Table Speech

“What I Learned from the Mountains”

January 28, 2009

Ms. Michiko Imai,
Representative Director of Le Versear,
Mountain Climber,
Medical Doctor

What the “mountains” taught me was that, “ways of thinking and actions that are based on natural providence are unwavering”.
  The human “brain”, when compared to a computer, expands its actions by having output-dependent memory inputted. Memory stored in the brain is the accumulation of actions that have been occurring since birth. Furthermore, there is no delete function for this memory. If the brain has been adequately exercised as an “animal brain” in childhood, all a human being’s subsequent actions, even if they are failures, will eventually turn into success as one is failing. Before action is taken, visual identification is made. Then an observation is made, insight developed, and then action is taken. That action will induce a separate action. This expands into ingenuity, discovery, and inventions. In other words, the ability to think develops.
 My infant days were spent during the war, when nutrition and sanitation in Japan were poor. My parents, who were both physicians, tried to maintain my health by taking me out into nature. My relationship with nature had its roots in my parents’ actions.  Further, I tested myself and sought a place for creation in nature. When I was young, I thought of nothing but just enjoying life and I climbed many mountains. Humans naturally seek challenges. My aim gradually escalated and I climbed one mountain peak after another, which ultimately led me to challenge the north face of Chomolangma in winter.
 Mountain climbing expeditions overseas that I get involved in are almost always pioneering in the world. For example, the female party I was a member of that climbed the northern face of Matterhorn was the world’s first to do so. In the case of the northern face of Eiger, we created a path which, as a female party, was also the world’s first. When I conquered the northern face of Grandes Jorasses, I became the world’s first female to conquer the 3 major northern faces. I also climbed Dhaulagiri in the Himalayas, and succeeded in traversing the Dhaulagiri II, III, and IV peaks. Traversing 3 mountains in the Himalayas that are over 7,000 meters was also a first in the world.  
 After that, I went to the northern face of Chomolangma in winter. I had actually failed twice in climbing this mountain. When I went to Mt. Cho Oyo, I was 40’s and I also set the record of having been the oldest climber on that mountain.
 I have several titles; physician, doctor of medical science, and mountain climber, but I also seem to be referred to as an adventurist. Four years ago, I repeated my challenge of Chomolangma, but could not climb it due to accident. One of the members of the party that preceded us had become unconscious and the Sherpa who had been supporting us had to go and give emergency assistance to them, so my group was unable to start our climb.
 At my age, my level of capabilities is unclear. In order to test my abilities, I go to places I think to be my limit. I sense that the “mountains” are such a place.
 I categorize mountain climbing into 3 categories: “as a scale, a mountain to test myself in nature”, “a mountain to enjoy with friends”, and “a mountain to which I guide people”.
 Everyone has their own level, but if they have a certain level of abilities, anyone can climb mountains. In my mind, when you become unsure of your abilities, what replenishes your confidence is a “mountain” for the adult.
 To say one more thing, mountains also have medicinal “healing” powers. In the forest, the natural killer (NK) cells multiply and become active. Nature creates an environment that enables animals, called humans, to live. Mountains teach us that unless humans are reverted ecologically to an ecological life, the human species and the animals represented by that human species will become extinct.
 I now serve as the governor of the Forest Therapy Society and focus my efforts toward environmental issues also. I am involved in a social activity called, “Let us go into nature”. I think of this as a social contribution activity for humans who have nature and mountains as their own standard.