Japan Society of Fairfield County
Kick off for restoration of Whitfield home

     In February 2005 Daniel Green hosted an event at Arcan Ridge, the former home of  Helen Keller for the Japan Society of Fairfield County.  This event was to highlight Manjiro, who played a crucial role in establishing US-Japan relations.
     Manjiro was a 14 year old Japanese fisherman, who along with 4 shipmates, was stranded on a desert island in the Pacific ocean in 1841.  Captain Whitfield and his whaling ship John Howland rescued the fishermen.  The adults of the party were dropped off on the Sandwich Islands, now Hawaii, because Japan was closed and even its own citizens who had left could not safely return.   Manjiro, known as John Mung aboard ship, agreed with Captain Whitfield to be adopted as he was too young to fend for himself.  Manjiro also recognized that he would have a unique opportunity to learn about American culture.  Manjiro apprenticed on the John Howland until it returned to its home port, Fairhaven, Massachusetts.  There, he stayed with the captain's family and was enrolled in the local school.  He eventually took advanced studies in mathematics and navigation.  In 1847, he joined the crew of the whale ship Franklin and spent some time in San Francisco during the gold rush.  signatureHe and his original fisherman companions were returned to Japan.  The local lord was fascinated by Manjiro's stories of America so Manjiro and his companions were spared death but kept under house arrest.  Stories of Manjiro's compassionate treatment at the hands of the Americans reached the imperial court and were instrumental in the decision to open Japan when Commodore Perry arrived in Tokyo Bay in 1853.  Manjiro was elevated to the rank of a samurai and given the family name Nakahama.  He wrote and translated several books about America, navigation, and the English language after returning to Japan.  The friendship between the Nakahama and Whitfield families has continued through 4 generations.  Japan places great importance on Manjiro as evidenced by the 1987 signatures of Crown Prince Akihito and Princess Michiko in the Fairhaven guest book shown to the right:    
Go to Kickoff page of Manjiro Historic Friendship Society
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