Thursday, May 7, 2009

John Manjiro

Time for a break from pressing news events. Instead, here is a report on the wonderful memorial to Captain Whitfield and John Manjiro in Fairhaven, Massacusetts, that opens today.

Private citizens, led by Hinohara Shigeaki (S. Hinohara) of Japan, have raised the funds necessary and seen to the restoration of the house where Captain William Whitfield brought a rescued young fisherman, Nakahama Manjirou (a.k.a. John Manjiro), upon the return of their ship to the United States in 1843.

For those not fully aware, John Manjiro was one of the first Japanese to come to the United States of America, and became fluent in English in his years under the sponsorship of Captain Whitfield. Risking his very life to return to Japan in 1851, John Manjiro bravely faced his detention and months of questioning before being allowed to return to his home district of Tosa (now Kouchi, on Shikoku), where he was eventually rewarded for his bravery and loyal desire to return. Two years later, he was summoned to Edo and made Hatamoto (samurai in direct service to the person of a Lord) to the Shougun. His written reports were of immense service to the government at a time when little was known of matters outside Japan, and his skill with language proved vital upon the arrival of the American squadron under Commodore Matthew Perry (1853). His career spanned decades thereafter, including service to the newly-founded Japanese Navy and a post as a professor at the Toukyou Imperial University (now University of Tokyo).

A personal profile of John Majiro is available at Wikipedia.

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