This article maps the controversy over whether and where glaciers once flowed through the Japanese Alps. Focusing on the first decades of this century-long debate, we examine how a small-scale revolution in geological thinking was shaped by the particular institutional constraints and alpine enthusiasms of Meiji Japan (1868–1912). To do so, we turn to Yamasaki Naomasa and Kojima Usui—close friends and pioneers in their respective fields of geography and mountaineering—to show how alpinism helped to launch glaciology as a scientific discipline in Japan. By chronicling the hunt for evidence of ancient glaciers, we further reveal how the Japanese Alpine Club formed a vital forum for the glacier debate pending the emergence of a community of professional glaciologists.

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