Kazuo Saito became the first Asian honorary member of the UIAA. He received the acknowledgement at the 2010 UIAA General Assembly.
Saito has been active in alpinism and the development of the sport for decades in and outside Japan. Most significantly he initiated the establishment of the Union of Asian Alpine Associations (UAAA) in 1993 to promote climbing in Asia and the UIAA’s regional activities.
“When making this award, the UIAA’s major criteria is the contribution that the recipient of the award has made – not only as a mountaineer but more importantly to furthering the goals of mountaineering at an international level,” said UIAA President Mike Mortimer at the event in Tokyo in January 2011, marking the 50th anniversary of the Japanese Mountaineering Associations.
“Saito San is more than qualified, not only as a climber and expedition organizer, but also as an internationalist working to bring climbers together, both in Japan and later when he helped form the Union of Asian Alpine Associations, of which he was the first President.”
Kazuo Saito was born on June 28, 1925, in Tokyo. In his professional life, he worked as an engineer for the Tokyo Electric Power Company. In 1955, he established the alpine club “Sangaku Doshi-Kai”, and actively took on the challenge of many difficult rock and winter climbs, as well as developing routes in the Japanese mountains.
Sangaku Doshi-Kai has been the leading alpine club in Japan for taking on challenges and has accomplished many exceptional ascents.
In 1967, Kazuo Saito made the second winter ascent of the Schmid route on the Matterhorn. Four years later he returned to the Alps in winter and climbed the Grands Jorasses North Face as well as the direct route on the Eiger North Face. The same year, he travelled to the Himalaya and successfully reached the summit of Annapurna II. In 1980 and 1983 respectively, he climbed Kangchenjunga and Everest, both ascents without supplementary oxygen.
Kazuo Saito has also studied philosophy and the history of Japanese alpinism, and is the author of several books.
He has held various official positions. He was the president of the Tokyo Mountaineering Federation in the 1980s, when he was also vice president of Japan’s national federation. In the 1990s, he became president of the Japanese Mountaineering Association. At the same time, he was director of Japan’s Natural Parks Foundation, a councillor for Japan’s Sports Association and a member of the management committee of the National Mountaineering Training Center. From 1994 to 1996, he was UAAA President.
Kazuo Saito passed away on 24 February 2017, aged 93