Thomas Foley, U.S. Ambassador to Japan, summited a 45-foot tall rock climbing pinnacle today in the new REI Japan Tokyo Flagship Store to help launch the first international retail store of Washington state-based Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI).

Foley waved to the assembled crowd from the pinnacle summit, then rappelled to its base, where he was presented with an ice axe signed by Jim Whittaker. A former REI CEO, Whittaker is also a renowned mountaineer and the first American to have summited Mount Everest.

The REI Japan store is located in the Grandberry Mall, a new shopping center developed by the Tokyu Corporation. REI Japan is the anchor tenant in the center, which officially opens Friday. The center is located at the suburb of Minami Machida.

The flagship store will be owned and operated by REI Japan KK, a wholly owned subsidiary of REI. The Minami Machida store is REI's first international store. In the United States, REI operates 54 retail locations, as well as three websites: www.rei.com, www.rei-outlet.com and www.rei.co.jp.

The new store features outdoor equipment and clothing for the activities of camping and trekking, bicycling, climbing and outdoor travel. The store provides all the gear, clothing and information needed to enjoy these activities and will include numerous special features to help customers get a taste of outdoor activities while shopping.

Interactive features include an indoor 45-foot-tall rock climbing pinnacle, a 400-foot-long outdoor mountain bike test trail, a footwear test trail, hands-on test areas for backpacking water filters and stoves, a Starbucks Coffee store, kids' play area and a club meeting room. The features are designed to help customers select the best outdoor equipment for their needs in an enjoyable setting.

The store carries a broad selection of REI brand and other leading brand outdoor gear and clothing and offers a huge bicycling shop with more than 200 bikes on the sales floor. The REI Japan Flagship shop showcases 64 different styles of bikes from four major manufacturers, including Trek, Schwinn, GT and REI's own Novara bike line. The store also offers 12 different bike styles for test riding on its trail.

While REI is known as a place for quality, high-performance outdoor gear and skilled sales people, the REI Japan Tokyo Flagship Store is also a place for relaxed fun. A life-sized family of bronze bears greets visitors, and a working fireplace in the store serves as a place for outdoors people to gather, share stories and plan their next adventures.

The store also has several outdoors and wildlife-theme art displays for the enjoyment of customers. REI is a U.S.-based consumer cooperative. In Japan, customers may join REI and become "favored members" who receive an annual members' coupon for their regular-priced Japan store purchases. They also help elect the REI board of directors. While anyone may shop at the REI Japan's Tokyo Flagship Store, only members receive additional benefits such as the coupon and climbing at no charge on the pinnacle during open times.

The official store opening is set for 10 a.m. on April 21. During the three-week grand opening, the store will host a series of guest presenters. The guest lists includes well-known outdoors people, climbers and other personalities.