Honouring High Places

The Mountain Life of Junko Tabei

By (author): Junko Tabei, Helen Y. Rolfe
Translated by: Yumiko Hiraki, Rieko Holtved
ISBN 9781771602167
Hardcover | Publication Date: October 17, 2017
Book Dimensions: 6 in x 9 in
376 Pages

About the Book

A collection of personal stories and reflections based on the memoirs of Junko Tabei, the first woman to climb Mount Everest and the Seven Summits.

Honouring High Places is a compelling collection of highlights from Junko Tabei’s stirring life that she considered important, inspiring and interesting to mountaineering culture. Until now, her works have been available only in Japanese, and RMB is honoured to be sharing these profound and moving stories with the English-speaking world for the first time.

The collection opens on Mount Everest, where the first all-women’s expedition is met with disaster but pushes on against all odds. The story then shifts to the early years of Tabei’s life and reflects on her countryside childhood as a frail girl with no talent for sport, and cultural expectations that ignored her passion for mountains.

With reminiscences of the early days of female climbers on Everest, the deaths of fellow mountaineers, Tabei’s pursuit of Mount Tomur, a cancer diagnosis, and efforts to restore a love for nature in the surviving youth of the Fukushima earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in 2011, this beautifully curated collection of essays captures the essence of a notable time and the strength of character of one of the 20th and 21st centuries’ female mountaineering pioneers.

About the Author(s)

Junko Tabei (1939–2016) was born in Miharu, a small town in Fukushima prefecture, north of Tokyo. An amazing mountaineer and lover of peaks, she founded the Ladies Climbing Club in 1969 and reached the summit of Everest on May 16, 1975, as leader of an all-women Japanese team. After Everest, Tabei devoted her adult life to climbing the world’s highest peaks, including the Seven Summits. In 1999 she received the Snow Leopard Award for completing the five 7000-metre-plus mountains in the former Soviet Union, and climbed the tallest mountains in more than 70 countries. To remain committed to her passion for climbing, Junko defied cultural expectations of motherhood and enjoyed a 49-year marriage to an incredibly supportive husband. They were a family of four: one daughter and one son. Deeply concerned about the degradation of Mount Everest, Junko established the Himalayan Adventure Trust of Japan in 1990, the Japanese version of Sir Edmund Hilary’s Himalayan Trust. She was also a published author of numerous mountaineering books. In 2000, at age 60, she completed her master's studies at Kyushu University in southern Japan, based on the refuse problem on Everest that results from overcrowding by climbers. Junko reached 7000 metres on Mt. Manaslu at age 66 (having been forced to retreat due to poor weather), and continued to climb even after being diagnosed with cancer in 2012. She celebrated the 40th anniversary of her Everest success with a hiking trip to Tengboche, Nepal, on the familiar route to Base Camp, in September 2015. The last summit Junko reached was Japan’s Mt. Fuji (3010 metres) in July 2016. The climb was in support of high school students affected by the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami that devastated the area. Junko Tabei passed away on October 20, 2016, and is survived by her beloved husband, Masanobu Tabei, daughter Noriko and son Shinya, as well as other relatives and countless friends.

Helen Y. Rolfe is a professional writer and editor, and the author of Women Explorers: One Hundred Years of Courage and Audacity. She lives in Canmore, Alberta.

Yumiko Hiraki was born in Osaka, Japan, and moved to Canada in 1988. She worked as a mountain guide and had the great luck to meet Junko on various hiking and ski trips in the Canadian Rockies. She lives in Banff, Alberta.

Rieko Holtved was born in Ehime, Japan, and moved to Canada in 1997. She worked as a trip coordinator and had the pleasure of meeting Junko while organizing hikes in the Canadian Rockies. She lives in Canmore, Alberta.


“…Rolfe created an exquisitely crafted book that is a joy to read, not only because Tabei’s story is so compelling, and her character so delightfully admirable, but also because Rolfe’s writing and editing skills are so finely tuned.”
– Rocky Mountain Outlook

“…Tabei’s strength of character triumphs in the face of cultural biases, cancer, the 2011 Fukushima earthquake and a lifetime of climbs. The result is a fascinating, moving, inspiring and precious volume.”
– Aspects: The ACC Blog

“The book’s charm lies in Tabei’s unassuming but obviously driven nature, and its insights into how Japanese society approaches mountaineering provides the reader with a personal view of the climbing world beyond the Anglosphere.”
– Canadian Alpine Journal

“The book provides a comprehensive reference to Tabei’s climbing career, as well as numerous reflections and insights, and entertaining stories with enjoyable glimpses of Tabei’s world through her unique lens.”
– American Alpine Journal

“The publication of Honouring High Places in English is not only significant because of Tabei’s successful ascents, but also because of the in-depth look it gives us into the struggles and possibilities of a climbing life: from confronting the avalanche-prone alpine realm to planning expeditions as a parent, to raising environmental awareness and trying to prevent further ecological catastrophes.”
– Alpinist Magazine

“A significant book that deserves a place on your bookshelf.”
– Suburban Mountaineer

“The story of a young woman who begins climbing in Japanese Mountain Club culture in the 1960’s is a tale worth reading in itself. From this complex and often tragic social beginning Junko Tabei goes on to a rich life that manages to include family, teaching and climbing all over the world well into her late 70’s while supporting causes related to the value of a life connected to nature and the mountains. It is a well named and well put together piece of history.”
– Larry Stanier, 2018 Banff Mountain Book Competition Jury

“Translated into English and compiled from several of Tabei’s memoirs, Honouring High Places combines gripping accounts of high-altitude danger with a fascinating glimpse into the writer’s bold life.”
– Condé Nast Traveler

“…[Honouring High Places] fleshes out a portrait of a woman who defied gender stereotypes and dedicated her life to the mountains…”
– Outside Magazine

“Tabei, who died in 2016, encouraged other women to become mountaineers, and founded the first women’s climbing club in Japan in 1969 during a time when most climbing clubs banned women.” – Time Magazine