Ashima Shiraishi was six years old when her parents took her to New York’s Central Park and she climbed Rat Rock, a popular bouldering spot in the park’s southwest corner. She befriends Yukihiko Ikumori, the man The New York Times called Rat Rock’s spiritual godfather, and he helped point Shiraishi in the right direction, offering advice on routes and, she says, making climbing fun for her.
Shiraishi quickly became a skilled and decorated climber. In 2016, at the age of 14, she became the first and youngest woman to complete a V15, essentially one of the toughest bouldering climbs, climbing a route known as the Horizon on Mount Hiei in southern Japan. In competition, she won gold in lead climbing and bouldering at the World Youth Championships in 2015, 2016 and 2017.
Shiraishi, now 20, was born and raised in New York, the daughter of Japanese parents who moved to the United States from Tokyo in 1978. Although she is currently enrolled as a freshman at UCLA, Shiraishi says she will always call New York home. She shared her favorite places in the city.
“Central Park is its own oasis in this concrete jungle. I grew up playing there, so it’s a very sentimental place for me, but I love that it’s always changing and the park has so many ways to enrich people’s lives,” says Shiraishi. “There’s a place I love called Sheep Meadow, this huge lawn with freestanding rocks. It reminds me of a sculpture park, the way the rocks are on the outskirts. It’s a nice place to have a picnic, take a nap, lie down for a second to breathe or take some time for yourself. It’s soothing to be surrounded by trees, because that’s rare in New York.
“The Lower East Side and Chinatown are my favorite places to explore and hang out,” Shiraishi says. “First, there is the food. Beyond that, many young people are drawn to these areas. Neighborhoods may seem chaotic in their disorder, but that’s what New York is all about. It’s a quiet mess. Things are moving, but it feels like a mix of different cultures, different generations.
“GP81. It’s in Greenpoint, Brooklyn,” Shiraishi says. “It’s a tight-knit community and the people are great. The climbing quality is the best in town. outdoor climbing, so there is a higher density of steeper terrain.
“There’s this grocery store in Chinatown called Hong Kong Supermarket,” Shiraishi says. “They have these white sweet potatoes that are purple inside. I go with friends and we try different snacks and all the vegetables that you don’t usually see in grocery stores. I also like Golden Steamer in Chinatown, they do really good steamed buns.
“Superiority Burger is one of my favorite restaurants in New York. Everything is vegetarian, mostly vegan,” she says. “They use seasonal ingredients from the farmer’s market. They have amazing ice cream and focaccia. experimental with their menu. It’s a hole in the wall. There’s this burger called the New Creation. It’s a yuba burger. It’s mind-blowing. I get really excited about the food. You must try the vegan ice cream.
“I like Beacon’s Closet and LTrainVintage,” says Shiraishi. “Since these are thrift stores, I usually go for anything that catches my eye. I have no specific expectations of what I’m looking for.
“I love going to farmers’ markets. There’s a great year-round farmers’ market called Union Square Greenmarket,” she says. “They always have great produce and it’s super fun to see what’s fresh in the season. There’s a good honey shop and a guy who only sells sprouts.
“Acre is this Japanese coffee shop, right next to GP81,” says Shiraishi. “I like to stop there before the climbing gym and have a coffee or their hojicha tea.”
“For rock climbing, I love going to Gunks, which are quite close to town, just over an hour away,” says Shiraishi. “The nearby town of New Paltz makes a good day trip. You can stop there, eat good food or visit a farm stand and then go rock climbing. There is a place called Commissary which is a community oriented food spot with delicious soups, lots of veggie options and great hot chocolate.