I first learned about Manjiro years ago from reading Seamen’s Chaplain: Reflections on the life of Samuel C. Damon, by George Cooper, of Rev. Samuel Chenery Damon, Seamen’s Chaplain in Honolulu, pastor of the Fort Street Church and publisher of The Friend, a newspaper that still exists today under the auspices of the Hawaii Conference of the United Church of Christ.
In this Japan Times article, dated March 21, 2004, Tai Kawabata correctly refers to Manjiro as "one of a kind," and, "when shipwrecked 16-year-old Manjiro became the first Japanese to go to the United States, his life was set on an action-packed course that would shape Japan both then and now."
Manjiro was shipwrecked at age 14 off the coast of Japan in 1841. An American whaling ship captained by William H. Whitfield picked up the young Japanese boy and brought him to his home in New England, where he was educated in American schools. In 1848 young Manjiro and Rev. Damon met in Honolulu for the first time. An entire chapter of Damon’s biography is dedicated to Manjiro.
As it turns out, Nakahama Manjiro was a crewmember on board the Kanrin Maru that steamed out of Japanese waters in 1860 with the Embassy. Though the embassy delegation stopped in Honolulu on board the U.S. Streamer Powhatan in March, the Dutch-built Kanrin Maru continued nonstop to San Francisco, where it was later joined by the Powhatan and the Japanese Embassy.
On its return voyage to Japan from San Francisco, the Kanrin Maru briefly stopped in Honolulu in May, 1860. Manjiro was aboard, and during his brief stay reunited with Rev. Damon and other friends while in port. Damon published the following article about Manjiro’s conversations with him in the June 1, 1860 edition of The Friend.
Manjiro is spelled “Mungero” or referred to as “Mung.” The Kanrin Maru is referred to in this article and others published at that time as the “Candinmarrah.” Also noteworthy is Manjiro’s translation of Bowditch’s Navigation, and that Rev. Damon and others were “very kindly welcomed on board the Candinmarrah, and were introduced to the Admiral and Capt. Katslintarro.”
When I read this article one of the other curiosities was the mention of the “Loochoo Islands,” which are presently known as the Ryukyu Islands, the most prominent being the island of Okinawa.
Among my list of links are various friendship associations inspired by Manjiro. Please click those for further information.
Finale of the Boat Expedition to Japan: The Friend June 1, 1860. Page 44-45.
In order that our readers may understand some remarks which we have to make upon the visit of Capt. Mungero, Itche-ban-funi, attached to the Japanese steamer Candinmarrah, we copy the following paragraphs from an old number of the Friend, published January 9th, 1851:
EXPEDITION TO JAPAN. –Japan seems to be the terra incognita that now the busy world desires to know more about, and anything relating to that country is interesting. Shipwrecked Japanese have, from time to time, found their way to the Sandwich Islands. A few weeks since the whaleship Copia took several to China; but some remained at Honolulu. Three of these have since sailed in a Sarah Boyd, bound to Shanghai, China. Capt. Whitmore promised that, on his route to Shanghai, he would pass near the Loochoo Islands, and there leave these three Japanese, whose names are John Mung, Denzo, and Goeman. According to a statement made by Mung, before the United States Consul (Judge Allen), they have been about ten years from their native land. Their statement was to this effect:
We left the S.E. part of the island of Niphon, in a fishing vessel, and were wrecked. After remaining on an uninhabited island for about six months, we were taken off by Capt. Whitfield, master of the ship John Howland, and brought to the Sandwich Islands. Denzo and Goeman remained here. Mung went to the United States and was there taken care of and educated by Capt Whitfield. After being absent several years, Mung returned to the Islands, and here found his former companions.
On learning that Captain Whitfield would land them at the Loochoo islands, Mung, with the assistance of a few friends, purchased a good whaleboat, oars and sails. Having learned the science of navigation sufficient for all practical purposes, he supplied himself with a quadrant, compass, charts, &c. It is not expected that the Sarah Boyd will come to anchor at the Loochoo, but launch the whaleboat off the islands, and leave the three Japanese to make the best of their way to land. Al though when at the Loochoo, they may be far from their native shores, yet Mung (whom we shall now call Capt. Mung) thinks that he knows enough of the relative situation of the Loochoo and Japanese islands to find his way across. He says that annually a large Japanese junk visits the Loochoo Islands, for the purpose of receiving tribute money, and that the junk leaves Japan in February and returns in June. He supposed they might get passage in her –at any rate they would make the trial!
We shall anxiously wait to learn the success of Capt. Mung’s expedition. He is a smart and intelligent young man, and has made good use of his opportunities, being able to speak and write the English language with tolerable accuracy. Should he succeed in reaching his native land in safety, his services may be of importance in opening an intercourse between his own and other countries. He would make an excellent interpreter between the Japanese and the English or Americans.
Success to Capt. Mung, commanding the whaleboat “Adventurer!”
During the last nine years we have made diligent inquiry of various persons, but especially of the officers of the Perry Expedition, respecting Capt. Mung, his companions, and the boat “Adventurer,” but no information whatever could we obtain; judge then our great surprise, on the arrival of the Japanese steamer Candimarrah, to have one of her officers, the Acting Interpreter, with the rank of Captain in the Japanese navy, make us a call, and introduce himself as our old friend Capt. Mung, of 1851. How changed his lot- now the Japanese official, with “two swords,” but formerly the poor Japanese shipwrecked sailor, seeking to return home, although trembling lest if he should return he might be beheaded. After friendly salutations were exchanged, we said “please be seated, give us a full account of your wanderings-tell us all about your boat “Adventurer,” and how you got home.” Capt. Mung, formerly of the “Adventurer,” but now Captain Mungero, of the Imperial Japanese Navy, replied as follows:
“In Jan., 1851, Capt. Whitmore, of the Sarah Boyd, launched the boat “Adventurer” from his deck, off Great Loochoo, wind blowing fresh from N.W., accompanied with hail. The ship was about five miles from land. After rowing hard for ten hours, we anchored near the land. Next morning I sent Denzo on shore, but he returned with a ‘tear in his eye,’ because he had forgotten his native language, and was unable to communicate with the people. We all went on shore, and I took a loaded pistol; we made signs to the people for water, and they conducted us to a pond; we now boiled our coffee and ate some beef and pork, ‘American fashion.’ The people gave us some sweet potatoes and rice. As we could not speak to the people, we were conducted to a government office, about one mile off, where some rice was given us, in order to see if we could eat rice with two chop-sticks! We showed them that we knew how to handle the chop-sticks, and this exploit settled the question of our nationality, for we were pronounced Japanese!
“A messenger was then dispatched to a city about ten miles off, and after some bantering and threats, we were taken under the care of the King of Loochoo, who treated us very kindly. We spent six months in Loochoo, when we were conveyed in a junk to the island of Kiusiu, near the southern point of the island; we were there taken under the care of the Prince of Thiztumar; we remained at this place forty-eight days. The Prince made very many inquiries respecting America and American people, and our treatment. This prince has great influence; he treated me with much kindness.
“We were then removed to Nangasaki, where we were joined by five more shipwrecked Japanese sailors, who had been forwarded from Honolulu to their country via China. At Nangasaki we were detained thrity months, not however being confined to a close prison, but allowed large liberties. At the end of two and a half years, we were allowed to proceed to our homes, and, so far as I know, all my companions safely reached their homes, and we welcomed by their friends. I went to Xicoco after thirteen years’ absence, I was joyfully welcomed by my mother. My father died before I left home. My mother had mourned for me as dead; under that impression, she had built for me a tomb. I remained at home ‘three days and three nights’; I was then removed, with my good boat ‘Adventurer,’ to Yeddo, where I was promoted to the rank of an Imperial officer, wearing two swords! For several years I was employed in Yeddo. I was for a long time occupied in translating Bowditch’s Navigator; it was a long and laborious work. I have built many boats after the model of my American whaleboat ‘Adventurer.’ –My old whaleboat is now in a government storehouse at the city of Yeddo. I have been very often consulted respecting questions relating to Americans and foreigners. I have had charge of some of some of the presents which were brought by Commodore Perry. I was in Yeddo at the period of Commodore Perry’s visit, but was not introduced to any of the officers of the expedition. I am thirty-six years old. I am married, and have three children. I am captain in the navy, and, at home, have charge of a vessel.”
By no means were these all the interesting statements which he made, in answer to our many inquiries about Japan, its government, its religion, its institutions, its people, &c.
Since writing the above, we have returned the call, and been very kindly welcomed on board the Candinmarrah, and were introduced to the Admiral and Capt. Katslintarro. Our surprise and astonishment were great when Captain Mungero presented us a translation of Bowditch’s great American work upon Navigation. The translation, with the logarithmic tables, had been made by Captain Mungero. He said is tried his patience, and made him grow old by about three years faster than he should! He remarked that about twenty copies had been made into Japanese, one which was deposited in the Royal Palace. It had not yet been printed in Japanese style. The copy before us is most beautifully executed. It is surely a most credible performance, and evidently shows that Captain Mungero is a man of decided ability. He is the first native of the Japanese Empire who navigated a vessel, out of sight of land, according to scientific principles. We hope, when our friend, Capt. Whitfield, of Fairhaven, reads this statement, he may feel rewarded for his trouble and expense in educating this Japanese sailor-boy. He speaks in the most grateful manner of those who befriended him, when a stranger in a strange land, and has left with us a letter and present, to be forwarded to his friend and benefactor, Capt. Whitfield. –We could add much more, gathered during our present interviews.
Captain Mungero returns to Japan, taking with him many curiosities and works of art, procured in San Francisco; among them a daguerreotype apparatus, for the purpose of taking the likeness of his mother; “and when that is done,” he said, it will be useless!” –a most beautiful instance of filial affection.
It is most gratifying to learn that the views we entertained and published nine years ago respecting Capt. Mungero, have been fully realized. He did return to his native land, and there acted no unimportant part in preparing the way for the opening of Japan to intercourse with foreign nations. The end is not yet. If we live a few years, other events equally worthy of record will have occurred. We shall anxiously await the development of the future.
Nine years ago, we wrote, “Success to Capt. Mung, commanding the whaleboat ‘Adventurer,’” but we now add, Success to Captain Mungero, of the Imperial Navy of Japan, Acting Interpreter of the Candimarrah, and Translator of Bowditch’s Navigator. Long may he be spared to benefit his native land, to the interests, prosperity, civilization and progress of which, he is most ardently devoted. His love for Japan is great.
“Cast thy bread upon the waters, for thou shalt find it after many days.”