Junko Tabei

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Junko Tabei (田部井 淳子)
Junko Tabei.jpg
Junko Tabei in 1985 at Communism Peak. Photo by Jaan Künnap.
Born(1939-09-22)22 September 1939
Died20 October 2016(2016-10-20) (aged 77)
Known forFirst woman to summit Mount Everest; first woman to ascend the Seven Summits
Spouse(s)Masanobu Tabei

Junko Tabei (田部井 淳子, Tabei Junko (born Ishibashi 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]

Ishibashi Junko 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 did not have enough money for such an expensive hobby, and Tabei made only a few climbs during her high school years.[6]

Education and early climbing[edit]

Junko Tabei on Communism Peak in 1985 together with two other Japanese and four Estonian mountaineers. Photo by Jaan Künnap.

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] At university, she encountered a group of male students who were in an alpine club, which she longed to join. 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.[citation needed]

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 19 May 1970,[9] LCC decided to tackle Mount Everest.[10]

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.[11]

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.[12] In early May, the group was 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, with her sherpa guide, Ang Tsering, Tabei became the first woman to reach the summit of Everest.[3][12]

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.[13] On 28 June 1992, she summited Puncak Jaya in Indonesia and thus 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 peritoneal 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 13 December 2013.CS1 maint: Unfit url (link) 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. 22 October 2016. ISSN 0447-5763. Retrieved 23 October 2016.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g "Junko Tabei defied Japanese views of women to become an – 04.29.96 – SI Vault". 7 October 2013. Archived from the original on 7 October 2013. Retrieved 23 October 2016.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  7. ^ a b c d "Japanese Climber Junko Tabei, First Woman To Conquer Mount Everest, Dies at 77". NPR.org. Retrieved 23 October 2016.
  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. ^ Frenette, Brad (20 October 2017). "A Final Interview With the First Woman to Summit Everest". Outside.
  11. ^ Junko Tabei Official Blog "エベレストの準備 その5"
  12. ^ a b "It's 1975. No woman had scaled Mt Everest yet... | Condé Nast Traveller India". Condé Nast Traveller India. Retrieved 23 October 2016.
  13. ^ 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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