Monday, March 28, 2011

Wada, an Alaskan Trailblazer

Much to my delight, I found another Ehimean, another stowaway, an Alaskan trail-blazer. I have decided to introduce him here. His name is Jujiro Wada (1875-1937), born in Saijo City, Ehime Prefecture, near my hometown Imabari (30 km away), and was buried in San Diego, California, my second hometown in the U.S. What a coincidence!

His father died when he was four years old and he was taken to his mother’s relative in Matsuyama. He seemed to be quite an ambitious boy and a wizard. At 16 years of age, he left home saying “Ma, I wanna be Sumitomo in the U.S. and send you money.” Saying Sumitomo is just like saying ‘Rockefeller’ in New York.

In 1892, he landed in San Francisco, but seemingly as a slave on a whaling boat sailing in and out of the Arctic. Probably on those voyages, when the boat was caught in the ice, he had to spend long winters and befriended the local Inuit. Inuit and Japanese look alike in appearance and stature and they must have felt kinship with each other.

Stocky Wada, 5’2” (155 cm) in height, was nicknamed by the crew, “Fake Eskimo Shorty”. With persistence, he learned dog sledding from his Inuit friends and traversed Alaska, hunting, trading in furs, prospecting for gold. He paid off debts and began sending money to his mother. (He returned to visit his mother once in 1896).

It is almost like reading a Jack London story. (I saw a couple of Japanese novels available about him by writers Jiro Nitta, Yuji Tani and others).

One story had him hunting caribou in order to feed the crew in a boat stranded near Cape Barrow. Another story told how entrusted he was by the Inuit that they elected him the village master.

He struck gold in Chena at the Tanana River, a tributary of the Yukon River, which later became known as Fairbanks. E.T. Barnette, the first Mayor of Fairbanks, asked Wada to travel to Dawson to get the town so christened / registered and he was able to complete the mission in just three weeks. The trail he followed is part of today's Yukon 300 International Dog Sled Race which started in 1984. It's a 300 mile cross-country competition, between Fairbanks and Whitehorse. Wada is revered as a trail-blazer.

Looking for another challenge, Wada embarked on a 50-mile marathon in Nome in Seward Peninsula and won the $500 award money with a record of 7 hours, 39 minutes and 10 seconds. He did not win it just once. He won the Nome marathon 3 times.

He had many other great accomplishments between 1910 and 1920.

1910 - Opened a trail to the Iditarod Mines using a dog sled.

1912 – Established mines in Alaska, with supporters / backers including Mcllhenney, Tabasco and the Guggenheim brothers.

1920 - Explored for oil in Canada

Things changed after 1924, the year the U.S. government banned Japanese immigration. I read Wada was suspected of being a Japanese spy in the U.S. and he had to curtail his activities in Alaska. He was rejected landing in Alaska with his claim of Canadian nationality. He was still seen in the U.S. often, during his visit to the Van Camp Tuna Packing industry in San Pedro, California.

Van Camp used to have a factory in San Diego where Wada died during his visit there in 1937. He was buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery, close to the Japanese Buddhist Temple I frequented while I resided there. Wada is still an inspiration to those that know or uncover his story.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Voyage Across the Pacific

One more drifters story if I may. My motivation:

l) San Diego connection - my second hometown in the U.S., where the Ehimeans landed, and my friend, a tea ceremony master of the Urasenke School in San Diego, brought it to my attention.

2) Ehimeans were the crew and I am also an Ehimean. I'm from east Ehime and they were from west Ehime. You may associate the name of Ehime-Maru, a Japanese fishing high school training ship that was sunk by the USS Greenville in 2001. That Ehime-Maru was based in Uwajima, in west Ehime.

What was different about the two captains, Jyukichi and Zensuke, was that Kamesaburo Yoshida (1873-1931) knew his destination. Kame, in Japanese, means turtle. (His name will be abbreviated as Kame hereafter.) Born to be a fisherman, he had learned from his boyhood how to maneuver the then popular "Utasebune", a ruggedly built, 10 meter (32 ft) long sailboat, close to the western Ketch or Yole in outward appearance. There is a movement to rebuild the Utasebune (with new high tech materials) and hold sailing competitions in and around Tokyo Bay.

Yes, Kame’s intent was to aim his ship toward Seattle, Washington in his Utasebune. He was there in his twenties and brought fortune back to his hometown Kawanoishi, Ehime. However, his business went bankrupt after the Russo-Japanese War ended and Japan went into an economic slump. Kawanoishi once flourished as an Utasebune port for transporting cargo and the business dried up because of the rise of railroad land transportation.

He wanted to revisit Seattle, but U.S. Immigration practically banned Japanese entry. Impatient with the slow visa approval, Kame devised to stow away in his own Utasebune. Four friends joined him. Yes, they were stowaways, not innocent drifters. Kame used speculative navigation, only with the compass and graduators, with the Polaris as guide, determining and maintaining the same latitude while sailing.

On May 11, 1912, a three-masted Sumiyoshimaru sailed out from Kominato, Chiba, ”50” years ahead of Kenichi Horie’s solo Pacific crossing adventure on a yacht. Atsuo Kojima, a Nippon Yusen retiree and sea story writer, found out about Kame's gallant adventure, traced their route in detail, and wrote a book in 2001 which won an Ehime Prefecture Culture Book Prize in 2002.

The voyage of Sumiyoshimaru seemed as hard as any sea captain had experienced, despite the well prepared drainage and storm protection devices. It drifted southerly without them noticing the passing islands of Hawaii and despite Kame's efforts to redress north, the ship headed to the Galapagos. Another desperate corrective northward sail and Kame's hunch finally got him to head toward Baja California, but Sumiyoshimaru got shipwrecked at Flat Rock, one step before landing and accomplishing his dream of crossing the Pacific in a Japan-made Utasebune.

Flat Rock is a little north of the famous Torrey Pines, now a California State national park and golf course of San Diego. Kame and the other four started walking north, probably along Camino Real, the King's Road, and were caught by U.S. Immigration officers. They were deported back to Japan after being fed well.

Undeterred, Kame tried again using the same stowaway ploy the following year, using a bigger 16-meter Utasebune with 26 friends and succeeded. They landed at Point Arena in Northern California. He was said to have engaged in salmon fishing in Vancouver Island until his death at 58. The surviving second voyage crew members erected a stone monument in his honor in Kawanoishi, now a part of Yahatahama City, Ehime.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Dear Miss Breed Sales Campaign Comes to a Close

Dear Friends,

The Dear Miss Breed sales campaign was jump-started last October when we appealed to the publisher to keep from shredding unsold inventory of the book. Our rally cry was, "Let's save even one copy."

With your encouragement and help publicizing the campaign on the Internet and advertising in newspapers and magazines, we were able to convince the publisher to offer a one time deal to try to sell the books. This deal was extended to interested buyers in Japan, U.S. and Canada. The San Diego YuYu Magazine even supported the effort by offering free administrative services to take orders, accept checks and distribute the books when they received shipment.

Unfortunately, the shipment that was sent out in mid-October was caught up in the year-end holiday rush and was delayed. When we finally receive them, we discovered some books were damaged or missing from possible pilferage during transport. The problem stemmed from the poor export packaging by the publisher, who apparently had not handled export before by themselves. As a result, there were 30 books that were not in any condition to be sold upon arrival. I have to apologize for these delays and inconvenience these shipping problems have caused you.

I am satisfied that we did all we could do and I am bringing this special project to a close. I am happy to report that we were able to save 200 books in all. I would like to thank those who purchased the book. I would also like to take this opportunity to express my sincere appreciation to those that helped for your kind assistance and warm friendship, and a special thanks to the San Diego YuYu staff and volunteers who went above and beyond for this effort. I would not have been able to do this without you.

Thank you very much.

ご声援とご協力を得て、ほぼ予定どおり一段落しました。 事前に流して


ただただ感謝あるのみです。 衷心より、御礼申し上げます。ありがとう

今村 亮

Sunday, March 13, 2011

We Shall Overcome

Hello, friends! Thank you for your immediate email inquiries and concerns. My family is okay. I join you in offering prayers for the victims of the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on Friday, March 11 with a 9.0 Magnitude (officially rated). The devastation covered 500 kilometers in length and 200 kilometers in width. Thousands of people are missing, 380,000 people are reported in temporary shelters.

It is northeast Japan that was hardest hit and turned into wastelands of debris when the area was inundated with 30-foot waves. Houses, autos, planes and ships were all tossed around like toys and were bulldozed. Simply awed by the power of nature, we sat watching transfixed over and over unable to turn away from these images. Except this was no Hollywood movie. It was real and gobbled up in the muddy swirls were powerless humans. I saw Sendai airport completely isolated in the water, and the civilized city of Sendai, a population of one million, is suffering in flood and blazes. I'm watching Sendai people line up for water, gas, and foods. They desperately need our helping hands. My heart goes out to the people who lost loved ones and all the displaced families.

I remember it was Torahiko Terada (1878-1935) and Uchichiro Nakatani (1900-1962), both scientists and essayists, who said "A natural disaster strikes when people lose their memories of the previous one." Well, I certainly do not forget Kobe Earthquake of 1995, the Magnitude 8 earthquake that awaited my return from the U.S. We just had the 15th Memorial Service in January this year. We know it strikes cyclically and perhaps we should have been better prepared for it. How does one or how does society prepare for something of this magnitude?

One of my friends fluent in French inquired today if the intended use of my email address "eberger" meant shelter. No, I use it simply as "Villanueva", the Spanish translation of my name, "Villa-E." I welcome his interpretation and I actually like it very much.

I live in Kyushu, southernmost island of Japan. We are lucky we have not suffered much damage from earthquakes. It is not natural disaster-free, however, as the city of Fukuoka had a minor one a few years ago while I was traveling in Eastern Europe. Genkaijima, off Fukuoka Bay sustained quite a bit of damage from that one. My wife telephoned and I was quite upset then.

Southern Kyushu has three active volcanoes now - Sakurajima, Kagoshima City; Mt. Aso near Kumamoto; and Shin-Moedake near the city of Kobayashi. The Shin-Moedake erupted this January, lava and ash falls followed. It's true we live in the danger zone, in the Ring of Fire. At least three plates come together where our country sits. Such is our fate. Let us wish for the best and get through this disaster.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Japanese Drifters to Mexico

Captain Jukichi’s Diary led me to the tale of Zensuke, another sea captain of the ship Eijyumaru, a vessel boastfully designated as “Sengokubune”, or One Thousand Koku boat (see previous post "Trip to Discover Kyoto History" regarding definition of “Koku,” a unit of volume), measuring roughly 15 meters long, single-masted, capable of carrying 150 tons of rice and other cargo. However, the term 1000 Koku was loosely used. The English translation of Sengokubune was large junk-style ship. So chances were slim that this not-so-first-class Sengokubune could ride out a storm once out on the rough open ocean. Eijyumaru got shipwrecked in October 1841, off of Cape Inubozaki, Choshi during the voyage north to Sanriku Coast.

Zensuke and his 15 crew members drifted in the Pacific Ocean until they were rescued by a Spanish vessel. The ship landed at Cabo San Lucas in Baja California and the rescued crew eventually ended up in Mazatlan.

That reminds me of a chilling experience I had when I visited Mexico ten years ago. It was inside a Franciscan cathedral in Cuernavaca, about 200 miles (300km) inland from Acapulco, where I saw a narrative fresco mural of 27 martyrs crucified in Nagasaki, Japan. You have to adjust your sun-exposed eyes coming into the candle-lit chapel, so that the mural emerges slowly, sending a chill up your spine as you realize what it is about. It depicted Christians caught, bound, and heavily guarded traveling from Kyoto to Nagasaki to die on the scaffold. The mural chronicled their plight. Cuernavaca has many historical landmarks related to Conquistador Hernando Cortez (1485 – 1547) and Maximilian I (1832-1867).

Who painted the mural and when? Perhaps it was some years after the day of the mass crucifixion in 1579. Legend has it that it might have been a Filipino who sailed with the Spaniards. He most likely witnessed the cruel scenes with consternation and wanted to bequeath what he saw.

I was surprised to find the inscription “Emperador-Taycosama” perhaps referring to Hideyoshi (1526 –1598) in the mural, the honorific use of tycoon, to indicate the awe and respect felt toward Hideyoshi.

I heard the wall had been covered over many times over the years where the mural remained hidden. Plastering over or replastering the wall signified the worshippers' wish to cure local epidemics. The mural was discovered only when the church went through some renovations. It was a remarkable discovery. The muralist’s will to convey what happened back then finally reached me covering the span of 500 years in an instant as I looked at the wall. I was not so far removed from the person who traversed the Pacific Ocean and saw our ancestors as pagans.

Zensuke and four other crew members returned to Japan four years later in 1845 to Nagasaki back from Macao under Portugal. The other eight did not return.

The Nikkei Newspaper had a short article more than ten years ago of Mr. Yoshikazu Sano, TV producer, who explored what happened to the eight, who preferred to remain in Mexico, and televised what he found. In Mazatlan, he found Juan Machado and his descendents. Juan Machado was reported to have helped five of them in finding shelters and work, while they stayed there and waited for a boat to return to Asia. In Cabo, Mr. Sano wrote he found the tomb of Tomas Lichie, the name recorded in the Magistrate depositions. Sano was not able to track down descendents of the crew left behind, but he was happy to build a bridge and establish some goodwill between Japan and Mexico.