Naomi Uemura

Naomi Uemura (植村 直己 Uemura Naomi, February 12, 1941 – c. February 13, 1984) was a Japanese adventurer. He was particularly well known for doing alone what had previously been achieved only with large teams. For example, he was the first man to reach the North Pole solo, the first man to raft the Amazon solo, and the first man to climb Denali solo. He disappeared while attempting to climb Denali in the winter.

Naomi Uemura
Naomi Uemura
BornFebruary 12, 1941
DisappearedFebruary 13, 1984 (aged 43)
StatusMissing for 35 years, 1 month and 12 days

Early adventures

Uemura was born in Hidaka, now part of Toyooka, Hyōgo, Japan. Shy, he began climbing in college in the hope that mountaineering would increase his self-confidence.

Naomi Uemura was a licensed radio amateur operator, signed as JG1QFW. He used amateur radio communication during his expeditions.[1]

Before his 30th birthday, Uemura had solo-climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, Aconcagua, Mont Blanc, and the Matterhorn, had walked the length of Japan, and summited during the first (1970) Japanese expedition to climb Mount Everest and subsequent disastrous 1971 International Everest Expedition.

North Pole

Uemura wrote that he almost gave up twice during his 1978 North Pole trip. On the fourth day of his trek, a polar bear invaded his camp, ate his supplies, and poked his nose against the sleeping bag where Uemura lay tense and motionless. When the bear returned the next day, Uemura was ready and shot him dead. On the 35th day of the trip, Uemura had hunkered down on an ice floe with his malamutes, when there was the roar of breaking ice and the floe cracked into pieces. He and his dogs were stranded on a tossing island of ice. After a night of terror, Uemura found a 3-foot-wide (0.91 m) ice bridge and raced to safety.

He persevered and became the first ever to reach the Pole solo. Describing his 57-day push, he wrote, "What drove me to continue then was the thought of countless people who had helped and supported me, and the knowledge that I could never face them if I gave up." In this trip he cooperated with the Canadian Air Force and received his supplies from its helicopters. After the trip he questioned such extensive support and decided to carry supplies on his own back.

First Denali ascent

In August 1970, Uemura climbed Denali (then known as Mt McKinley) solo, becoming the first person to reach the top alone. He did this quickly and with a light pack (8 days up, versus an average of 14 days or so; 55-pound (25 kg) pack, versus an average probably twice that). August is after the end of the normal climbing season. While the weather he faced was not terrible, the mountain was almost empty with only four other people on it. Though many people have climbed Denali alone since Uemura, most do it in the middle of the climbing season.

Uemura dreamed of soloing across Antarctica and climbing that continent's highest peak, Vinson Massif. In preparation, in 1976 he did a solo sled-dog run from Greenland to Alaska, in two stages and 363 days.[2] He set a record for the long-distance record for a dog-sled journey at 12,000 kilometres (7,500 mi).[3]

Denali winter ascent

Uemura then prepared to climb Denali again solo in winter; however, for people unfamiliar with Alaskan climbing, the difficulty of a winter ascent can often be misjudged. Nobody had successfully climbed any large Alaskan peak in winter until 1967, when Gregg Blomberg organized an expedition that got to the top of Denali (Blomberg himself did not summit). This team lost one member and nearly lost the remaining members in a storm on the way down. Team member Art Davidson's book, Minus 148, recounts the events of the climb and was named after the storm that jeopardized the team.

There is a high degree of danger with glacier travel, and even short treks across the ice are considered hazardous. For example, glaciers are often broken with cracks, called crevasses, that are often covered with snow and not visible. Due to these occurrences as well as other underlying factors, an ascent is both very difficult and very dangerous to attempt without a team.

Uemura had developed a "self-rescue" device which consisted of bamboo poles tied over his shoulders. The poles would span any crevasse into which he fell and allow him to pull himself out. He planned a very light run, with only a 40-pound (18 kg) pack plus sled. He kept his gear light by planning to sleep in snow caves and therefore freeing himself from needing to carry a tent. He also skimped on fuel and planned to eat cold food.

He began his climb in early February 1984 and reached the summit on February 12. Some time later, climbers would find the Japanese flag that he left at the summit.[4]


On February 13, 1984, one day after his 43rd birthday, Uemura spoke by radio with Japanese photographers who were flying over Denali, saying that he had made the top and descended back to 18,000 feet (5,500 m). He planned to reach base camp in another two days but never made it.

There appeared to be high winds near the top, and the temperature was around −50 °F (−46 °C). Planes flew over the mountain but did not see him that day. He was spotted around 16,600 feet (5,100 m) the next day (presumably on the ridge just above the headwall). However, complications with weather made further searching difficult.

It was likely that Uemura was running out of fuel at this point, but because of his reputation nobody wanted to send a rescue party for fear it would offend him. Doug Geeting, one of the bush pilots who had been "Uemura spotting" over the previous week, said "If it were anybody else, we'd have somebody [a rescuer] on the mountain already". On February 20, the weather had cleared, and Uemura was nowhere to be found. There was no sign of his earlier camp at 16,600 feet (5,100 m) and no evidence that caches left by other climbers nearby had been disturbed.

Two experienced climbers were dropped at 14,000 feet (4,300 m) to begin a search. Though another storm came in, they stayed on the mountain until February 26, finding a cave in which Uemura had stayed at 14,000 feet (4,300 m) on the way up, but no sign of Uemera himself. A diary found in the cave revealed that Uemura had left gear there to lighten his load on the summit push. He had also left his self-rescue poles back at 9,500 feet (2,900 m), knowing he was past the worst crevasse fields. Most people figured he had fallen on his descent of the headwall and been hurt, died, and was buried by snow. Another theory is that he could have made it to 14,200 feet (4,300 m) (which is the base of the headwall) and then fallen into one of the many crevasses there and perished.

A group of Japanese climbers arrived to look for the body. They failed, though they did locate much of his gear at 17,200 feet (5,200 m).

The diary found in the 14,000 feet (4,300 m) cave has been published in Japanese and English. It describes the conditions that Uemura suffered—the crevasse falls, -40° weather, frozen meat, and inadequate shelter. The diary entries showed him to be in good spirits and documented the songs he sang to stay focused on his task.

The last entry read, "I wish I could sleep in a warm sleeping bag. No matter what happens I am going to climb McKinley."


Uemura gave frequent public lectures and wrote about his travels. His adventure books for children were popular in Japan. There is a museum dedicated to him in Tokyo[5] and another in Toyooka, Hyōgo.[6]

An award named for him was created in Japan after his death.[7]

One of the best-known compositions of experimental guitarist Michael Hedges, "Because It's There", was a tribute to Uemura written for a film about the explorer's life.

He is remembered not only as a gifted climber and a driven adventurer, but also as a gentle, self-effacing man who cared about others. In the words of Jonathan Waterman, "[Just as remarkable] as his solo achievements was his sincere modesty and unassuming nature. Another part of his greatness lay in his deep interest in everyone he met."

Notable climbs

  • 1968 Mount Sanford, Alaska, US. Solo ascent, fourth ascent of peak, topping out on September 19, 1968.[8]

See also


  • The Rescue Season, Bob Drury 2001
  • To the Top of Denali, Bill Sherwonit 2000
  • High Alaska: A Historical Guide to Denali Mount Foraker and Mount Hunter, Jonathan Waterman 1989
  • The north pole - Answers


  1. ^
    • QST Magazine, Septempber 1978, p. 41
    • QST Magazine, May 1984, p. 52
  2. ^ Naomi Uemura Almost Always Walks Alone—this Time Across the Arctic to the North Pole May 1, 1978 People (magazine) Retrieved September 7, 2015
  3. ^ Epic journey across ice set to break world record September 12, 2001 Japan Times Retrieved September 7, 2015
  4. ^ February 10, 1997 Japan Times Retrieved September 7, 2015
  5. ^ 植村冒険館 Retrieved September 7, 2015 (in Japanese)
  6. ^ 植村直己冒険館 Retrieved September 7, 2015
  7. ^
  8. ^ Hoeman, J Vincent (1969). H. Adams Carter, ed. "Climbs and Expeditions". American Alpine Journal. Philadelphia, PA, US: American Alpine Club. 16 (43): 379.
Eizaburo Nishibori

Eizaburo Nishibori (西堀 栄三郎, Nishibori Eizaburō, January 28, 1903 – April 13, 1989) was a Japanese scientist, alpinist and technologist. And he is also known as the captain of the primary Japanese Antarctica wintering party.

Born in Kyoto. In May 1928, graduated the Faculty of Science, Kyoto Imperial University, and he stayed on as a lecturer. In 1936, received his degree.

In October 1936, moved to private enterprise, Tokyo Shibaura Engineering. In time of the chief of engineering division, he was developed the vacuum tube named "Sora" in response to the naval request. Therefore, he won the AIST prize.

After WWII, he served a company consultant independently, brought the technique of statistical quality control to the industrial world of Japan. Therefore, he won the Deming Prize and so forth. His results were set to one of the foundations of fast industrial development of Japan after the war.

After returning to Kyoto University as a professor, He successively held the captain of the Japanese Antarctica wintering party, the chairman of the Japan Mountaineering Association and so forth. Kinji Imanishi and Takeo Kuwabara were in Nishibori's mountain-climbing friends of those days.

Nishibori also played the role of negotiation with the Nepal government at the time of "Manaslu-climbing" which is the first 8000 meters-classed mountain climbing in Japan.

He also backed the Japanese adventurer, Naomi Uemura, and taught how to use the observation equipment, sextant and so forth.

February 12

February 12 is the 43rd day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 322 days remaining until the end of the year (323 in leap years).

Ira Block

Ira Block (born 1949) is an American photographer. Since the mid-1970s, he has shot many stories for the National Geographic Magazine, National Geographic Traveler, and also National Geographic Adventure. He has photographed diverse locations in Africa, the Australian outback, the Gobi Desert, Siberia, and the North Pole where he spent three months with the late Japanese explorer Naomi Uemura. Block's archive includes rare archaeological relics from ancient sites in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, as well as some of the only recorded images of the ritual dances of the Pueblo Indians of the American Southwest.

Ken Noguchi

Ken Noguchi (野口 健, Noguchi Ken, born August 21, 1973) is a Japanese alpinist and environmental activist. His father was a diplomat, so he lived in the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Japan. He was often bullied because he was half-Japanese. In 1999, at the age of 25, he became the youngest person (at that time) to scale the Seven Summits, the highest mountains on each of the seven continents. He graduated from Asia University in 2000, and studied environmental education at Aomori University. Since then, he has worked on various mountain clean-up projects around the world, including projects at Mt. Everest, Mt. Fuji and Manaslu. His work has had a notable effect on efforts in Japan, where he has given many lectures to promote better environmental practices.

List of 20th-century summiters of Mount Everest

Mount Everest, at 8,848 metres (29,029 ft) is currently the world's highest mountain range and has now become a particularly desirable peak for mountaineers. This is a list of people who reached the summit of Mount Everest in the 20th century. Overall about 1,383 people summited Everest between 1953 and the end of 2000. After 2000, the number of summiters greatly increased when ascending the mountain became more accessible and more popular. By 2013, 6,871 summits had been recorded by 4,042 different people.

List of people from Alaska

This is a list of notable people from Alaska. This list includes individuals who were born in Alaska, grew up there, retired there, or in any other fashion lived there even if for only a brief period of time (such as infancy, during one or more of the many gold rushes during the late 19th century and early 20th century, or as a result of rapid military influx and outflux from 1940 onward).

Key to table entries:


Year born

Year died

Communities lived in in Alaska

Noted for

May 1

May 1 is the 121st day of the year (122nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 244 days remaining until the end of the year.

Meiji University

Meiji University (明治大学, Meiji daigaku) is a private university with campuses in Tokyo and Kawasaki, founded in 1881 by three Meiji-era lawyers, Kishimoto Tatsuo, Miyagi Kōzō, and Yashiro Misao. It is one of the largest and most prestigious Japanese universities in Tokyo according to major college-preparatory schools in Japan.

The University has nine faculties with a total of approximately 33,000 students on three campuses in Ochanomizu in Chiyoda, Tokyo, the Izumi neighborhood of Suginami-ku, Tokyo, and the Ikuta neighborhood of Tama-ku, Kawasaki. The university is one of the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology's (MEXT) thirteen "Global 30" Project universities, which as of 2014 is called the Super Global Universities program.

Mount Sanford (Alaska)

Mount Sanford is a shield volcano in the Wrangell Volcanic Field, in eastern Alaska near the Copper River. It is the sixth highest mountain in the United States and the third highest volcano behind Mount Bona and Mount Blackburn. The south face of the volcano, at the head of the Sanford Glacier, rises 8,000 feet (2,400 m) in 1 mile (1,600 m) resulting in one of the steepest gradients in North America.

Naomi (given name)

Naomi or Noemi is a given name in various languages and cultures.

People's Honour Award

People's Honour Award (国民栄誉賞, Kokumin Eiyoshō) is one of the commendations bestowed by the Prime Minister of Japan on people in recognition of their accomplishments in sport, entertainment, and other fields. The award, not restricted to Japanese nationals, was created in 1977 by Takeo Fukuda.

Seven Summits

The Seven Summits are the highest mountains of each of the seven continents. Climbing to the summit of all of them is regarded as a mountaineering challenge, first achieved on 30 April 1985 by Richard Bass. The Seven Summits achievement has become noted as an exploration and mountaineering accomplishment.

Tenzing Peak

Tenzing Peak is the name which has been proposed by the Government of Nepal for a 7,916-metre (25,971 ft) peak in the Himalayas in honour of Tenzing Norgay, who made the first ascent of Everest with Edmund Hillary in 1953. It is also known variously as Ngojumba Kang, Ngozumpa Kang and Ngojumba Ri.

In September 2013 a government panel recommended that two mountains on the ridge between Cho Oyu and Gyachung Kang be called Hillary Peak and Tenzing Peak as part of a batch of new summits that would be opened to climbers in 2014. It is in fact a satellite peak of Cho Oyu.It was first climbed on 24 April 1965 by Naomi Uemura and Pemba Tenzing as part of a Japanese expedition from the Alpine Club of Meiji University.

The Explorers Club

The Explorers Club is an American-based international multidisciplinary professional society with the goal of promoting scientific exploration and field study. The club was founded in New York City in 1905, and has served as a meeting point for explorers and scientists worldwide.

The Explorers Club hosts an annual dinner to honor accomplishments in exploration, which is known for its adventurous, exotic cuisine.

The Man Who Skied Down Everest

The Man Who Skied Down Everest is a documentary about Yuichiro Miura, a Japanese alpinist who skied down Mount Everest in 1970. The film was produced by Canadian film maker F. R. "Budge" Crawley. Miura skied 2,000 m (6,600 ft) in two minutes and 20 seconds and fell 400 m (1,320 ft) down the steep Lhotse face from the Yellow Band just below the South Col. He used a large parachute to slow his descent. He came to a full stop just 76 m (250 ft) from the edge of a bergschrund, a large, deep crevasse where the ice shears away from the stagnant ice on the rock face and begins to move downwards as a glacier.

The ski descent was the objective of The Japanese Everest Skiing Expedition 1970. Six members of this expedition died. At the same time, another independent Japanese expedition (called The Japanese Mount Everest Expedition 1970) undertook a combined ascent of (a) the normal route, including Naomi Uemura who made the summit, and (b) the first attempt at the South-West Face, the tall black face on the movie poster with the Y-shaped snowy gully. Two members of this second expedition died.Crawley won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature for this picture. The Academy Film Archive preserved The Man Who Skied Down Everest in 2010.

Toshiyuki Nishida

Toshiyuki Nishida (西田 敏行, Nishida Toshiyuki, born 4 November 1947 in Kōriyama, Fukushima) is a Japanese actor. In Japan, he is best known for his fishing comedy series, Tsuribaka Nisshi ("The Fishing Maniac's Diary"), which currently spans 21 movies. Outside Japan Nishida may be best known for his portrayal of Pigsy in the first season of the TV series Monkey, or for his role in the 2008 film The Ramen Girl, as the sensei of American actress Brittany Murphy's character.

Nishida has received ten Japanese Academy Award nominations, winning twice, for Dun-Huang in 1988 (Best Actor) and Gakko and Tsuribaka Nisshi 6 in 1993 (Best Actor). He won the Blue Ribbon Award for Best Actor in 2003 for Get Up! and Tsuribaka Nisshi 14.In 2017, Nishida reprised his 2012 yakuza role of underboss Nishino in Takeshi Kitano's Outrage trilogy to positive reviews.


Uemura (上村 characters for "Top" and "Village" or 植村 characters for "plants in place" and "Village") is a Japanese surname. It can refer to:

Uemura Bunrakuken (植村文楽軒), originator of Bunraku

Uemura Masahisa (植村正久), Christian pastor

Uemura Shōen (植村松園), painter

Aiko Uemura (上村愛子), mogul skier

Ayako Uemura (上村彩子), voice actress

Haruki Uemura (上村春樹), judoka

Hiroyuki Uemura (上村洋行), jockey

Iemasa Uemura (植村家政), Hatamoto and Hansyu

Kana Uemura (植村花菜), Singer-songwriter

Kazuhiro Uemura (上村和裕), baseball player

Kei Uemura (植村慶), football player

Kenichi Uemura (voice actor) (上村健一), Japanese actor and voice actor

Kihatirou Uemura (植村喜八郎), baseball player

Kōgorō Uemura

Mai Uemura (上村麻衣), volleyball player

Masayuki Uemura (上村雅之), game hardware designer

Miki Uemura (上村 美揮, born 1986), Japanese artistic gymnast

Naomi Uemura (植村直己), adventurer

Noriko Uemura (上村典子), Japanese voice actress

Shu Uemura (植村秀), make-up artist

Takako Uemura (上村貴子), Japanese voice actress

Tatsuya Uemura (上村建也), arcade game musician and programmer

Yusuke Uemura (植村祐介), baseball player

Vernon Tejas

Vernon "Vern" Tejas is an American mountain climber and mountain guide. He is the current world record holder in the amount of time taken to summit all of the Seven Summits consecutively, having also previously held the same record. He was also the first person to solo summit several of the world's tallest peaks. Tejas was named one of the top fifty Alaskan athletes of the twentieth century by Sports Illustrated in 2002. In 2012, he was elected to the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame. Tejas plays the harmonica and guitar. He currently resides in Greenwich Village, New York.

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