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The Man Who Discovered America

July 2024
41min read

The story of Manjiro, the shipwrecked waif; of the kindly captain from Fairhaven; and of how Japan, hidden away from the world, learned strange news of other lands

In 1841, before Commodore Perry had opened up Japan, before any Japanese had set foot in America, a fisherman’s boy was transported by a chance of history to Massachusetts. This is his story, condensed from a new book by Hisakazu Kaneko, published by Houghton Mifflin Co. Manjiro, The Man Who Discovered America is a true account, so strange and charming that it reads like a fairy tale.


Manjiro was born in the tenth year of the Bunsei era (1827) in a lonely fishing village called Nakanohama, in the province of Tosa where the warm Black Current of the Pacific Ocean ceaselessly washes its craggy coast. His father Etsuke died when Manjiro was only nine years old and his widowed mother, Shio, with her lean hands had to feed her five ever-hungry children. So poor was she that she could not afford to send the children to a nearby Buddhist temple for a simple education. Manjiro had to work. When he was thirteen years old, he put to sea in a fishing boat and unhooked fish from the lines to get what little money he could earn and help his widowed mother eke out a scanty livelihood.

On the morning of the fifth of January, 1841, when he was fourteen years old, he took to the sea, bright and early, from Usaura with Denzo, aged 38, Jusuke, aged 25, and Goemon, aged 15, both brothers of Denzo, and Toraemon, aged 26, in an attempt to catch the sea bass that would come riding along in the tide of the New Year.

For seven days they had no luck. Then, suddenly, a strong monkey-and-cock wind began to blow, so they decided to make for land before they were overtaken by a storm. When the boat had traversed about ten miles of the intervening sea it ran into such a large shoal of mackerel and sea bream that the sea seemed to have taken on a dark purplish color. Denzo spurred the others into action and cast six bucketfuls of nets. In the meantime the sky grew dark and the wind blew full blast, threatening to overturn the boat at any moment. Terrified out of their wits, they rowed as hard as they could, but soon they became too exhausted to prevent the boat from being carried away by the wind and waves like a fallen leaf in a rapid stream.

When the storm ended they were drifting helpless in the open sea. Drenched with rain by day, nearly frozen by night, they drifted slowly southward. On the fifth day after the storm, they were cast ashore on an island inhabited only by the albatross.

Five months passed, during which they lived on albatross, seaweed, and shellfish. It was on June 27 that Manjiro happened to sight a tiny black dot far away on the horizon. “It’s a ship!” He danced with joy and his voice rang in the quiet morning of the lonely island.

The ship dropped anchor and put out two boats. The men in the boats came quite close to the shore now, but finding no place to land, they made signs to the stranded men to take off their clothes and tie them on their heads and swim across. But the Japanese hesitated for some time, a little afraid of those redhaired and blue-eyed foreigners with white skin. They noticed that there was a black man too. Manjiro, determined and courageous, went down the cliff and taking off his clothes, tied them on his head and jumped into the sea just as the strangers had instructed him. They rowed up one of the boats and helped him into it. Thinking it was God’s help, Manjiro knelt down and worshiped the strangers in gratitude. At this the black sailor burst out laughing. Goemon and then Toraemon jumped into the sea, each carrying his kimono on his head to be rescued in the same way.

On this day Captain Whitfield of the John Howland made the following simple entry in his logbook:

Sunday, June 27, 1841

This day light winds from the S.E. The Isle in sight 26 1.00 p.m. Sent in two boats to see if there were any turtles. Found 5 poor distressed people on the Isle. Took them off. Could not understand anything from them more than that they were hungry. Made the latitude of the Isle 30 deg. 31 min. N.

The ship which rescued the five Japanese fishermen was a large vessel with three tall masts hoisting more than ten sails and jibs and spreading its weblike cordage in all directions. The crew consisted of more than thirty men both white and black. John Howland was the name of the ship; it was a whaler from New Bedford, Massachusetts, U.S.A., and the captain was Mr. William H. Whitfield.

The rescued men, either half-naked or in tattered kimono, were ghostly emaciated and sick from long hunger and exposure, with their lifeless faces half hidden in their long, dry, shaggy hair. When they were brought before Captain Whitfield for questioning, some of them were unable to stand and weakly squatted on the deck. They all looked at the Captain feebly from the bottom of their deeply sunken eyes, half in fear, half in expectation. “You have saved us and you can do anything you like to us,” they seemed to say.

The Captain smiled a little and asked several questions, “Where do you come from?” or “What have you been doing on that island?” and so on. They simply shook their heads or waved their hands to show that they could not understand what he was talking about. They said timidly something in their own tongue, but he could not make out a word. All he could gather from their gestures was that they were very, very hungry.

Then the Captain sent for the chief cook and told him, “Give them some food at once, but remember, don’t give them too much before they have fully recovered.”

A little later, the Captain somehow was able to find out that they were shipwrecked Japanese fishermen who had been stranded on the island for six months.

They were given coats and leather boots, and although they did not feel so uncomfortable in the close-fitting coats which were quite different from their kimonos, they found that the leather boots were almost unbearable.

A little before noon that day, the ship weighed anchor and put out to sea. The five men were shown into a room below, which appeared as wide as an eight-mat room, and were told they had better take a good rest there. Three days later they recovered their spirits and in five days their bodies regained their former strength. They did not like to be idling away their time, so on the seventh day they said to the Captain that they were willing to do some work along with the crewmen.

Manjiro sights a whale and pleases the captain

On the eighth day the ship took its course toward the southeast. On the tenth day a watchman, who was in the crow’s-nest perched high on the foremast looking through a telescope, shouted, “Bloooowsl Ah bloooows!”

“Where away?” shouted back Captain Whitfield.

“Two points abaft the starboard beam.”

The chase and capture of the whale made an exciting spectacle. As he stood watching on the deck Manjiro said to himself, “I’ll be a whaler someday!”

The following day, when Manjiro was perched on the mainmast looking through a telescope, he discovered a large whale and a small one floating among the waves.

“Whales! Whales!” he shouted at the top of his voice to the men on the deck. The boats were at once lowered. Seeing the danger, the large one tried to swim away holding the small one in its breast fins, but the boats encircled it and killed it in the same way as they did the day before. However, they let the whelp whale escape unmolested. Manjiro was given a new sailor cap by the Captain as a reward for discovering the whale, while Denzo, Jusuke, Toraemon, and Goemon were also given similar caps as rewards for the good job they did at the slings and tackles, sending down the oil barrels to the hold, and cleaning the deck, which had been smeared with oil.


The ship kept steadily south-southeast when finally six months’ voyage brought them to a harbor called Honolulu, on Oahu Island of the Sandwich Archipelago, late in November after catching fifteen large whales. Captain Whitfield took the Japanese fishermen to the Governor’s office.

The Governor was an American about fifty years of age whose name was Dr. Gerrit Parmele Judd. Governor Judd brought a map of the world, which Manjiro and the others had never seen before, and unfolded it before them. Pointing here and there over the map, he questioned Manjiro, using simple words.

The Governor smiled and kindly explained. “This is a folding map. Now look here. This is the sea. This is a great land. This is an island. Well, were you born here or there?”

“We were born here,” replied Manjiro pointing to an island.

Governor Judd exchanged looks with Captain Whitfield and they both nodded.

“Do you worship Buddha?”

“Yes, we do,” answered Manjiro, Jusuke, and Goemon in unison.

After further questioning Governor Judd said: “Now you shall stay in this island until further notice, for I will see to it that the Government pays all your expenses while you are here. In the meantime, I’ll give each of you a silver dollar as my personal gift, for you’ll need some money for the present.”

Manjiro and the others humbly bowed in thanks, bending low at the waist. With these silver coins in their hands, they filed out of the Governor’s room and were shown into a guest room of the office where they were served with bananas and coffee for the first time in their lives.

Captain Whitfield liked Manjiro in particular for his cheerfulness, politeness, and willingness to learn. So when a question was raised whether it was all right to take Manjiro to America all the men except Manjiro were puzzled, because they were born in the same province and, after drifting together thousands of miles, had landed in a strange country and naturally found it hard to part with one of their members.

They decided to leave the choice with Manjiro. Whereupon, Manjiro nonchalantly made his intention known that he would sooner go and see for himself what was the real truth of America.

Captain Whitfield, very pleased with what Manjiro had just said, added assuringly, “I’ll take good care of him, so don’t you worry.” Then he took Manjiro on board the ship while Denzo and the others came to the wharf to bid him farewell.

While the John Howland carrying Manjiro kept steadily south, Captain Whitfield grew to like the boy, who was good-natured and a willing and hard worker, and before long treated him like his own son. The Captain decided to call him John Mung as his name Manjiro was too much for the sailors. Having lost his father when a mere child, Manjiro, hungering for fatherly love, became firmly attached to this stern but kind captain. He was brighter than the others; he had picked up English and spoke it with considerable ease. He studied hard in his spare moments and soon he was able to write some simple English words.

He certainly missed the fellow countrymen with whom he had parted at Honolulu, but as the Captain was kind and there were on the ship three teen-age sailors—La Fayette Wilcox, for instance, was only sixteen—with whom he could be friendly, he was not lonely except when he thought of his home. Moreover, the life on the whaling ship was so exciting that he had little time to think of his home.

At last, in the spring of 1843, the John Howland rounded Cape Horn and sailed north. On May 7, 1843, completing its long, long voyage of three years and seven months, the ship entered the port of New Bedford.

The sailors, who had been up before daybreak while the John Howland, weather-beaten, heavy with whale oil, was steadily plowing through the calm sea of Buzzards Bay, were all excited at this long-awaited homecoming, but perhaps no one was so excited as the sixteen-year-old Japanese boy, who was determined to see the New World with his own eyes. Soon Captain Whitfield appeared on the deck, where Manjiro had kept leaning over the bulwarks to watch the harbor and the town, where about thirty ships of all types lay at anchor and where a town of big, painted, strange-looking houses and church steeples was in full view on this bright May morning.

“John Mung” finds a new home in Massachusetts

“We’ve at last come home, John Mung!” said the Captain, coming beside him.

“I can’t believe my eyes, Captain!” said Manjiro.

“This is New Bedford.”

“It’s like a dream!” said Manjiro excitedly. “What are those big houses, Captain?”

“That’s the customhouse and that’s a church, if you know what they are.”

“Your house, Captain, can you see it?”

“Nay, not from here; it’s in Fairhaven on the other side of this river.”

“Is that a river? Looks like the sea.”

“Aye, that is the Acushnet River, John Mung.”

On the wharf, a crowd of friends, relatives, and families welcomed them, but Captain Whitfield felt lonely because he was a widower. He at once took John around the town. The boy from the lonely fishing village in Tosa had never seen such a bustling town in his life, not even in his dreams; and simply dumfounded, he stared at everything openmouthed. The wharves, warehouses, churches, offices, stores, houses, streets, and parks, which he saw for the first time in his life, took his breath away and made his feet difficult to move. He was amazed by the women walking along the streets in bonnets, muslin ruffs, and hoop skirts, balancing their pink, white, blue, and green parasols.

Captain Whitfield, John Mung, and some of the seamen went to the Seamen’s Bethel and offered prayers of thanks for their safe return “through the peril of the deep.” John Mung did not understand very well the meaning of the prayers, but he was impressed by the singing of hymns and the sound of the organ. While they were praying, he was thinking of his widowed mother saying the sutra in the village temple far away.

Then John Mung, still dazed and breathless, accompanied by Captain Whitfield, crossed a mile-long bridge spanning the Acushnet River and reached Fairhaven where the Captain lived. Fairhaven, which was on New Bedford Harbor, was also a prosperous town full of fine houses, though it was not so big and thriving with the whaling industry as New Bedford. As Captain Whitfield was a widower, his house had been left vacant and unlivable during his absence and, although he loved John like a son, he could not have the boy live with him in his own house. Therefore, he asked one of the townsmen by the name of Eben Akin, who had been a third officer of a whaling ship under Captain Whitfield, to let John stay with his family. One day Mr. Eben Akin asked John Mung whether he would like to go to school. John answered that he wanted to do so by all means. As it was unlikely that he would be able to return to Japan in the near future, he thought he should get some education in America.

John Mung went to school for the first time in his life. In a large paneled room, about thirty feet square, stood rows of desks and chairs. About thirty pupils sat at those desks having a lesson in reading. The teacher stood on the platform, writing on the blackboard with a piece of chalk. The pupils at first kept the strange freshman at a respectful distance, but before long, friendship prevailed and they began to play with him and to treat him kindly as one of their number. John Mung stayed on with Mr. Akin and went to school every morning, returning home late in the afternoon.

Soon after John Mung joined the family of Mr. Eben Akin, Captain Whitfield went to New York to sell the whale oil. Not only did he conclude a very profitable business deal, but he also remarried in New York, on May 31 of that year. He married Miss Albertina B. Keith of Bridgewater, Massachusetts, and returned home in the height of happiness with his beautiful bride. Then he purchased a fourteen-acre farm with some buildings in Sconticut Neck, a mile or so from Fairhaven, for $1,000. There they established their new home in a house they built, to which John Mung, after a while, came to live to make himself useful in doing the household chores. On the farm Captain and Mrs. Whitfield, with the help of John Mung and a hired farm hand, kept several cows, horses, pigs, and about 100 chickens and also raised wheat, corn, potatoes, grapes and so on.

Captain Whitfield finds a church that will take a Japanese boy

It is told that, as a person of consequence in the town, Captain Whitfield had his own private pew in one of the three churches. One Sunday morning Manjiro went to church with him and sat beside him in that pew. One of the deacons of the church, who had been horrified, came to see Captain Whitfield after a few weeks and told him that the Japanese boy would have to sit in the pew for Negroes, because some of the members had objected to having Manjiro sit in the Captain’s pew. Captain Whitfield bowed politely and made no reply, although he wanted to say, “As long as I live, I shall never attend your church.” Immediately he took a pew in another church but soon met with the same result.

Before long, the Captain found that a Unitarian church was willing to admit John Mung into the fold, so that he decided to take the boy to this church every Sunday. Eventually the Captain and his family became its members. The church’s principal supporter was Mr. Warren Delano, Sr., who was an influential townsman and the great-grandfather of the late Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Once he was deeply moved when he heard a sermon in which the pastor said that even a humble man was often called upon to do an important job. He was astonished when he was told that one of the greatest followers of the Lord was a fisherman. When the sermon was over, he said to himself, I am glad that a fisherman’s blood is in me. What can I do when I am a man?

Manjiro was happy in this small New England town because, as the Captain’s foster son, he was allowed to do whatever was normal for any Fairhaven boy of that period, but sometimes he felt very lonely thinking of his poor widowed mother. Then he would take out a small tattered cotton kimono which his mother had made for him and bury his face in it and sob. He would wipe his tears with it and talk to it in Japanese as if he had been talking to his mother. He thought then as if his mother had been there to cheer him up because he knew that it was his mother who had made it for him and the only thing he had to remember her by. He always said on such occasions, “Mother, I will come back to you somedayl”

One day, Job C. Trippe, who was a classmate of John Mung, happened to come into the latter’s room and found him crying with his face buried in the small tattered kimono. When John told him why he was crying in such a manner, Job Trippe began to cry and they both cried together for some time. But when he suddenly noticed that John Mung’s head was sticking out of a big hole in the kimono, he began to laugh and they both laughed together. Much impressed by Manjiro’s attachment for his mother, Job Trippe wrote a few days later a very touching composition on the theme of mother love. Those who heard him read this composition in class were deeply moved.

When John Mung came to live with Captain and Mrs. Whitfield at the Sconticut Neck farm, he lived in a home for the first time in his life. When a small boy, he had lost his father, and his mother was poor. She used to go down to the beach every day to help the fishermen draw dragnets to get a few small fish for her children. But in Sconticut Neck, he lived with his foster father and mother who were always kind to him, although like any other New England parents, they were by no means soft. At last, he could satisfy his hunger for fatherly love from Captain Whitfield. The three often worked together on the farm, and he was as happy as a boy could be. He worked hard and they liked him.

On Fourth of July he was taken by Captain Whitfield to Fairhaven to see the sham fight and the parade, which he always recalled and talked about even before the Japanese officials. In Sconticut Neck, he observed the quaint custom of Halloween and celebrated Christmas, with the tree, candles, presents, turkey dinner, and carols, in its New England setting.

In Sconticut Neck he soon found that there were several playmates with whom he could go fishing when he was not too busy farming or reading books. He made many friends. On May Day, John Mung and other children went a-Maying before sunrise in the nearby field to gather wild flowers and tree branches, and they returned to the village in triumph, John Mung carrying the Maypole. It was told by the late Mrs. Eldridge G. Morton that on a May Day when she was still a small child, John Mung hung a May basket on her door with the following verse:

Tis in the chilly night

A basket you’ve got hung.

Get up! Strike a light!

And see me run.

to which he added, “But no chase me.”

He read books when he was free from the work in the field or at the cowshed, so that Captain Whitfield was more and more impressed by the boy’s strong desire to learn. Mr. Louis Bartlett, a mathematician, who managed school at 42 Spring Street, was also impressed by the diligence and love of learning of this boy and said that he would teach John Mung mathematics and surveying, if he had any desire to learn. The young man became one of the pupils of Mr. Bartlett and studied mathematics, surveying, reading, and writing in his spare hours and proved to be the brightest student in the class. In June of that year, Captain Whitfield went whaling again from the port of New Bedford on board the William Eliza without John Mung, because not only was his service needed around the farm but the Captain thought that the boy’s education should not be interrupted.

The work in the field was finished for the winter, and John Mung could have lived a fairly easy life doing nothing in particular at Captain Whitfield’s if he wanted to do so. But thinking of his future, he wanted to use this time to learn some trade while he could, so he became, in February, 1845, an apprentice to a cooper named Mr. Huzzy, a manufacturer of whale oil barrels.

Manjiro goes back to sea and captures a turtle

He was then a lad of nineteen, feeling a nostalgia for the sea. He wanted, moreover, to put into practice on a ship the knowledge of navigation and surveying he had acquired from Mr. Bartlett. It happened that a whaler from New York named Ira Davis, who was once the harpooner on the John Howland, came to Fairhaven in order to organize a crew for the Franklin, which was bound for the Pacific under his captainship. He went to see John Mung and asked him to join his crew; he had already been told by Isachar Akin, whom he also asked to sail on the Franklin, about the courage and skill which John Mung had demonstrated on the John Howland.

Upon learning that his former shipmate, Isachar Akin, had consented to the proposal and that he would be appointed first officer, John Mung accepted the offer at once, since it seemed to be the very thing for which he had been waiting all this while. He thought it might be a good chance to return to Japan. He went to see Mrs. Whitfield immediately and told her that he had decided to go whaling on the Franklin, and asked her approval. But he did not breathe a word about any possibility of his returning to Japan. She gave him her blessing.

“Thank you, Mrs. Whitfield. I like it here very much. I like the people here. You have been kind to me; and the captain … Oh, how can I thank him enough? I’ll miss you, and Fairhaven, and Sconticut Neck, but I want to go to sea.”

The Franklin was a ship of 273 tons. She was about 100 feet long and carried a crew of 24. John Mung soon found to his great joy that ten of them were from the New Bedford area, some of whom he already knew; he found also that twelve of them were teenagers, the youngest only fifteen.

The Franklin went out whaling in the Atlantic One day when the ship was sailing near British Guiana, a sailor who was watching from the topmost shrouds suddenly shouted, “A giant turtle!” He pointed to the trough of the sea about fifteen fathoms away from the starboard. “There it is!” cried the men on the deck. Whiz! went a harpoon from one of them, but it fell short of the mark. Another one flew and this time it lodged deep in the body of the ten-foot monster turtle, which struggled so wildly and fiercely that it was impossible to pull the rope. Manjiro at once took off his clothes, jumped into the sea, and swam over to the struggling turtle. Sitting astride it he plunged a dagger into its neck. This brave action on his part won the great admiration of the entire crew.

John Mung had ample opportunity to use the nautical instruments on the Franklin, such as the compasses, sextants, chronometers, and so on, and successfully to employ the art of navigation which he had learned from Mr. Bartlett. He quickly grasped how to steer a big ship, how to find out the ship’s position and many other things which a navigator should know. He often gave time surveying the coast lines or the sea for the sake of practice. He was admired by all the sailors of the Franklin for the skill which he ably demonstrated. After a time, they went to the Pacific, catching whales in the waters of Sumatra and Java, visiting the Solomons and Guam.

In October, 1847, the Franklin entered the port of Honolulu and lay at anchor for about a month during which the ship took in fuel and fresh water. It was seven long years since John Mung bade farewell to Denzo and the others in Honolulu.

Upon making inquiries he found Toraemon working as apprentice to a carpenter. After a joyful reunion Toraemon told him that Jusuke was dead and that Denzo and Goemon were on their way back to Japan on the whaling ship Colorado. While Manjiro was still at Honolulu, however, the Colorado returned with the two brothers still aboard. Their attempt to return had failed because the whaler had touched at no inhabited island. Sadly the brothers returned to their life of farming and fishing.

The Franklin left Honolulu for another trip and anchored on November 6, 1847, at Guam. About this time, Captain Ira Davis became insane and committed all sorts of violent acts so that the crew decided to take him to Manila to be sent home. Mr. Isachar Akin, first officer, became acting captain. John Mung was chosen second officer unanimously by the crew, who had been admiring his personality and the pluck and skill with which he caught whales.

“Thank God ten thousand times and never will forget”

Leaving Manila in July, the Franklin went to the waters of Batangas, Taiwan, and the Ryukyu Islands, where she engaged in whaling before she turned back to Guam. Getting a supply of fuel and water at this island, the ship again put to sea, and in October she entered Honolulu. Before she left the port for the last whaling voyage and for home, John Mung wrote the following letter. It clearly shows that he had experienced the Christian faith, which no doubt he had learned from Captain Whitfield:

Honolulu, Oct. 30th, 1848

Oh! Captain how can I forget your kindness. When can I pay for your fatherly treatment. Thank God ten thousand times and never will forget.

I was sorry your ship being leaky and oblige you into the port before your season, however, God will see all this. I often offer prayers to God to give you the success should it please to God.…

July 9th had the gam with Captain Woodard I followed him up on the deck inquire for home and find the death of my boy William Henry [Captain Whitfield’s son]. I was very sorry every time think about William Henry. Give my best respects to all your friends and your kind neighbors, and my affection your wife Amelin and Mr. Bonney family. Tell them what quarter of the world that I am in.

I never can forget kindness they have done to me. It is hard thing for me to join the words together therefore come to close.

John Mung

The Franklin returned to New Bedford in August of 1849.It had been a long voyage, extending over a period of three years and putting a girdle round the globe. The catch of whales during this long voyage numbered about 500, and several thousand barrels of whale oil came into their possession.

John Mung earned $350 as his share of the profit and returned to the house of Captain Whitfield at Fairhaven, his second home. He thought that the Captain might scold him for running away from home during his absence, but the Captain didn’t say a word about it. On the contrary, he congratulated John Mung upon his successful whaling voyage and also upon his having been appointed second officer of the Franklin.

In 1848, while John Mung was on his long ocean voyage, America was stirred by the discovery of gold in California. The Gold Rush began. Upon his return to Fairhaven, the thought of adventure haunted his mind. Why not go to California to dig for gold? California, too, was closer to Japan. He wanted to return home to his widowed mother of whom he had not heard since he last saw her back in 1841. However, he kept his plan to return to Japan a secret. Thought he:

“I know if I should tell Captain and Mrs. Whitfield about my plan, they would probably never consent to it. They would think it too wild and too vague, and they would fear for my safety. I remember the captain once told me that I should certainly be put to death the moment I landed in Japan; no one is allowed to enter Japan from abroad. I remember Mrs. Whitfield once told me, ‘You will make a good whaler like Captain Whitfield.’ Yes, I might, if I try hard enough. Mr. Huzzy told me that I had the talent of a cooper. Perhaps I can be a successful cooper in New Bedford. But I always hear the voice of my old country calling me. I shall always be unhappy and lonely in my heart, if I don’t see my mother once more, although I am happy now, living with Captain and Mrs. Whitfield, and I have many good friends here. I am sorry for my people; they know nothing about the rest of the world. Now is the time to let them know. I must return to help my countrymen open their eyes. I know it’s a terrible thing to leave the house without telling the truth to Captain and Mrs. Whitfield, but they will understand some day. I’ll only tell them that I am going to California to dig for gold. I shall never forget all my life their kindness and the good things they have taught me. Pardon me for my wickedness, but I must go.”

He joins the Gold Rush and finds a big nugget

In October, 1849, John Mung and a friend of his called Tilley started the long trip by working their passage on a lumber ship from New Bedford to California via Cape Horn.

He and Tilley arrived in San Francisco toward the end of May of the following year. They stayed there for three days and were amazed at this booming town during the Gold Rush. Then they went to Sacramento in a paddle steamer. John Mung had never sailed in a steamer before, although he had had an ample opportunity to observe steamers while in Fairhaven. Experienced seaman that he was, he was impressed by its speed and its ability to go in any direction irrespective of the wind and current. From Sacramento they headed further inland for the gold fields. Manjiro and Tilley bought mining tools and started their gold digging in the river bed. They stayed at an inn which cost them as much as two dollars a day each, in spite of the fact that they ate nothing but pork and onions. They went to the river every day to find gold.

One day, just before sunset, Manjiro discovered a gold nugget almost as large as an egg. He did not know what to do, because it was too dangerous to take it with him to the inn where so many ruffians were waiting to take advantage of anyone who possessed plenty of gold. “Oh, yes, I have a good idea,” whispered Manjiro to himself. “I’ll bury it in the ground where I’ve found it and I’ll stay right here until tomorrow morning.” He did not breathe a word about the gold nugget even to Tilley. He simply said, “I’m not going back to the inn tonight.” As soon as Tilley went away, he buried the gold nugget in the ground where he had found it, placed a large stone over the spot and sat on it all night. He went straightway to the office the first thing in the morning and exchanged it for money.

At the end of about two months Manjiro had saved 600 pieces of silver. He then decided to use the money for passage home. So he gave all his mining tools to Tilley, bade him farewell, and returned to San Francisco alone early in August.

Manjiro resolves to return to his native land

In October, 1850, he embarked on a ship bound from San Francisco to Honolulu, intending to return to Japan with his other fellow countrymen from there. Upon his arrival in Honolulu, he went to see Toraemon and sent for Denzo and his brother, who were farming at Maeha.

While John Mung and his companions were discussing the plan to return home, word reached them by chance that a ship was soon to sail for Japan. But John Mung found that he was unable to put up with the captain of the ship. A few days before the ship was scheduled to sail, John Mung was mending a barrel on the deck since he had nothing to do then. Seeing John Mung at work, the captain came up to him and ordered that he mend all the broken barrels in the ship. “Aye, aye, sir,” said John Mung and fell to work at once. When he had mended all the barrels, the captain brought all sorts of broken pieces of furniture and piled them high on the deck, saying, “You mend all these things. That’s my order. Do you hear?” John Mung had some skill as a cooper, but as to furniture making and repairing he knew little.

“I’m sorry, sir,” John Mung answered, “I can’t repair all those things.” The captain, without saying a word, slapped him on the cheek. The act enraged him.

“I am not your slave,” declared John Mung. “You are putting on airs with that clay pipe sticking out of your mouth. Don’t you know how to behave like an honorable seaman?”

Greatly annoyed, the captain tried to frighten him into obedience, but he looked the captain in the face and held his own. “I’m not sailing with you in this ship,” said Manjiro defiantly. He decided to put off going back until another opportunity presented itself, and he and Goemon and Denzo, much disappointed, left the ship.

One day, he heard the news that an American merchant ship, the Sarah Boyd, was sailing for China to pick up a cargo of China tea. John Mung brought this good news to Denzo and his brother, and at once they all went to see Captain Whitmore of the Sarah Boyd. [Toraemon had decided to stay in Honolulu.]

Captain Whitmore was touched by their passionate desire to go home. So he spread a chart before them and explained.

“You see, this is the China Sea. This is Satsuma of Japan. The ship sometimes passes through the waters of Satsuma in a fair wind. If that’s the case, landing on one of those islands near Satsuma might be possible. It all depends upon a favorable wind.”

John Mung, Denzo, and Goemon put their heads together to discuss how they should enter their native country whose doors were so tightly closed. At last John Mung hit upon a happy plan when all the others failed. According to his plan, he would buy a small boat to be carried on the Sarah Boyd, and when she entered the waters of Japan, the boat would be lowered to reach the land. Captain Whitmore said, “How clever you are, John Mung!” And he nodded approvingly.


John Mung heard that a certain Englishman was willing to part with a secondhand boat which was apparently in good condition. So he went and bought it with complete equipment for $125. John Mung christened this boat the Adventure and took it on board the Sarah Boyd.

The Sarah Boyd reached a point four miles from Ryukyu on January 2, according to the Japanese calendar, after almost seventy long days of sailing.

“That direction,” said Captain Whitmore, pointing toward the island in the distance, “may hide death in store for you, I am afraid, for your country strictly bars out anyone from abroad. Why don’t you give up the whole idea of going back to your country and instead go to China with us and return to Honolulu in this ship?”

“How can I do such a thing? If I don’t take this chance, I may never see my mother. Besides, I must return to my countrymen at once and tell them that they must open their eyes before it is too late. They cannot remain isolated from the rest of the world forever,” answered Manjiro, firmly determined to run any risk.

In Japan the castaways are greeted with suspicion

The captain ordered his men to stop the ship and had the Adventure lowered on the rough sea.

“Thank you, sir, for all you have done for us,” said John Mung. “But the time will come, Captain, sooner or later when your ship will freely enter Japanese ports.”

Captain Whitmore smiled and simply said, “Who knows?” The three men exchanged words of farewell with the sailors and thanked them for everything. Then they went into the boat and began to pull it over the tossing waves toward the island.

Denzo went ashore first to take in the general situation. As he had retained his Japanese language better than anyone else, he went to one of the houses and asked the name of the place, but the people in that house were scandalized at the sight of a man in foreign clothes, and their peaceful New Year family breakfast ended in bedlam.

Denzo went back to the boat and reported what had happened. “They don’t understand me,” said Denzo. “I’m afraid I’ve forgotten Japanese. I’ve been away so long.”

John Mung fastened the boat to the shore, and with a pistol in his pocket, he headed toward the straggling houses, Denzo and Goemon following. He met a native on the road, but his word being unintelligible, he imitated a man who drank water out of his hands until the native led them to a well.

The islanders treated them kindly, giving them drinking water, potatoes, and rice. A village official questioned the men as to their nationality, their names, the port of embarkation, the port of debarkation, and their possessions. The place where they landed was a village called Mabunimagiri in the southern extreme of Okinawa Island, Ryukyu.

John Mung and the others were taken to a village called Nakao where the Village Office was located, escorted by more than ten armed officials who never took their eyes off them. Denzo who had trouble with his eyes was allowed to ride in a litter. Although the three men were not treated harshly by any means, they were closely watched by the escorting officials who thought they might be foreigners after all.

On January 14, when the days of New Year jubilation were over, John Mung and the others were summoned to the Village Office, where a senior official and three lower officials from Satsuma carefully examined their personal effects and books. The books were examined page by page with special attention and curiosity. The topographical survey textbook must have struck them as suspicious, for the official’s eyes were riveted on the enigmatic symbols in it, while the three menial officials, whose eyes also pored over those illustrations, thought it no more than a book of nonsense. They whispered to themselves that those circles made with a pair of compasses were like playful pictures drawn on the ground by foreign children. Then the senior official from Satsuma said admonishingly, “No! These must be symbols used in some profound learning.”

For seven months the fishermen were detained at Nakao, well treated but constantly watched. In July they were taken by ship to Satsuma, where they were questioned again, and in October to Nagasaki for a third examination. This time their statements were minutely recorded in a book, The Narratives of the Castaways. The trials were held eighteen times, while they related their experiences abroad, the names of the countries they had visited, the customs and manners, food, industries, farm products, geography, flora, ceremonies, politics, and military conditions of those countries.

John Mung’s observations recorded in The Narratives of the Castaways, unlike those of other castaways, are generally correct and to the point.

In referring to the government of America he says something like this:

Having been founded by Englishmen, the country is full of them. They are white-complexioned and the color of their eyes is a little yellow. As there is no hereditary king in this country, a man of great knowledge and ability is elected king who holds his office for four years and then he is succeeded by another. When the administration is good under a certain king and his popularity continues, he sits on the throne for another four years. He lives a very simple life and goes out on horseback accompanied by one servant. Officials there are not haughty; indeed, it is hard to tell them from ordinary citizens. The present king is called Taylor, an Englishman by blood, who, during the war with Mexico which was fought over the border question, led his army to a great victory which won for him so great a fame that at last he was made king. This year being the Year of the Rat, another king is to succeed the present one.


At the end of the trial the men were put to the usual test of stamping on the picture of Christ. John Mung often attended the Sunday services in Fairhaven, and as Goemon was a servant to a Honolulu missionary, he used to hear Christian sermons and say Christian prayers. But they knew nothing about the bronze tablet of the crucifix, so they stamped on it nonchalantly, only to please the inquisitorial official.

“Tell me, how did you feel when you stamped on the tablet?” asked the official.

“I felt rather cold,” replied John Mung whose feet had been so accustomed to the foreign shoes which he had been wearing that he must have felt particularly cold when his feet touched the bronze tablet.

Manjiro returns to his home and finds his mother

At last the men were released from prison and sent under escort to Tosa, their home. The Tosa clan wanted to learn firsthand from Manjiro as much as possible about foreign countries. Manjiro was asked to appear before the members of the family of the Daimyo of Tosa in a suit of foreign clothes to show what it looked like.

Word had already reached the village of Nakanohama that Manjiro was coming, and his family, relatives, and almost all the villagers were on hand to welcome him at the village headman’s. When they met Manjiro, however, for the first time in twelve years, they could hardly believe their eyes. The Manjiro in front of them, elegantly dressed in his formal hakama and haori, looking much more dignified and intelligent than the village squire, was quite different from the poor fisherman’s boy they remembered so well.

“Mother, here I am at last!” said Manjiro.

“Is that really you, my son?” said his mother as though she were unable to believe that the fine young man in front of her was her own son.

“Yes, I am indeed your son.”

They both stood there for a while unable to speak. Then Manjiro took his mother in his arms and they both cried. Many villagers cried, too.

Then Manjiro, accompanied by his family and friends, went to the village graveyard and reported his return home to his father.

That night there was a great rejoicing and feast in the house to which his relatives and friends came. When Manjiro told his story about foreign countries and how he had lived among foreigners, they all listened in amazement. But when the talk was over, someone asked him, “Do they have thunderstorms and the four seasons in America?” Another, “How is it possible to live without rice?” Manjiro answered those questions in detail although he thought them silly. They are simple people, after all, said Manjiro to himself. At any rate, when Manjiro sipped sake and ate a broiled red sea bream fresh from the sea of Tosa and boiled rice and red beans prepared by his mother, he knew he had returned home at last.

But the happy reunion was abruptly brought to an end when it was only three days old. A messenger came from the Daimyo of Tosa telling him that it was the wish of the lord that he should become an official instructor at the school of the Tosa clan in Kochi. Much as he regretted leaving Nakanohama, he decided to accede to the wish of his feudal lord. He was glad of the opportunity to teach some of his countrymen the ways of civilization and to let them know that it was no time for Japan to keep her doors closed to the rest of the world.

Manjiro advises Japan to end its isolation

But Manjiro’s vital role in wakening the Japanese people to world civilization began when he was called in by the Tokugawa shogun’s government. Upon his arrival in Yedo, the former capital of Japan, he was examined by Magistrate Saemon Kawaji before he was officially taken into government service.

Answering the questions put to him by the investigating official, he revealed his own observations about America to the amazement of his listeners. Never can we overestimate the value of these observations which undoubtedly influenced the policy of the Tokugawa government in favor of the opening of the country to foreign intercourse.

Among more serious matters Manjiro also told the officials about the strange customs of the Americans:

When a young man wants to marry, he looks for a young woman for himself, without asking a go-between to find one for him, as we do in Japan, and, if he succeeds in finding a suitable one, he asks her whether or not she is willing to marry him. If she says, “Yes,” he tells her and his parents about it and then the young man and the young woman accompanied by their parents and friends go to church and ask the priest to perform the wedding ceremony. Then the priest asks the bridegroom, “Do you really want to have this young woman as your wife?” To which the young man says, “I do.” Then the priest asks a similar question of the bride and when she says, “I do,” he declares that they are man and wife. Afterward, cakes and refreshments are served and then the young man takes his bride on a pleasure trip.

Both American men and women make love openly and appear wanton by nature, but they are unexpectedly strict about their relations. Husband and wife have great attachment for each other and their home life is very affectionate. No other nation can be a match for the Americans in this respect.

When a visitor enters the house he takes off his hat. They never bow to each other as politely as we do. The master of the house simply stretches out his right hand and the visitor also does the same and they shake hands with each other. While they exchange greetings, the master of the house invites the visitor to sit on a chair instead of the floor. As soon as business is over, the visitor takes leave of the house, because they do not want to waste time.

When a mother happens to have very little milk in her breasts to give her child, she gives of all things a cow’s milk, as a substitute for a mother’s milk. But it is true that no ill effect of this strange habit has been reported from any part of the country.

Commodore Perry and his fleet suddenly appeared off the town of Uraga on July 8, 1853, to negotiate with the Japanese government to “open the country to the rest of the world.” On July 14, accompanied by his officers and escorted by a body of armed marines and sailors—in all about 300 men—and while the band was playing, he went ashore and presented to commissioners especially appointed by the shogun his own credentials and a letter from President Fillmore to the emperor. Fully aware of the importance of the occasion, the Yedo government had massed 200 flags and bunting-bedecked boats in the bay and 8,000 full-dressed samurai near the landing place. But a few days later, at the polite but insistent request of the Japanese officials, the American fleet sailed for Hong Kong with the understanding that it would return the following spring to receive the emperor’s reply.

At the news that the “black ships” had appeared in the Bay of Yedo, the island empire of centuries-old tranquil isolation was thrown into confusion and turmoil. The Tokugawa government sent a messenger posthaste to Tosa to ask Manjiro to come up to Yedo as quickly as possible to serve and save the country now confronted by a great crisis brought about by the visit of Commodore Perry’s fleet.

On November 6, Lord Abe, who was a progressive cabinet member, appointed him a managing official worth twenty bushels of rice, with two retainers in his service. He was given the right to wear two swords like a regular samurai and the privilege of adopting the surname of Nakahama, from the name of his native place, Nakanohama, as his only name had been Manjiro like any other humble fisherman of the day. A fisherman’s boy, who otherwise would have been destined to be a fisherman for the rest of his life under the centuries-old, strict caste system, awoke one morning a great vassal to the shogun!

In the meantime, Commodore Perry reappeared in the Bay of Yedo with his fleet on February 11, 1854. Again a state of emergency was declared, but this time the Yedo government knew that it must face the inevitable and sign a treaty to open the country.

The Tokugawa government had invited Manjiro to Yedo with the intention of using him as an official interpreter and adviser for the negotiations. But on learning that Manjiro not only spoke English very fluently but advocated progressive ideas in favor of the opening of the country, isolationist elements in the government took exception to assigning such an important job to him. Lord Nariaki of Mito, spiritual leader of the nationalist movement of his day, sent a letter advising the government to prevent Manjiro from coming into contact with the foreigners, which read something like this:

While there is no justification for doubting the character of Manjiro—a commendable person who has returned to this country for which he has a great attachment—those barbarians took advantage of his boyhood, bestowed special favors upon him alone by teaching him the art of counting. This may be construed as some insidious wile on the part of those barbarians. Moreover, as he had been saved by them and had been under their care from his boyhood until he was twenty years of age, he owes a debt of gratitude to them and, therefore, it is inconceivable that he should act contrary to their interests.

Under no circumstances should he be permitted to go on any one of the ships or meet those barbarians when they land, even if you have thoroughly established that he is above suspicion. Nor is it advisable to let Manjiro know anything about what we discuss.

The Lord of Mito advised in the postscript that Manjiro should be placed under secret surveillance lest “a baby dragon escape riding on the winds and clouds when a storm comes.”

As a result, he was not allowed to meet anyone of Perry’s party and was kept behind the scenes. No one, of course, could rival Manjiro in English and his knowledge of foreign countries, but the government had to employ interpreters who were not half so good. In fact, the negotiations were mostly conducted in Dutch as the interpreters understood Dutch better than English. It is recorded, however, that their knowledge of Dutch was quite limited and almost totally lacking in diplomatic terminology. Besides it was as archaic as that of Grotius.

Manjiro apparently took the whole turn of events philosophically, believing that it was no use exciting isolationist elements in the presence of Commodore Perry. He knew that the odds were definitely against him and decided that all he could do under the circumstances was to teach his countrymen the facts about the rest of the world and open their eyes to modern science.

Manjiro explains Western love to his Oriental bride

In 1854, the year when Commodore Perry revisited Japan, Manjiro married, through a go-between, a pretty seventeen-year-old daughter of Gennosuke Danno, who owned and taught in a fencing school in Hongo not far from Egawa’s mansion where Manjiro was living.

Manjiro had often thought that he would marry a girl he loved, as was the Western custom. But he found that it was almost impossible, for no respectable maiden would let herself love a young man unless she were engaged to marry him. In those days honorable marriages were arranged by go-betweens at the request, or with the approval, of the parents, often even against the girl’s will. Manjiro could not bring himself to follow this custom blindly. So after his engagement to the girl was arranged, he met her alone several times. One day he took her for a walk around the duck pond in Egawa’s mansion. Looking at the stars reflected in the duck pond, the girl asked Manjiro, “Why do they say that good girls should not fall in love?”

“Because it is our custom, but a custom will change.”

“Do American girls fall in love before they marry?”

“Yes, they usually do.”

“I think Japanese girls begin to love after they marry; of course, I mean, their husbands.” Then she asked, “Is it all right for a girl to fall in love before she is married?”

“I think it’s natural in a country like America.” Then they walked together along the shore of the starlit pond in the Japanese garden. At a bend of the lane, he held her firmly and kissed her.

“We are very happy, aren’t we?”

“Oh, I am the happiest girl in all Yedo.”

Lord Abe and other forward-looking officials knew that Japan’s period of isolation was coming to a close, and they kept Manjiro busy on a variety of projects. Manjiro was instructed to submit a report on a plan for developing the sea power of Japan. He translated E. C. Branter’s book on navigation.

In April, 1857, he became an instructor at the Naval Training School which was established at Yedo that year and taught navigation and ship engineering to many trainees who were destined to be important figures in the Japanese Navy. Then in October of the following year, he proceeded, by order, to Hakodate in Hokkaido to serve in the governor’s office as a whaling instructor. While there, he probed the possibility of starting a whaling industry in that area. He returned to Yedo in the spring of 1859. He was quite busy that year; he compiled A Short Cut To English Conversation, which became the standard book on practical English in those days.

In 1860 the Tokugawa government sent a good-will mission to America for ratification of the commercial treaty which grew out of Commodore Perry’s visit. Manjiro was appointed official interpreter and instructor in navigation. In San Francisco he was amazed at the change in ten years from a hectic gold rush town to a solid, prosperous city. On his way home he visited Honolulu and looked up his old friend, Toraemon the cooper.

Japan was going through a period of turmoil, out of which emerged the Meiji restoration. After Manjiro returned to Japan he busied himself translating the table of logarithms and teaching English, mathematics, and navigation to a class of scholars, officials, and ambitious young men who had pronounced English in an absurd way before they received his instruction. Among his students were, to name a few, Fukuzawa, Hosokawa, Enomoto, Mitsukuri, and Otori, the men who later played important roles in the making of modern Japan as statesmen, generals, administrators, educators, diplomats, and scientists. In fact, most of the great men who successfully served the country in the early years of the Meiji era were directly or indirectly under Manjiro’s influence at one time or another.

Manjiro has a happy reunion with his friends in New Bedford

Almost immediately after the Meiji restoration, which took place in 1868, the capital had been moved from Kyoto to Yedo, which was rechristened Tokyo. Although antiforeignism had served to oust the shogun, as soon as the new government came into existence not only were friendly overtures made to foreign powers, but Japan attempted to remodel herself entirely on European lines. Gradually, promising youths were sent abroad to study, and foreign experts were engaged and the foundations of the Meiji government were gradually secured. Manjiro’s dream at last came true.

In 1870 Manjiro was again summoned to go ahead with a government mission. Iwao Oyama, who was later to be supreme commander of the Japanese Army at the time of the Russo-Japanese War, was going to Europe with 25 other Japanese to make a firsthand observation of the Franco-Prussian War. When the party reached New York, Manjiro said to Oyama: “I have a long-cherished desire which I would like to fulfill.” Oyama listened to his plan and gave his permission.

On the morning of October 30, Manjiro took the train for New Bedford from New York. As it happened, New England’s autumn was at its best. The woods of maple trees were aflame under the blue sky, and the hills were covered with wine-dark bracken and blueberry. As the train sped through the glorious autumnal countryside, he was exhilarated and drank in every bit of the ever changing train-side view. Every minute seemed to heighten the excitement of the reunion with the Whitfield family and the rest of his former friends. He felt then as though he were going to see his father from whom he had been absent for a long time. Arriving at New Bedford, he walked along the familiar streets toward Fairhaven like a man who was walking along his home town streets for the first time in twenty years. When he crossed the long bridge over the Acushnet River and breathed the same old sea breeze and saw the same old harbor and the same old Mr. Bartlett’s School where he studied mathematics for the first time in his life, a flood of memory rushed back to him and his heart ached. It was already late afternoon when he knocked on the door of Captain Whitfield’s house.

“If it is not John Mung!” exclaimed Captain Whitfield with great excitement and delight. He shook hands vigorously with Manjiro and led him inside.

“I have been looking forward to this day for twenty years,” said Manjiro, falteringly, tears in his eyes.

“It does my old heart good to see you again, John Mung,” Captain Whitfield said in a choking voice. “Congratulations! You seem to have certainly risen in the world.”

At first Captain and Mrs. Whitfield felt a little strange and embarrassed when they saw Manjiro, a man of 43, well dressed and dignified, but before very long they found that the Manjiro in front of them had little changed from the polite, cheerful, alert lad they remembered so well.


Manjiro told the Captain about his experiences in detail. In the meantime, Marcellus, who was nineteen years old, son of Captain Whitfield, and a pretty daughter were introduced to Manjiro. They were both pleased to see the man whom their parents had often talked about so warmly. When Manjiro told them quaint stories about Japan and the Japanese people, they all seemed deeply interested and asked him all sorts of questions about the country and people.

“I hope someday you will be able to come to our country and see for yourselves what I’ve told you about,” said Manjiro.

In the meantime, word that John Mung had come spread all over the town, and soon all the neighbors, even those who did not know him, as well as his former friends, and others came to see the unexpected visitor. Soon Captain Whitfield’s home was besieged by a large crowd of people. Mrs. Whitfield and her daughter worked hard in the kitchen to prepare refreshments. It was a happy reunion!

“It’s so good to see you again,” Manjiro told them. “I have always been thankful to you for every kindness you showed me a long while back. I’ve remembered it all this time. Since I returned to my country, I’ve been telling my countrymen how advanced your country is and that Japan has much to learn from you. They thought that I did not know what I was talking about at first. Now they are beginning to see for themselves. I’m glad to tell you that my country has recently opened her long-closed doors to the outside world and is ready to adopt Western civilization.” Then Manjiro gave Captain Whitfield and his family and all his former friends many presents which he had brought along from Japan—lacquer boxes, silk cloth, kimonos, Japanese color prints. They all admired the beauty of those articles.

That night when the visitors had all gone home and the family had retired to bed, the old sea captain and his former cabin boy talked on and on far into the night. The following day, Manjiro, with tears in his eyes, said goodbyes to Captain Whitfield, his family and friends who were on hand to see him off, and left the town for New York.

The following year Manjiro fell ill in London, and returned to Japan where he suffered a slight stroke and was forced thereafter to lead a life of quiet. After many years of retirement he died on November 12, 1898, in his son’s house in Tokyo. On behalf of Dr. Toichiro Nakahama, the eldest son of Manjiro, Viscount Ishii, the Japanese ambassador to Washington, presented Fairhaven, Massachusetts, with a historical samurai sword on July 4, 1918, in token of the son’s gratitude for the kindness shown to his father by the town.

It was a gala occasion, with American and Japanese flags and bunting to be seen on every hand in New Bedford and Fairhaven. Addresses were given by Mayor Ashley, Lieutenant Governor Calvin Coolidge, and Viscount Ishii.

When the exercises in New Bedford were over, the Ambassador and his party were met by a committee from Fairhaven and proceeded to Riverside Cemetery, accompanied by members of the Whitfield family. Ambassador Ishii placed a wreath on the grave of Captain Whitfield, while a simple but impressive ceremony took place. Then the party called at the home of Mrs. Akin, who was then eighty years old, where Manjiro had spent his first two weeks in Fairhaven.

Fifteen years later the late President Franklin Delano Roosevelt wrote to Dr. Nakahama, the eldest son of Manjiro:


June 8, 1933

My dear Dr. Nakahama:—

When Viscount Ishii was here in Washington he told me that you are living in Tokyo and we talked about your distinguished father.

You may not know that I am the grandson of Mr. Warren Delano of Fairhaven, who was part owner of the ship of Captain Whitfield which brought your father to Fairhaven. Your father lived, as I remembered it, at the house of Mr. Trippe, which was directly across the street from my grandfather’s house, and when I was a boy, I well remember my grandfather telling me all about the little Japanese boy who went to school in Fairhaven and who went to church from time to time with the Delano family. I myself used to visit Fairhaven, and my mother’s family still own the old house.

The name of Nakahama will always be remembered by my family, and I hope that if you or any of your family come to the United States that you will come to see us.

Believe me, my dear Dr. Nakahama,

Very sincerely yours, Franklin Roosevelt

More than a century has passed since Manjiro Nakahama lived his life of extraordinary adventure and worked for the rebirth of his country. The spirit of learning which he upheld so courageously, the virtues of kindness and gratitude and humility which were so naturally a part of him, and the international good will he embodied in his whole career, have survived the turbulent passage of time.

Manjiro and Captain Whitfield came from opposite ends of the earth, spoke different languages, professed different religions but sailed the same seas, thrilled at the same stars, and shared many deep things.

From a wilderness, Manjiro raised a voice that will echo and re-echo down the years.


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