The 69th Weston Festival was held on June 7th, continuing the annual tradition of honoring a towering figure in the history of Kamikochi and alpine recreation in Japan.Those in attendance were greeted by blue skies and wonderful summery weather, the perfect conditions for paying tribute to a man whose love of the Japan Alps would capture the imagination of a whole nation.
Walter Weston was born in Derby, England in 1860. As a child, he excelled in both academics and athletics. While studying at Cambridge, he found time to play for Derby FC for five consecutive seasons. At the age of twenty five, he was an ordained priest in the Anglican Church and an accomplished mountaineer, travelling to the Alps when possible.
It was missionary work that first brought Weston to Japan in 1888. During his 15 years residing in Japan, he worked in Kumamoto, Kobe and Yokohama, and his enthusiasm for Japanese customs and culture was unmatched. Today, we are familiar with Weston primarily as one of two Englishmen who were instrumental in bringing the sport of mountain climbing to Japan (the other Edward Bramwell Clark is also credited with having introduced the Japanese to rugby). Before the emergence of recreational hiking in the late 19th century, climbing mountains was the territory of monks and other religious asetics. But Weston and other early pioneers helped open the eyes of the general public to a sport that was fun and accessible for people of all ages.
Weston’s landmark publication, “Mountaineering and Hiking in the Japan Alps,” can be read in its entirety (and legally, thanks to it being public domain) here: http://archive.org/stream/mountaineeringex00westrich#page/n5/mode/2up
Also, some vintage photographs from an old edition of the book can be seen here: http://www.baxleystamps.com/litho/weston_1896.shtml
In addition to all the visitors who came by the usual modern means of entry, the Kama Tunnel, some 300 intrepid hikers chose to take a more symbolic route through the Tokugo Pass (in past years, the only entrance to the park).
After a greeting to the crowds who came to pay tribute, the event continued on to a program including poetry readings and a recorder recital by students from a local elementary school.
In keeping with tradition, flowers were placed at the Weston Relief. This gesture highlights the fact that the ceremony is a comemoration of Weston’s contributions to Kamikochi as well as a celebration of his life and works. The event was a tasteful and heartfelt tribute through and through.
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With rainy weather predcited for the near future, we thought we’d sneak in a few more images of one of the loveliest most temperate times of the year at Kamikochi. Here are some pictures of flowers blooming around the park now:
We’ll be back next week with a new segment called “Monthly Mailbag” in which we share some of our readers’ inquiries along with our (hopefully helpful) answers. Have a question you’d like to see addressed in the blog? Head on over to our Facebook page and leave it on our wall: https://www.facebook.com/kamikochi In the meantime, anyone planning on visiting Kamikochi is reminded to check the weather and prepare accordingly. Have a great week!
Sources of Information:
National Park Guide website: http://npg-alps.net
National Park Foundation website: http://www.bes.or.jp
Kamikochi Gosenjaku Hotel website: http://www.gosenjaku.co.jp/hotel