Five climbers die in Japan during Golden Week holidays

TOKYO (AFP) - At least five climbers died in Japan over a long weekend of public holidays during which mountaineers traditionally flock to difficult peaks, police said on Wednesday.

A 69-year-old housewife was confirmed dead after she fell about 50 metres (165 feet) from a ridge on the 1,423-metre Mount Arafune in Gunma prefecture Tuesday, local police said on Wednesday.

Separately, two men, a 68-year-old medical worker and a 46-year-old banker, were found dead on Tuesday after their three-strong party got caught in bad weather.

The three made an emergency call on Monday night saying they had lost their way on the 3,190-metre Mount Okuhotakadake in Gifu prefecture.

"The weather was bad and they lost their way... They tried to bivouac but their shelter was blown off by a strong wind," police officer Hideki Shibata told AFP, adding it appeared the cold might have killed them.

Two men, a 19-year-old National Defense Academy student and his 29-year-old adviser, were found dead after falling up to 400 metres from a ridge on the 3,110-metre Mount Karasawadake, Shibata said.

Both mountains are part of the Northern Alps of Japan, popular for its natural beauty but also known for its difficulty, with both still covered in snow.

Unconfirmed media reports said a 23-year-old soldier was found unconscious after falling while climbing Mount Fuji, Japan's highest peak. Jiji Press and other media said he had subsequently died.