Junko Tabei (田部井 淳子, Tabei Junko, born Ishibashi Junko; 22 September 1939 – 20 October 2016) was a Japanese mountaineer.
After a long training period, the team began the expedition early in 1975 when they traveled to Kathmandu. They used the same route to ascend the mountain that Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay had taken in 1953. In early May, the group was camping at 6,300 meters when an avalanche struck their camp. The women and their guides were buried under the snow. Tabei lost consciousness for approximately six minutes until her sherpa guide dug her out. Twelve days after the avalanche, on 16 May 1975, with her sherpa guide, Ang Tsering, Tabei became the first woman to reach the summit of Everest.
Tabei was married to Masanobu Tabei, a climber she met while climbing in Japan in 1965. The couple had two children: a daughter, Noriko, and a son, Shinya.
From 1958 to 1962, Tabei studied English literature and education at Showa Women's University, where she was a member of the mountain climbing club. At university, she encountered a group of male students who were in an alpine club, which she longed to join. After graduating, Tabei formed the Ladies Climbing Club: Japan (LCC) in 1969. The club's slogan was "Let's go on an overseas expedition by ourselves", and was the first of its kind in Japan.
Tabei's LCC contained a team known as the Japanese Women's Everest Expedition (JWEE), headed by Eiko Hisano, that would attempt to summit Mount Everest. JWEE contained 15 members, mostly working women, including teachers, a computer programmer and a juvenile counselor. Two of them, including Tabei, were mothers. After Tabei and Hiroko Hirakawa successfully summited Annapurna III on 19 May 1970, LCC decided to tackle Mount Everest.
In the 1990–91 season, Tabei reached the summit of Mount Vinson, Antarctica's highest mountain. On 28 June 1992, she summited Puncak Jaya in Indonesia and thus became the first woman to complete the Seven Summits.
In addition to her climbing, Tabei worked on ecological concerns; in 2000, she completed postgraduate studies at Kyushu University focusing on the environmental degradation of Everest caused by the waste left behind by climbing groups. Tabei was also the director of the Himalayan Adventure Trust of Japan, an organization working at a global level to preserve mountain environments. One of the trust's projects was to build an incinerator to burn climbers' rubbish. She also led and participated in "clean-up" climbs in Japan and the Himalayas.
Tabei was diagnosed with peritoneal cancer in 2012, but continued with many of her mountaineering activities. She died in a hospital in Kawagoe on 20 October 2016.
On 22 September 2019, Google commemorated the 80th anniversary of her birth with a Doodle. The accompanying write up gave her motivation slogan, "Do not give up, Keep on your quest."