1969. The club's slogan was "Let's go on an overseas expedition by ourselves", and was the first of its kind in Japan. Tabei later stated that she founded the club as a result of how she was treated by male mountaineers of the time; some men, for example, refused to climb with her, while others thought she was only interested in climbing as a way to find a husband.[6][7]

During this time, she climbed mountains such as Mount Fuji in Japan and the Matterhorn in the Swiss Alps. By 1972, Tabei was a recognized mountain climber in Japan.

1975 Everest expedition[edit]

Tabei's LCC contained a team known as the Japanese Women's Everest Expedition (JWEE), headed by Eiko Hisano, that would attempt to summit Mount Everest. JWEE contained 15 members, mostly working women, including teachers, a computer programmer and a juvenile counselor. Two of them, including Tabei, were mothers.[8] After Tabei and Hiroko Hirakawa successfully summited Annapurna III on May 19, 1970,[9] LCC decided to tackle Mount Everest.

Tabei helped to find sponsors for the expedition, although she was frequently told that the women "should be raising children instead."[7] She was able to obtain last-minute funding from the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper and Nippon Television, however all the group members still had to pay an amount that was almost equal to Japan’s average salary. To save money, they would use recycled car seats to sew up waterproof pouches and over-gloves. They also purchased goose feather from China and made their own sleeping bags. Students at school collected unused packets of jam for their teachers.[10]

After a long training period, the team began the expedition early in 1975 when they traveled to Kathmandu. They used the same route to ascend the mountain that Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay had taken in 1953.[11] In early May the group were camping at 6,300 meters when an avalanche struck their camp. The women and their guides were buried under the snow. Tabei lost consciousness for approximately six minutes until her sherpa guide dug her out. Twelve days after the avalanche, on 16 May 1975, Tabei became the first woman to reach the summit of Everest.[11][3]

As a result of her achievement, Tabei was showered with attention: she received messages from the King of Nepal and the Japanese government, a television miniseries was made about the expedition and she toured Japan making personal appearances. However, Tabei was uncomfortable with this level of fame.[6]

Later activities[edit]

In the 1990–91 season, Tabei reached the summit of Mount Vinson, Antarctica's highest mountain.[12] On June 28, 1992, she summited Puncak Jaya and became the first woman to complete the Seven Summits.[2][4]

In addition to her climbing, Tabei worked on ecological concerns; in 2000, she completed postgraduate studies at Kyushu University focusing on the environmental degradation of Everest caused by the waste left behind by climbing groups.[5] Tabei was also the director of the Himalayan Adventure Trust of Japan, an organization working at a global level to preserve mountain environments.[3] One of the trust's projects was to build an incinerator to burn climbers' rubbish. She also led and participated in "clean-up" climbs in Japan and the Himalayas.[6]

Personal life[edit]

Tabei was married to Masanobu Tabei, a climber she met while climbing in Japan in 1965. The couple had two children: a daughter, Noriko, and a son, Shinya.[6]

Tabei was diagnosed with cancer in 2012, however she continued with many of her mountaineering activities. She died in a hospital in Kawagoe on 20 October 2016.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Official website- profile". Retrieved 22 September 2010. 
  2. ^ a b Robert Horn (29 April 1996). "No Mountain Too High For Her : Junko Tabei defied Japanese views of women to become an expert climber". Sports Illustrated. Archived from the original on December 13, 2013.  Retrieved 29 December 2015
  3. ^ a b c Otake, Tomoko, "Junko Tabei : The first woman atop the world", Japan Times, 27 May 2012, p. 7
  4. ^ a b The American Alpine Journal. Volume 67 of American Alpine Club Annual Resources Series. The Mountaineers Books. 1997. p. 125. ISBN 0930410556. 
  5. ^ a b c "Junko Tabei, first woman to conquer Everest, complete 'Seven Summits,' dies at 77". The Japan Times Online. 2016-10-22. ISSN 0447-5763. Retrieved 2016-10-23. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g "Junko Tabei defied Japanese views of women to become an – 04.29.96 – SI Vault". 2013-10-07. Retrieved 2016-10-23. 
  7. ^ a b c d "Japanese Climber Junko Tabei, First Woman To Conquer Mount Everest, Dies At 77". NPR.org. Retrieved 2016-10-23. 
  8. ^ JWEE 1975+40 official website "Women’s Quest for Everest"
  9. ^ The Himalayan Journal Vol.30 "JAPANESE WOMEN'S ANNAPURNA III EXPEDITION, 1970"
  10. ^ Junko Tabei Official Blog "エベレストの準備 その5"
  11. ^ a b "It's 1975. No woman had scaled Mt Everest yet... | Condé Nast Traveller India". Condé Nast Traveller India. Retrieved 2016-10-23. 
  12. ^ Kurtenbach, Elaine (31 March 1991). "Japanese Woman Scales Mountains While Ignoring Society's Stereotypes". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 30 August 2016. 

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