[First published on 3 January, 2017] Marin Minamiya, 20, is about to become the youngest person to conquer the tallest summits on all seven continents, as well as journey to opposite ends of the globe – but she will never forget her first hike in Hong Kong.
“I still remember when I looked down from the mountain, the scenery was so beautiful and special as Hong Kong’s mountains are right next to this concrete jungle,” Minamiya said, recalling her first hiking experience in Sai Kung when she was 13 and studying in the city.
After breaking the record for being the youngest Japanese to scale Mount Everest in May, Minamiya is one step away from completing the Explorers Grand Slam, a challenge to reach the North and South Pole and to climb the highest peaks on every continent.
She will be the 52nd person to complete the challenge and the youngest – breaking the record held by a 23-year-old – when she reaches the North Pole in April.
Having grown up in more than five places since she was 18 months old following her father who travels for business, Minamiya is no stranger to globe-trotting.
By her teenage years, however, what bothered her most was not having a place to call home.
“I didn’t know who I was. At school I was speaking English, with friends I was speaking in Chinese and with my parents, in Japanese ... and so I was having an identity crisis and I felt that I didn’t have strong roots ... my parents also did not have a good relationship at that time,” the former South Island School student said.
“But when I climbed those mountains [in Sai Kung] and looked back to see the buildings, it made me realise that all my problems or [my] issues in life were such minor things.”
From that point onwards, her mountaineering adventures took off over the next seven years.
Although Minamiya’s hobby is expensive – her one-month trip to the South Pole cost US$50,000 – she worked equally hard at securing funding.
“I would start calling companies up [to sponsor my trips] and do my homework, then spend four hours at the gym training every day,” she said.
She also learned how to fight hunger and fatigue, and combat the urge to give up on her journeys.
“To fight all these emotions in order to just get to one point for a few minutes in your life ... you will inevitably become stronger. It is almost like meditating when you are climbing, you feel inner peace and it’s almost philosophical.”
Two years ago, Minamiya returned to Japan – where she was born – and is now studying fulltime as a political science and economics student.
But she is already thinking about what to do next. She has set her sights on attending intensive sailing courses in Australia or South Africa in late 2017 so she can sail around the world to promote youth empowerment.
“I learned it is not about where you are from or what your nationality is – it’s about having a sense of belonging to the whole community,” she said.
“It’s about where you are in this society, knowing who you are and what you can or want to do, that’s important.”