Jujiro Wada
Jujiro Wada

This photo may have been taken when Wada returned to Japan for a visit, ca. 1896.

YA, Yukon Asian History Coll., 2006/146 #1

Jujiro Wada was born in 1875 in Ehime Prefecture. In 1891 he left Japan, stowing away in a tea chest on a freighter to San Francisco. He found work on the Balaena, a whaling ship.

The ship overwintered at Pauline Cove, Herschel Island, and Wada learned how to travel and live off the land from the Inuvialuit people in the area. He returned north when his contract with the Balaena was complete. Wada explored, surveyed and promoted new ventures throughout the Mackenzie Delta, Alaska and the Yukon, making journeys of hundreds of miles and more by dogsled through a largely untracked landscape. He led a solitary and physically demanding life. He was well-respected for his hardiness and good character, even if, as a Japanese man, he was not entirely accepted.

Strong anti-Asian feeling was widespread at the time. In 1901 Wada applied for American citizenship but his application was rejected.

Although legislation and attitudes discriminated against Asians, Wada’s physical skills and stamina were recognized and appreciated in the North. He returned to Japan only once, in the late 1800s, although he continued to send letters and money to his mother throughout her life. He died in San Diego in 1937.

“He has no home but his tent.”

Winnipeg Evening Post, March 22, 1923

H.H. Norwood

The other man in this photo, taken in about 1903, may be H.H. Norwood. Norwood was captain of the Balaena and taught Wada navigation skills and how to read and write in English.

YA, Yukon Asian History Coll., 2006/146 #2


Wada had a daughter, Himeko (Helen). It is believed that she was born in San Francisco in about 1900.

YA, Yukon Asian History Coll., 2006/146 #4


On September 5, 1914, an article appeared in the Dawson Daily News about her search for her father, last heard of in Fairbanks.

Dawson Daily News, September 5, 1914


On March 1, 1908, Wada staked a placer claim on High Cache Creek, a tributary of the Firth River near Herschel Island. As a non-citizen, he was allowed to stake a claim in the Yukon, but not in Alaska.

YA, GOV 371 #188


In early 1903, Wada was the first person to reach Dawson from Alaska’s Tanana River area. He brought news of the gold recently found there, and set off a small stampede to the region.

Yukon Sun, January 17, 1903


Wada came first in a 35-mile (60-km) foot race in Nome on June 1, 1907, winning a purse of $2800.

YA, Yukon Asian History Coll., 2006/146 #7

Jujiro Wada

The newspaper article that accompanied this illustration said that “veracity and honesty are his chief traits.”

Yukon Sun, January 17, 1903

Jujiro Wada

Wada estimated that he had mushed 44,000 km (26,000 miles) in Alaska and the Yukon.

YA, Charles Tennant fonds, 95/33 #7