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Sunday, June 10, 2012

EDITORIAL

Reaching for the sky

Japanese set three new records last month, all of them sky high. One was a marvel of technology, the other two marvels of human endurance. The achievements offer a renewed sense of hopefulness that Japan is still very much a can-do society.

Stunning the mountaineering world, Ms. Tamae Watanabe, 73, was the oldest woman to climb the world's tallest mountain, Mount Everest. She reached the top despite recovering from a back injury and encountering perilous weather. Her age hardly seemed to be a factor. She had already broken the world record for oldest woman to climb Everest in 2002 at age 63. If Japanese society is aging, Ms. Watanabe certainly does it well.

The second Japanese record set last month was Mr. Hirotaka Takeuchi's scaling of all 14 of the world's 8,000-meter high mountains. Only 30 other climbers have accomplished this feat. As the first Japanese to join the elite group of climbers, the 41-year-old is a model of endurance, skill and accomplishment.

Also impressive was the opening of Skytree, a feat incorporating the latest advances in engineering, design and structural technology, including ideas learned from the anti-earthquake mechanisms in traditional five-story Buddhist pagodas. Skytree is now the tallest tower in the world. Towers are notoriously difficult to build, involving complex state-of-the-art structures to control vibration in high winds and to make them resistant to quakes.

Since its opening May 22, more than 1 million people, almost 200,000 people a day in the first week, have gone up in the tower. Although long waits and high winds slowed admittance, those glitches were unlikely to have reduced the amazement that most people felt to be up in a tower double the height of Japan's previously highest tower, Tokyo Tower.

People can decide for themselves which is more impressive — climbing Everest's 8,848 meters at age 73, scaling the world's 14 highest peaks, or constructing the 634-meter-tall Skytree. Regardless of whether one is more impressed with a marvel of technology or of human strength and stamina, the feats take on added significance in the depressing aftermath of the 3/11 earthquake and tsunami, and the Fukushima nuclear fiasco.

These accomplishments show that the Japanese people still demonstrate tremendous capacity and energy to set extremely challenging goals and accomplish them.



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