Saturday, July 31, 2010

City of Yeddo, 1860: “I was bewildered and confounded when I saw this.”

An article published by Samuel C. Damon in the July 1860 edition of The Friend describes the Japanese city of Yeddo. Today that city is known as Japan’s capital city, Tokyo.

“By the Chaplain of the Powhatan,” writes Damon, “we were presented with a map of the City of Yeddo, executed by Japanese artists. It is nearly five feel square. The streets, public squares, temple-grounds, and residence of the Princes, are drawn with great care. Yeddo is truly an immense city, and probably as large, if not larger, than even London. It is one of the three great cities of the world, viz., London, Pekin, Yeddo.”

I am curious to know what happened to the map. This is the first time I’ve seen this mentioned anywhere.

The chaplain of the U.S.S. Powhatan was Henry Wood. According to Sketches of the Alumni of Dartmouth College:

Henry Wood, A. M. the son of Eliphalet and Elisabeth (Tilton) Wood, was born at Loudon, Apr. 10,1796. He was tutor at Dart. from 1822 to 1823 ; studied divinity at Princeton, N. J. Theo. Sem. 11 months to 1824; was then Prof. of Latin and Greek at Hampden Sidney Coll. Va, 1 year; was ordained pastor of the Cong. Ch. at Goffstown, June 7, 1826 ; dismissed Nov. 30, 1831; installed at Haverhil1, Dec. 14,1831 ; dismissed Mar. 3,1835 ; settled at the College Plain Ch. at Hanover, Mar. 8, 1835 ; dismissed Dec. 21, 1840 ; founded the Congregational Journal at Concord Jan. 1, 1841; was its editor and owner for 13 years ; supplied the Ch. at Canaan during the time from 1851 to 1853 ; was U. S. Consul at Syria and Palestine from 1853 to 1857 ; travelled in both, also in Asia Minor and Egypt; became a Chaplain in the U. S. navy; was in the Powhatan frigate in the Chinese and Japanese seas from 1858 to 1860; came home in her with the Japanese ambassadors; while in Japan taught 25 young men the English language to fit them for interpreters; also introduced the first Protestant mission there. Mr Wood still retains his chaplaincy in the navy. He married Harriet Frances, dau. of John M'Gaw of Bedford, Sept. 21, 1827.

It turns out that Chaplain Wood’s voyage on the Powhatan with the Japanese Embassy was also a final journey back to the United States.

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Emperor Signs the Treaty, and the Embassy is Announced: January 1859

From the January 1859 edition of The Friend, Honolulu, published by Rev. Samuel C. Damon:

A correspondent of the Boston Herald, writing from the steam frigate Mississippi, at Hakodadi, says:

I presume that before this reaches you, you will have received the intelligence that our consul, Mr. Harris, has succeeded in completing his new treaty with the Japan Government, and that it has been signed by the Emperor and sent to our Government by Commodore Tatnall. Mr. Harris has labored hard to bring about this grand result, and is deserving the congratulations of the whole American people.

By this new treaty the port of Simoda, of no account to us, will be closed, and the beautiful harbor of Lanagua, only twelve miles from the city of Jeddo, is to be opened to us for commerce, &c. After the treaty is ratified, that portion will be the residence of Mr. Harris. It is a beautiful harbor, easy of access at all times of the year, well protected from all storms, and not like that of Simoda, surrounded at its extremes by sunken rocks. It is also capable of containing a large number of ships, while that of Simoda is not large enough to allow more than three or four ships to ride at anchor at the same time. Its proximity to the Court of Jeddo will also make it convenient for Mr. Harris.

The Japanese Government has decided to send an Ambassador to Washington in March next, on the condition that our Government will convey him and his suite to Panama in a government ship en route for the United States. I learn that Mr. Harris and Commodore Tatnall assured the authorities of Jeddo that it would be gratifying to the United States Government and its people to comply with this request, and that the return mail would no doubt bring orders to that effect.

Sunday, August 1st, was an interesting one at Simoda. At 10 o’clock, A.M., all the boats of the Powhatan and of this ship were seen pulling to the landing near the Consul’s residence, one mile from Simoda proper, filled with officers and men, among whom were Commodore Tatnall, Capt. Nicholson, and the Rev. Mr. Wood, Chaplain of the Powhatan. This large party, numbering four hundred, proceeded to the consul’s residence for the purpose of attending divine worship of Almighty God on Japanese soil. Here, on the very soil from which the decree has gone forth for centuries to the world, that if the Almighty God himself, or man, or the devil should dare step foot on Japanese soil to preach the religion of the Most high, they should pay the forfeit of their lives; here it was that, on the 1st day of August, 1858, four hundred American officers and seamen worshipped the true God without being molested. Rev. Wood gave his text from 1st Thessalonians, chapter 1, verses 9 and 10, and hymns 107 and 118 from the Episcopal Common Prayer-book were sung with much effect by the choir of the Powhatan. The discourse was listened to for an hour with the utmost silence by the American hearers, while a vast crowd of Japanese gathered around the building to watch our movements.

Governor Kekuanaoa's Prophesy...

It is indeed true that when the Japanese ambassadorial delegation visited Honolulu in March 1860 they were given a royal reception by Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma. One of those in attendance was the king’s father, Governor Kekuanaoa of Oahu.

The following article was featured in the August, 1860 edition of The Friend, Rev. Samuel C. Damon, publisher. It was taken from an edition of the Pacific Commercial Advertiser:


In our American exchanges, we find the following anecdote related of Gov. Kekuanaoa, our present Governor of Oahu, which we presume to be true, as it is furnished by Mr. Wood, the Chaplain of the Powhatan. The anecdote is characteristic of the venerable Governor, who is well known to be a staunch “Dashaway” in example as well as precept. –P.C. Adv.


A correspondent of the Journal of Commerce, from the U.S. Steamer Powhatan, furnishes the following:

“A remark of the venerable father of Kamehameha IV, the present King of the Sandwich Islands, I commend to the serious consideration of our countrymen, official and others, who may entertain the Japanese, or mingle in their company. I have never seen but one instance of intoxication among the Japanese; still they are fond of intoxicating liquors, and by the influence of example, and solicitation in respectable and honorable circles, can easily be seduced into the most ruinous habits.

Their common and favorite drink is saki, a distillation of rice, which in strength is about equal to old Sherry wine. They easily, however, exchange it for champagne and other wines, and rum, whisky and brandy. Not an instance of intoxication occurred on board the ship, while all saw the facility with which moderation could be made to terminate in intemperance.

At the presentation of the Japanese Ministers to King Kamehameha at Honolulu, I happened to be standing near the King’s father, the venerable and hoary-headed Kekuanaoa, who alone survives of the Sandwich Island party which went to England in the year 1826, on a somewhat similar errand. King Liholiho and his queen, attended by their highest chieftains, like the present Japanese Embassy, resolved to leave their beautiful islands and to go abroad and see the world.

Arriving in London, they were feted by the king, the court, and the nobles, and introduced into all the practices of the table which only Englishmen are able to achieve or live under. Soon they became grossly intemperate, and died in London of their excesses. Their bodies were brought back, and now sleep in the Paradise Island, which they so fatally left.

When the ceremony was concluded, and the Japanese ministry had withdrawn, on whom Kekuanaoa had gazed with a serious and sad expression upon his face, he stepped up to Commodore Tatnall, and remarked that “he foresaw the fate of the Japanese Ambassadors; they would not live to see their charming island again; they would be initiated into drunkenness in the United States, as King Liholiho and his queen were in London, and, like them, leave their bodies there.”

I was touched by the humanity of the venerable man, as well as alarmed by his prophesy; and taking out my notebook committed it to paper. ‘Let him that readeth understand.’”

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Kanrin Maru Crossing the Pacific Ocean in a Typhoon

Consulate General of Japan in New York Celebrates 150 Years of Relations

When my students at Hawaii Tokai International College and I began learning about the 1860 Japanese Embassy to the United States of America we found this web site. Sponsored by the Consulate General of Japan in New York, it celebrates 150 years of US-Japanese relations:

150 years ago, two nations separated by a wide ocean had an unprecedented and historic encounter. The arrival of an American naval expedition under the command of Commodore Matthew Perry in 1853 marked the start of relations between Japan and the United States. In 1854, the two countries signed a Treaty of Peace and Amity.

Our two nations have traveled a long road together during the last century and a half. We share the values of democracy and rich cultural and economic ties. Please join us in celebration of "the most important bilateral relationship in the world, bar none.

What to me is among the most fascinating omissions is the stopover of the Japanese Embassy in Honolulu during March 1860. True, Hawaii was an independent kingdom, a monarchy presided over by Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma. But the American presence –including the Congregational missionaries and their families- was the largest of the foreign communities in the Hawaiian Islands. But nothing is mentioned at all about the Hawaii visit.

Friday, July 16, 2010

1960: Goto Outlines History of Japanese in Hawaii (Honolulu Advertiser)

On June 22, 1960 the Honolulu Advertiser featured a story by Colbert N. Kurokawa entitled ‘Goto Outlines History of Japanese in Hawaii.’

I was looking for news of 100th anniversary observances of the arrival of the Japanese ambassadors. It appears there were none, and that even in 1960 this historical event was overlooked.

The night before the Advertiser story was published, Y. Baron Goto addressed members of the Hawaii Economic Club with a lecture on the history of Japanese in Hawaii. He traced that history from “the days of King Kalakaua to the consummation of Hawaii-Japan agreement to bring the first group of Japanese immigrants in 1885.” *

Goto’s sources included materials he acquired from the State Archives, the Hawaii Sugar Planter’s Association and personal research conducted statewide.

There is no mention of the stopover in Honolulu in March 1860 by the Japanese ambassadorial delegation sent by the Tokugawa Shogunate to the United States of America. The Advertiser story does mention:

“With the conclusion of the American-Japanese treaty in 1860, the first immigrants came to Hawaii on a three-year labor contract. These immigrants were allocated to various plantations throughout the islands.” They were paid $12.50 per month and relegated to living in grass shacks. Sanitation was poor at best.

The story certainly reinforces the fact that these immigrants from Japan sacrificed greatly and worked hard. “Out of these hardships and sacrifices, we, the second and third generation of Japanese ancestry, were given the privilege we now enjoy as full-fledged American citizens with our opportunities of modern education and our professional and economic life in this community.” *

My hope is that my research and publications about the stopover by the Japanese ambassadors will further add a new and interesting dimension to this historical legacy. The more I delve into my research the more fascinating it all becomes.

* Goto Outlines History of Japanese in Hawaii. Honolulu Advertiser: Thursday, June 23, 1960. Page A4.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Student Newscast: Japanese Embassy to USA Visits Hawaii in 1860

This is the vodcast-style newscast my Winter 2010 personal and public speech students at Hawaii Tokai International College produced for their Presentation Day assignment. My thanks and kudos go to Yuichi Ishioka, Haruka Ishiwata, Daniel Lucas Mercier, Mariko Minami, Mayumi Mori, Koki Murakami, Ayama Oshima, Yuria Takahashi, Kento Takebayashi, Aine Takeuchi, and Shingo Uematsu.

Pictured here is the Joint Declaratory Certificate issued by the Hawaii State Legislature. The signed-original was presented by the students to Chancellor Naoto Yoshikawa of Hawaii Tokai International College.

Honolulu Mayor Issues Official Proclamation

This is a photograph of me with three of my Winter 2010 students from Hawaii Tokai International College. Their names are Daniel Mercier, Student Government President Kento Takebayashi, and Koki Murakami. Vice-Chancellor Douglas Fuqua, who is not in this picture, represented the college's administration.

Daniel is holding the official proclamation signed that morning by Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

And So It Begins...

One of my favorite past times is to glean history from old newspapers and periodicals. The Hawaii State Library next to Iolani Palace and near Honolulu’s main business district features a collection of such historical periodicals on microfiche. These newspapers include such titles familiar to us here as The Friend, The Polynesian, the Pacific Commercial Advertiser, and so on. They are located in the basement level of the library where quiet thankfully reigns supreme and one can become easily absorbed by news from long ago.

In early January I was reading the early 1860 editions looking for American news, for we are approaching the sesquicentennial of the Civil War. But something quite unexpected caught my eye in more ways than one.

The January 21, 1860 edition of The Polynesian featured news of the destruction of the American Surveying Schooner Fennimore Cooper in Yeddo Bay, Japan (known to us now as Tokyo Bay). The ship was severely damaged in a typhoon some time around October 1, 1859. By some miracle no lives were lost. Captain Brooke managed to retrieve all of his instruments and surveys.

“The Japanese Government showed great kindness to the shipwrecked crew, sending men to save everything possible, and the officers say that not a single dollar’s worth was stolen. They were provided with good quarters, and furnished with provisions, servants and money. Most of the crew were afterwards taken on board the Powhatan, after her arrival from China. The officers and the balance of the crew would leave for the United States on the above vessel on 22d February next.”

What followed this report riveted me. The news reached the citizens of the Hawaiian Kingdom for the first time that the Tokugawa Shogunate was sending a first-ever official ambassadorial delegation to the United States of America in early 1860. But that was not all. The Japanese ambassadors and their entourage would be stopping in “the Sandwich Islands” as the Hawaiian Islands were often referred to.

To quote the January 21 story:

The following communication was received from the Hon. T. Harris, Minister at Yeddo, in reply to a note addressed to him by Smith & Co., as to the route which the Embassy would probably take to reach Washington, and requesting him to use his influence to have it touch at San Francisco, en route:

U.S. LEGATION, YEDDO, October 31, 1859

Dear Sir: -Your letter of yesterday was received by me this morning. In answer, I have to state that the Japanese Embassy will embark for the United States on the 22d of next February. It will consist of two Chief Ambassadors, eighteen officials of various ranks, and fifty attendants and servants-in all seventy persons.

The Embassy will proceed to Panama via the Sandwich Islands. What ports, if any, that it may touch at between the Islands and Panama will depend entirely on flag-officer Tatnall. The Embassy will cross the Isthmus by a special train, and at Aspinwall will be received by a steam frigate and be conveyed direct to Washington, without touching at any Atlantic port in the United States.

From the foregoing, you will perceive that I have no control whatsoever over the route to be taken by the Ambassadors.

I am, sir, your obedient servant,


In a week I was due to begin teaching a personal and public speaking course at Hawaii Tokai International College in Honolulu. One of the assignments my students would be tasked with submitting was a newscast using the podcast or vodcast format. An opportunity presented itself. If any of you remember growing up watching the American TV show ‘You Are There’ I think you can guess what I had in mind. On the first day of class my American and Japanese students were genuinely surprised and excited. And so was I.

I called around and spoke to representatives of various Japanese and local Hawaii history organizations to find out if any observances of the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the first Japanese ambassadorial delegation were planned. Much to my sincere surprise none were. So, my students were tasked with developing a vodcast on this historical event, as well as calling this sesquicentennial to the attention of our public officials.

The anniversary has since passed. We were successful securing an official proclamation and signing ceremony from Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann and a Joint Declaratory Certificate from the Hawaii State Legislature through Senate President Colleen Hanabusa’s office. Our repeated calls and contacts to Governor Linda Lingle’s office were never answered, much to our disappointment. The Proclamation and the Joint Declaratory Certificate were presented by my students and I to Chancellor Naoto Yoshikawa of Hawaii Tokai International College.

The Japanese Embassy of 1860 would enjoy almost two weeks time visiting Honolulu before departing for San Francisco, a trip across Panama to the Atlantic coast and a voyage that would take them to Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and New York City. Their visit caused quite a sensation for many Americans who turned out by the thousands to warmly welcome the Japanese. In 2010 celebrations commemorating their arrival in America were held everywhere –except Hawaii.

This historical and educational blog is dedicated to publicizing the 1860 visit by the Japanese ambassadors. I am an historian though not a Japanese history scholar. Nevertheless, I have decided that a book about this milestone in Japanese, Hawaiian and American history must be written and published and I would be the one to do it. This will be both exciting and challenging –which makes it all the more fun!