100-Year-Old Conquers Mount Fuji
FUJIYOSHIDA, Japan (AP) _ A former lumberjack who has been climbing Mount Fuji every year since age 89 became the first centenarian to conquer Japan’s tallest mountain Sunday.
Teiichi Igarashi, who was wearing heavy socks but no shoes, reached the 12,385-foot summit after a three-day climb that included two overnight stops in mountain huts.
″I could make it because of encouragement from all of my supporters,″ he said.
During the climb, he stopped about every three minutes to rest at the side of the path, which was crowded as usual by hundreds of climbers. He took no water but ate raw eggs during rest breaks, in addition to his regular meals.
Igarashi’s 12th conquest of Fuji came nine days after 91-year-old American Hulda Crooks from Loma Linda, Calif., became the oldest woman to reach the summit of the dormant volcano, about 62 miles southwest of Tokyo.
Igarashi climbed steadily, supported by his 50-year-old daughter and a 51- year-old friend. Accompanying him were 14 people, including seven of his 10 children and three of his 36 grandchildren.
Igarashi planned to begin his descent Monday.
He began climbing Fuji annually in 1976 in memory of his wife, Ura, who died in 1975 at age 80. He carried her picture on his climb.
In 1983, at age 96, he became the oldest climber to reach the summit.
Igarashi was a lumberjack and forest ranger near his home in Fukushima, in northern Japan, before retiring 10 years ago.
He lives a simple life; waking at 6 a.m. every morning, taking a one-hour nap after lunch and retiring at 8 p.m. He takes a two-hour walk each afternoon.
One of Igarashi’s sons, Toshikazu, said the centenarian’s usual meal consists of a bowl of rice with raw eggs, soy bean soup and vegetables. He sometimes eats fish, but no meat.
Igarashi started smoking when he was 60, but stopped four years ago.
Climbing Mount Fuji has gained popularity among the elderly in recent years. Wasaburo Kato established the Easygoing Group 13 years ago to encourage the elderly to climb Fuji for health reasons. He set up a register at the top for climbers aged over 70.
Kato said the number of climbers over 70 who signed the register increased from 388 in 1974 to 947 in 1986.
Mrs. Crooks, who signed the register on July 24, replaced Mine Yajima of Japan, who climbed Fuji in 1985 at age 90, as the oldest woman to reach the peak.
Katsuhiko Hamano, professor of Yamanashi Gakuin University near Mount Fuji said the Japanese desire to climb the mountain once in their life because it has symbolic and sacred significance.
About 200,000 people climbed Mount Fuji last year.