Once again I had to learn that climbing on plastic is not rock climbing when I didn't make to the semifinals in the World Cup in Kazo, Japan. After the World Cup we checked out a bouldering area called Horai, where Dai's new 8C called Epitaf is located. We drove more than five hours from Tokyo and paid over 10 000 yen (~ 90e) highway tolls just to discover that Epitaf is pretty much the only boulder in Horai. Soon we were told that the key hold on the problem broke - twice. The rock is quite loose and some of the still existing holds seem like they will break with some time. Since we made such and effort to get there I tried it a little bit and found myself falling off a big incut edge that had absolutely zero friction on it. I did quite a few of the moves but after falling a few times more from the big buttery crimp I called it quits. Needless to say I was not impressed with the "area".
Mitake was a really small area two hours north of Tokyo. There are some nice problems like Kani V11, Mushi V11, In Tokyo! V10. After all it's a pretty cool place with nice surroundings, but only a handful of boulders.
We climbed in Shiobara for a few days. There is the famous roof with many of Dai's hard roof climbs. I was really suspicious about this place because I had heard that all of the problems are chipped. After seeing it myself I can say that it is really hard to spot the chipped holds. I thought the roof was nice with a few cool hard problems - chipped or not.
Ogawayama is an area with quite a lot of problems and good rock. It's only two hours from Tokyo by car and close to another bouldering area called Mizugaki. Definitely worth a visit if you go to Japan. Ogawayama also holds the famous slab Banshousha, which is 5. dan in the Japanese grading system that is the highest standard at the moment and earns you a "black belt" in climbing . It was given the grade of 8C by the first ascentionist Tokio Muroi, which would easily make it the hardest slab in the world. It was unrepeated for a long time until last Wednesday when I managed to make the first repeat. I was a little surprised it only took me one day of work, but a huge amount of tries to be honest. Was it hard? Yes. 8C? No. I never thought that a slab could be 8C knowing the standard in Font. However, Banshousha isn't a pure slab. Sure it's less than vertical hence a slab, but the whole time you are climbing a really slopey arete. Having something to actually grab onto makes a huge difference in the grading versus it being just a blank face. I felt like it is a really technical 8B and hard for sure, but not an 8C.
Mizugaki is my favorite area in Japan. It's 2.5 hours southwest from Tokyo and close (~ 40mins) to Ogawayama. Unfortunately we went to Mizugaki last and climbed only one day there. It seems that it's by far the biggest boulder area in Japan and there is a lot of potential for new problems. Rock quality varies from decent to very good. You won't find many crimpers, just pockets and slopers. Oh yeah, there are no chipped holds in Mizugaki (I think...).
Overall it was a really good trip. I must say I was pretty disappointed with some of the places. I would not recommend Japan if you just want to go on a climbing trip, there are much better places. If you are also interested in the culture and seeing the country, it's well worth the trip. Just use your consideration when choosing the climbing areas.