Why a mountain climber with his eye set on the Himalayas chose to live in a share house




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Interview: Mr. Yamada (Social Residence Fussa)

Why a mountain climber with his eye set on the Himalayas chose to live in a share house

The image of mountain climbers most people has is of course them on a mountain. Other than that, what kind of things are they usually doing? Where do they live? One of them lives in an Oakhouse share house.

Oak Interview is a series where we highlight one of our diverse residents to discover why they chose to live in a share house. In this 3rd interview, we talked with Yuji Yamada, who lives in Social Residence Fussa. Yamada has climbed the Matterhorn (not the one at the theme park!), and has a high degree of climbing skills, and is also certified as an alpine guide by the Alpine Guide Society of Japan.

This time why asked Yamada why a alpine guide would choose to live in a share house, and how he usually spends his time.

Yamada lives in Social Residence Fussa

Tell us about what kind of work you are doing now.

Around 80% of my work now is as an instructor at a mountain-climbing school. The school trains alpinists so that they can set off on their own in the future, and teach them the skills they need to be a mountain climber. I am also pretty good at rock climbing, so I also teach those techniques as well.

Most of my students have regular jobs, so I usually go climbing with my students on weekends.

Most people might think that mountain climbers do it without any formal training. Why do people choose to go to school for it?

Mountain climbers like me, or students of mountain climbing, are the kind of people who don't follow the marked hiking trails. Our goal is to discern our own path, and go at it at your own pace and techniques.

Of course, there's a lot of preparation that goes into it before hand, but I think you could say that we are people that are looking for quiet, nature, and the thrills that come with both. There are a lot of us who are also interested in actually climbing as well.

What does a pro alpinist do when living at a share house?

I first lived in a share house 15 years ago. Back then share houses were not the stylish and nice places they are today. There were of course a lot of foreigners, and I met many interesting people, and best of all the rent was affordable.

Have you ever lived on your own in an apartment?

I have, but I didn't stay very long! (laughs) Once you get a taste for the open, flexible style of a share house, it's hard to go back to living on your own.

Because of the kind of work I do, it's common to move around a lot, and with an apartment there are all these high fees at first. But with Oakhouse those moving fees are really low, and you don't need any furniture because it's already there.

Making drip coffee in the shared kitchen

How far have you traveled to climb?

I've climbed mountains in Switzerland and France, around there. Where I live now, in Fussa, there's the Tamagawa Josui river nearby, and there's lots of nature.

There are also mountains to go to in the Oku-Tama area in western Tokyo, and Mt. Mitake in particular is a really good spot for rock climbing.

How do mountaineers make their living?

Most work as instructors or guides. Or they'll work as agents for mountain-climbing-gear manufacturers, or retailers, and go climbing on their days off.

There are some climbers who are sponsored by gear companies, but it's not like you can just make money by climbing mountain! (laughs)

Do you climb outside of work, on your private time?

Absolutely. Guides are responsible for the safety of their customers, so you need to keep your skills in top shape. The bigger the gap between the skills of the teacher and the student, the more safety you can provide to them. So I can't just always teach--it's important for me to climb difficult trails in my own time.

What about living in a share house is good as a mountain climber?

There are people living here from all sorts of industries, and it gives you a kind of stimulus. There are salaried workers, there are small business owners, travelers, freelancers, and more.

Back when I was having trouble attracting clients as a mountaineering guide, I was talking with another housemate, and they said, "why not be a guide for total beginners?" which was a valuable hint. I changed my perspective, and though I still act as a guide for more experienced climbers, it was really good for me at that time to get an outside perspective.

Yamada shows us the gear you need for winter mountain climbing

The first place I lived in Tokyo was in a share house, so share houses are really where I feel like I got my start. I have my own space, and if I want to talk to anyone I can just go to the lounge. It's the perfect distance.

At Social Residence Fussa, you can relax in the garden, get some work done at the co-working bar, which is like a little at-home cafe.Even though I'm a mountain climber by trade, a lot of work is still done at home, so it's been really helpful.

Barbecue in a garden (from Oakhouse staff blog)

What are your dreams for the future?

In spring of 2018, I took a group of students to Europe to climb the Alps. The people that came with me on the trip are paying quite a bit in school fees, and many of them have grown-up children, or are single. Several are in their 40s and 50s. So right now my dream is to be able to take my students to the Himalayas and try to climb an unknown route. I also want to spend more time in Japan with my American friend, who is visiting.

That sounds great. Thank you so much for talking to us!

If you would like to know more about Yamada's alpinist academy, see the website here!