Iwanai’s first climbing gym opened by Austrian McCloskey and his wife

McCloskey (left) and Rika who opened their long-sought-after climbing gym

Michael McCloskey from Austria, and his wife Rika from Sapporo have opened ‘Wilda Kaisa,’ the first rock-climbing gym in the town of Iwanai. The couple opened the gym after moving to Iwanai because of its proximity to the sea and mountains, which provide an ideal environment for enjoying the outdoors, and they “hope that local people will feel free to drop by.”
The gym opened on February 2, on a part of National Highway route 229 in the town that also includes other establishments such as a handicraft store and butcher’s shop. Named after a mountain in Austria, the gym was established in renovated, vacant premises that were formerly occupied by a credit union bank.
Approximately five years ago, McCloskey stayed in the town of Niseko for six months during a working holiday. It was during this time that he met Rika and began thinking about opening a rock-climbing gym in Hokkaido.
After returning to Austria, he came back to Iwanai, which had impressed him during a climbing visit during his stay in Niseko, and was once again attracted by the region. “The climate and atmosphere of Iwanai are similar to those of Austria; it is very nice,” he says. He searched for work mainly in Hokkaido, but an acquaintance introduced him to the Austrian Embassy in Tokyo, where the good conditions prompted him to accept a job.
However, a few months later, an acquaintance at a real estate agency in Iwanai introduced McCloskey to the current property, and he immediately made up his mind. He commuted from Tokyo at weekends and long holidays, and proceeded with the renovation almost on his own.
Finally, he was ready to start his business and, at the end of last year, he quit the embassy and moved to the town. The gym is equipped with a 7-meter-high climbing wall and a 3.5-meter-high bouldering course. Before long, novices and enthusiasts from within the town and beyond were visiting the gym.
“There are easy courses, so people of all ages – from children to the elderly – can enjoy it. Come and try it with the whole family,” says McCloskey while promoting the gym. Membership fee is 500 yen, standard one-day usage fee is 1,500 yen, and other options are available. Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.


Wilda Kaisa