Japanese visitors to the Canadian Rockies in the late 19th and early 20th centuries

The previous story (the second part of the series) touched upon the Japanese immigrants and Japanese Canadian in the Prairie. Today, the office will introduce the Japanese visitors who were attracted by the beauty of 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.

Banff Station
Banff Station
Here, Dr. Inazo Nitobe appears again. (Please see URLs below for reference.)
As told in the stories above, he attended the fifth conference of the Institute of Pacific Relations in Banff, Alberta in 1933. And earlier, he also visited the Rogers Pass on the British Colombian side of the Canadian Rockies in 1898. He was with his adopted son, Yoshio, then. In those days, Dr. Nitobe suffered health problems and stayed in Monterey, California, US for rest. This trip to the Canadian Rockies surely contributed to the completion of his famous book “Bushido: The Soul of Japan”.

Mount Alberta 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.

A History of Mt. Alberta, submitted by Warren Waxer, President of the Jasper-Yellowhead Historical Society

Display at the Jasper Yellowhead Museum
Display at the Jasper Yellowhead Museum
The party built a rock cairn at the summit and left a letter of their achievement and an ice axe, which was bestowed by Marquis Moritatsu Hosokawa (abolished Kumamoto Hosokawa Clan’s 16th family head). 23 years later, when an American party reached the summit for the second time in 1948, they found the ice axe. Since the axe was broke during the recovery, they only brought three of forth of the remaining parts of the axe to the American Alpine Club in New York. Finally, the Nagano High School Alpine Club Alumni party climbed to reach the summit of Mount Alberta and found the missing part of the axe, the handle. And during a special ceremony held on August 2000, which celebrated the 75th anniversary of the first reach to the summit, Japanese and Canadian alpinists joined the two parts together. They made a commemorative climb up Mount Alberta as well. Now, this axe is permanently placed at the Jasper Yellowhead Museum and Archives in honour of the shared mountaineering heritage of Canada, Japan and United States.

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.

stuffed brown trout 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.

Pylamid Lake
He and his family visited Jasper in summer, 1914 (just before the beginning of the First World War). They were invited by then-Grand Trunk Pacific (GTP) Railway (currently Canadian National Railway) which were promoting its railways and Jasper for tourism. They travelled via Edmonton and arrived at the Jasper station. They enjoyed horse riding along the Athabasca river, which flows in Jasper, and visiting nearby Pylamid Lake by horse-drawn carriage.

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