Walter Weston

In 1902 Kingiro Okano, employee of the Standard Oil Company in Yokohama happened to see " the Japanese Alps" on the cover of the American manager's magazine with interest. He was surprised to find the pictures of Mt.Yarigatake when he turned over the leaves of the book unintentionally. He was much surprised, because he had climbed the mountain with a friend of his, Usui Kozima and they had been proud of being their first climbers. They did not guess that a foreigner called Walter Weston had climbed the mountain ten years before.

Soon they wrote to the British, who invited them to his house in Yokohama. Though they called on Weston for the first time, they chatted about mountaineering merrily. They decided to establish the Japanese Mountaineering Club on Weston's advice in 1906.

Till the Japanese young men climbed mountains, Japanese people had considered mountain climbing not a kind of sport but religious event and had thought mountains very sacred for a long time.

Water Weston was born in Derby, England in 1861 as the sixth child of John Weston, manager of a band maker. After graduating from Clare College at Cambridge University, Water Weston attended Lidley Theological School and became a preacher in 1855.

In 1888 he came to Japan as a preacher sent by C.M.S.(Church Missionary Society) and stayed in the churches of Kumamoto and Kobe for about seven years. He climbed Mt.Fuji,Mt.Aso,Mt.Sobo,Mt.Kirisima, and Mt.Sakurajima. He also climbed the mountain ranges in the central region of the Main Island from 1891 to 1894 and published "Mountaineering and Exploration in the Japanese Alps" in London in 1896.

It was William Cowland, engineer of coin making in Osaka Mint Agency that first climbed the mountain ranges over the Provinces of Ecchuu, Hida and Shinano.

It was in fashion that they made their children still in their minority travel throughout the Continent as the completion of their education. It goes without saying that the young men can not only increase their knowledge and experience but also cultivate their intelligence and bravery to deal with their crises during their trips.

It was a harvest for the British people to see the superb landscape of the Alps, the ruins of Rome and compare the climate with that of their country.

In nineteenth century, the Romantic poets of Wordsworth, Byron and Shelley wrote poems with fear, reverence, longing and delight for the Alps. It became a kind of fashion among the high society to appreciate the pictures as Italian souvenirs and climb the Alps with the collected poems of the Romantic poets in the climbers' pockets.

It is said that Ruskin gave the most decisive influence on British people by introducing the Alps as the theme of literature and fine arts. About the middle of the nineteenth century, the rising middle class became to follow the life style of the high society as a result of the Industrial Revolution. City dwellers began to go camping in the suburbs, because cities had been polluted with smoke and the dust exhausted from factories. While Ruskin and Wordsworth have a contemplative attitude, English people generally have national character being not afraid of running a risk.

There are not high mountains such as the Alps in Great Britain. Mt. Ben Nevis, 1343 meters high is the highest mountain there.

Weston climbed the Alps at the age of 17 in 1878 for the first time and did the Matterhorn and the other mountains with his brother in 1886. About this time Weston was attracted to mountain climbing.

Weston knew the splendid mountain ranges of Japan equal to the Alps through Basil Chamberlain, who first climbed Mt.Yastugatake in 1875 and crossed the Hachinoki Pass at the early Meiji Era. Arnest Satow(1843-1929), who was in Japan for 25 years as interpreter of the British Consulate climbed Mt.Tateyama across the Hachinoki Pass and climbed many high mountains including Mt.Yastugatake and Mt.Ontake and so on.

From 1891 to 1894 Weston climbed over forty mountains including Mt.Fuji every year. He carried two kinds of barometers to measure the height of mountains for exploring and picked up the plants for specimen in addition to the observation of mountain routes, the view and shape of mountains. He also introduced beautiful spots, distance, traffic service, expenses and the character of inhabitants. Because Weston was very near sighted, he could not take the pictures of mountains. So his friends and the photographers of the district took them instead of him. He made use of mountain carriers, carriages and jinrikisha carrying the climbers' food and camping gear.

In 1894 Weston returned home to publish " Mountaineering and Exploration in the Japanese Alps" compiled articles written in "Japan Weekly Mail" and "the British Mountaineering Club Report" and gave a lecture about the Japanese Alps at the British Mountaineering Club and other places.

In 1902 Weston came to Japan as a preacher of Yokohama Christian Church again. Then he met Kingiro Okano and Usui Kojima and showed them the western mountaineering gear, and read a phrase of "Modern Painters " to them. Usui Kojima translated a part of the book Weston had lent Kinjiro Okano.

During Weston's second visit to Japan he chiefly climbed the Southern Alps in addition to the Northern Alps and wrote the article of his climbing in "The Play Ground in the Far East".

His third visit to Japan ranged from 1911 to 1915. After returning home, he became a lecturer of the public lecture of Cambridge University and traveled the all parts of Britain as an itinerant lecturer.

Though Mountaineering and Exploring in the Japanese Alps was a little exaggeratedly written, we can read his many humorous experiences. The book vividly reminds us of forgotten mountains and forefather living there.