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Our Founder

Isamu Tatsuno

The story of MontBell is the story of its founder and CEO, Isamu Tatsuno. Born in 1947 in Osaka, Japan, Tatsuno spent much of his youth dedicated to becoming a mountaineer. Deeply impressed by "Heinrich Harrer's White Spider: The Classic Account of the Ascent of the Eiger", Tatsuno had two dreams; to be the first Japanese person to climb the North Face of the Eiger and to start a company somehow involved with the mountaineering industry.

By the early 1970s, Tatsuno had achieved his first dream by becoming a renowned climber. In 1969 at the age of 21, he became the second Japanese to climb the North Face of the Eiger in the Swiss Alps. He also climbed the North Face of the Matterhorn. In 1970, he opened the first rock climbing school in Japan.

In 1975, when he was 28 years old, Tatsuno achieved his second dream when he founded his own company, MontBell Co., Ltd., to manufacture mountaineering clothing and equipment. He also became enthusiastic about canoeing and kayaking and won the third annual competition of the Kansai Wildwater kayaking competition. In the nearly three decades since, Tatsuno has kayaked numerous rivers including the Trishuli river, the Marsyangdi river, and the Seti river in the Himalayas of Nepal; Kurobe Canyon from the Japan Alps to the Sea of Japan; the Colorado River through Arizona's Grand Canyon; and the river through the jungles of Costa Rica in Central America.

But Tatsuno's many accomplishments are not limited to just adventuring and running a business. He is also deeply involved in social causes. In 1991, he founded Paramount Challenge Canoe (a Japanese association promoting canoeing for the disabled) and is very active in education as well. He is a professor at the Biwako Seikei Sports University, a member of the Sport Committee of the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology and serving on the committee for the Outdoor Education Foundation for Youth.

Recently, his focus has turned to working with local governments to promote eco tourism to areas often overlooked as travel destinations. This work has even extended to preparing these areas to accept travelers from abroad to experience and enjoy Japan's rich natural landscapes and rural areas.

In his free time, Tatsuno can often be found practicing the art of traditional Japanese tea ceremony or playing the Japanese flute.


  • Montbell no genten, Yama no bigaku (Heibonsha)
  • KISEKI (My Outdoor Life) (Nature Enterprise)
  • Montbell, the Seven Decisions (Yama to Keikoku sha)
  • Guide to Canoeing and Kayaking (Yama to Keikoku sha)
  • Chikyu Genki Mura, Asobi-text Clothing and Gear Technique (Junposha)
  • Kayak (Sankaido) Written by William Nealy. Translation supervision of "Kayak".
  • Canoe Enjoy Manual (Chihaya Shobo)
  • Syacho-shitsu wa Outdoor (The President's Office is Outdoors) (Yama to Keikoku sha)


  • Guide to Outdoor Games (NHK)
  • Kitayama River (NHK)
  • CANOEING (NHK educational program)


  • CEO of Montbell Group
  • Chief Editor of mountaineering magazine "Gakujin"


  • Specially Appointed Professor at Kyoto University
  • Professor of Biwako Seikei Sports University
  • Tenri University Visting Professor and Member of the External Peer Review
  • Committee of Todaiji Medical and Educational Center
  • Adviser of Japan Canoe Federation
  • Founder of the Paramount Challenge Canoe, the first canoe association for people with disabilities in Japan
  • Vice President of Osaka Canoe Association
  • Chairman of Japan Recreational Canoe Association
  • Committee of Youth Hostel Association in Japan
  • Committee of Kansai Television Foundation for Youth Development
  • Committee of NPO “Wa no Gakko” (Japanese School)
  • Adviser of Japan Ecotourism Center
  • Trustee of Council for Outdoor & Nature Experiences
  • Committee of Kamigamo Shrine Afuhi Project
  • Councilor of Scout Association of Japan
  • Goodwill Ambassador of Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations between Switzerland and Japan
  • Tourism Ambassador of Grindelwald, Switzerland
  • Tourism Ambassador of Zermatt, Switzerland
  • Tourism Ambassador of Yonago-Daisen, Japan
  • Tourism Ambassador of Tateyama, Toyama, Japan
  • Shimane Friendship Ambassador
  • Executive Director of Japan Eco Track Committee
  • Exective Director of SEA TO SUMMIT Committee
  • Member of the Osaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry
  • Chairman of Japan High School Guitar and Mandolin Music Association

Outdoor Activities and Expeditions

  • Second Japanese to climb the North Face of the Eiger
  • Climbed the North Face of the Matterhorn
  • First descent of Kurobe River in the Japan Alps by kayak (from the headwaters to the mouth)
  • Circumnavigated Kunashiri Island by sea kayak.
  • Traveled from Kamchatka Peninsula along the Aleutian Islands to Alaska
  • First Japanese kayaker to kayak the entire Colorado River through Arizonas Grand Canyon
  • Kayaked numerous rivers including the Trishuli river, the Marsyangdi river, and the Seti river in the Himalayas of Nepal


  • Japanese Medal of Honor with Dark Blue Ribbon (2021)
  • The Mainichi Shinbun's 36th Annual Businessperson of the Year Award (2016)
  • Good Life Award by Ministry of the Environment (2016/2015)
  • Design Excellent Company Award (2005)
  • 2000 Gold Prize from the Italian Alpine Club (1999)
  • Grand Prize from the Japan New Business Association (1995)
  • Entrepreneurship Grand Prize from the Kansai New Business Council (1994)