Japanese visitors to the Canadian Rockies in the late 19th and early 20th centuries
Before telling the story, it would be worth mentioning a phrase by Sir William Cornelius Van Horne, who directed the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railways and later became its second President.
“Since we can’t export the scenery, we’ll have to import the tourists.”
This opened an era where a lot of people came to the Canadian Rockies from all over the world, including Japan.
Then, a party of Japanese climbers reached the summit of Mount Alberta (elevation: 3,619, the red pin in the map) in July, 1925 for the first time. Mount Alberta is located between Banff and Jasper, the fifth highest in Canadian Rockies and third highest in the Province of Alberta. At the time, Mount Alberta was the only mountain in the Canadian Rockies, whose summit has yet been conquered. The party arrived in Jasper by train from Vancouver, British Columbia and reached the summit at 7:35 p.m. on July 21st after struggling to climb near vertical walls. Local papers reported the party’s exploration of Colombia Icefield and successful climb of the Mount Alberta. A paper wrote “Mt. Arberta Scaled By Japanese. Virgin Peak of Rockies Falls to Oriental Alpinists”.
The climbing party of people consisted of four from Keio-Gijuku University alpine club, including the expedition party leader Yuko Maki, two from Gakushuin University alpine club. They were guided by three Swiss. The expedition leader Maki later joined HIH Prince Chichibu’s (a younger brother of the late Emperor Showa) alpine salon and then founded and ovrsaw the then-Japanese Alpine Club: JAC, now referred to as Japan Mountaineering and Sport Climing Association.
According to the Museum’s display, a legend spread in the local community after the first climb that the ice axe was made of silver and bestowed to the party by HM, the Emperor of Japan.
The Museum also displays a stuffed brown trout (right). This is a gift from Jasper’s sister town Hakone, Japan to the President of Jasper Park Chamber of Commerce to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Hakone-Jasper sister affiliation in 1982. This is one of the trouts which the Jasper Goodwill Mission to Hakone released in Lake Ashino in 1972, following the occasion of the initiation of the sister affiliation.
Lastly, though he is not Japanese, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle comes in. Yes. The auther of “Sherlock Holmes” stories.
As so much attracted by the beauty of Jasper and neighberhoods, he came back to Jasper in 1923 with his family and left an anecdote in the guest book.
“A New York man reached Heaven and as he passed the gate, Peter said, ‘I am sure you will like it.’ A Pittsburgh man followed, and Peter said, ‘it would be a very great change for you.’ Finally there came a man from Jasper Park. ‘I am afraid,’ said Peter, ‘that you will be disappointed.’”
(Source in this part) “THE HISTORY OF JASPER”, Meghan Power