Birthday: September 12, 1939
Who was Junko Tabei?
Junko Tabei was renowned for her achievements in mountain climbing. She was also an educator who wrote books regarding her experiences. In addition, she was also known for climbing the highest peaks on every continent.
However, her most famous achievement was being the first woman to ever reach Mt. Everest’s summit. Additionally, she was also able to conquer the Seven Summits, the highest mountains on the seven continents.
5 Facts About Junko Tabei
- Junko published seven books.
- She was an environment protector and organized drives to clean up trash from Mt. Everest climbers.
- She led yearly climbs to Mount Fuji for school children who experienced damages brought by the Great East Japan Earthquake.
- An asteroid and a range of mountains in Pluto were named after her, 6897 Tabei and Tabei Montes.
- She had climbed all the major mountains in Japan.
Famous Quotes from Junko Tabei
“Technique and ability alone do not get you to the top; it is the willpower that is the most important. This willpower you cannot buy with money or be given by others... it rises from your heart.”
“Everest for me, and I believe for the world, is the physical and symbolic manifestation of overcoming odds to achieve a dream.”
“I can’t understand why men make all this fuss about Everest-it’s only a mountain.”
“There was never a question in my mind that I wanted to climb that mountain, no matter what other people said.”
Junko Tabei Biography
Childhood and Early Life
Junko Tabei was born in Fukushima. Her family had seven children, and she was the fifth daughter. When she was ten years old, she joined a trip to climb Mount Nasu with her class.
She was described as a delicate child, but that did not dampen her enthusiasm to climb mountains. Instead, she fell in love with the natural beauty that the landscape provided at mountain peaks.
Tabei particularly enjoyed the non-competitive nature of mountain climbing. However, she did not come from a well-off family and could not afford to pay for her love for sports, so she only had a few trips when she was in high school.
She later enrolled at Showa Women’s University to study English and American Literature to be a teacher. However, when she graduated, she decided to pursue her love of climbing mountains.
To pay for her mountain climbing activities, Junko worked as an editor for the Journal of the Physical Society of Japan. After being mistreated by male mountaineers, she founded the Joshi-Tohan Club. The motto of the club was “let’s go on an overseas expedition by ourselves.”
For the club’s first expedition, they climbed a Nepalese mountain called Annapurna III in 1970. With the guidance of two Sherpa people, Tabei and her fellow club member were selected to complete the final climb to the peak.
Japanese Women’s Everest Expedition (JWEE), consisting of 15 members, was later established. Eiko Hisano formed this organization to climb Everest. Most of the members were made up of professional working women.
They requested a climbing authorization, but it took four years for their team to obtain a climbing schedule. Tabei tried to request sponsorship for her team’s Everest expedition. It was only at the last minute that two news and media companies agreed to partially fund and sponsor their quest.
However, the money was still not enough, so each of her teammates had to pay $5000 each for the climb. Tabei worked as a piano teacher to help cover the costs for their Everest expedition. She also had to make most of her climbing equipment to save money.
The team was finally able to climb Everest in May after undergoing intense training in 1975. This attempt to climb Everest gained extreme media attention. Several reporters and media personalities went with them.
While camping at 6309.36 meters, they were hit by an avalanche, which resulted in Tabei losing consciousness. Fortunately, nobody died in the incident, and after recovering for two days, Tabei carried on the expedition with her team.
On May 16, 1975, she opened a new era in mountain climbing as the first female to ever reach the Everest summit. Two women were supposed to complete the climb, but she was ultimately chosen because her teammates experienced altitude sickness, resulting in a lack of oxygen supply.
Later on, she also conquered the Seven Summits consisting of Kilimanjaro, Mt. Aconcagua, Denali, Mt. Elbrus, Mount Vinson, and Puncak Jaya. After this, Tabei focused on helping the environment and furthered her studies at Kyushu University.
She became the head of the Himalayan Adventure Trust of Japan and was also able to write seven books between 1998 and 2006.
Before Tabei’s death from stomach cancer in Kawagoe on October 20, 2016, an asteroid was named after her. It is now called 6897 Tabei. She continued her mountain climbing activities even after her cancer diagnosis.
In 2019, a range of mountains in Pluto named after Tabei was called Tabei Montes. Google also celebrated her eightieth birthday.