29 January 2014
Following my last blog in October last year on the World Maritime Day Parallel Event in Peru, I was traveling ahead of the IMO Assembly, held from 25 November to 4 December 2013.
During my travels, I attended the Maritime Cyprus 2013 Conference, the Russian Maritime Register of Shipping Celebrations and the Russian-Danish Seminar on Arctic Shipping in St. Petersburg, the Kobe University 10th anniversary Event for the Maritime Science Faculty, the Tokyo MoU 20th Anniversary Event in Tokyo, the NAMEPA World Maritime Day Observance in New York, the CSR Symposium arranged by WMU and BIMCO in Helsingør, Denmark and finally the Graduation Ceremony at the World Maritime University in Malmo.
During this busy period, I also visited the Makarov State University of Maritime and Inland Shipping in St Petersburg, Russia, where I addressed the cadets, and in the United States, I visited the Mystic Seaport Maritime Museum in Connecticut as well as the Northeast Maritime Institute in Fairhaven, Massachusetts.
At the Mystic Seaport, I was greeted by its President, Steve White, and toured the whaling ship Charles W. Morgan, which has recently undergone a comprehensive restoration and preservation project and the Museum’s Collection Research Centre.
I discussed with the Museum staff about the importance of our maritime heritage and our work to preserve maritime assets. IMO should explore the possibility of promoting the maritime heritage of Member States. In this context, I believe that the IMO World Maritime Day Parallel Event would offer a wonderful opportunity to highlight the maritime heritage of the host country in addition to promoting each year’s World Maritime Day Theme adopted by the IMO Council. If we could start highlighting the maritime heritage of the host country and continue this for decades, we would eventually develop a good catalogue of maritime heritage spots in the world compiled by IMO. I am personally interested in this idea and would like to seek supporters.
Finally, my travel brought me to Fairhaven, Massachusetts, where I visited the Whitfield-Manjiro Friendship House.I recently learned that the house in which Nakahama Manjiro stayed some 170 years ago had been preserved by people in Fairhaven and the Whitfield and Nakahama families, supported by Dr Hinohara of Japan.
In the context of the maritime heritage, I would like to share the story of Manjiro.
Nakahama Manjiro was rescued from a shipwreck by the Captain of a whaling ship, Captain Whitfield, and brought to the United States, where he was educated in Fairhaven and trained as a seafarer for whaling ships. This is truly a remarkable story and when I attented the 30th anniversary of the World Maritime University at the City Hall of Malmö, I spoke about Maijiro’s extraordinary life, and his involvement in the process of the opening of Japan and the first Japanese mission to the United States for ratification of the US-Japan Treaty Instrument. Below is the part of my dinner speech, slightly edited, describing the story of Manjiro.
“In 1841, 173 years ago, a Japanese fishing vessel was shipwrecked at an island in the Pacific ocean and a boy called Manjiro , aged 14, survived. He was rescued by Capt. Whitfield on the whaling ship John Howland, because they came to the island to collect sea birds’ eggs. The boy was among four fishermen rescued and, except Manjiro, they all remained in Hawaii.
Capt. Whitfield found something very bright in Manjiro, and took him and returned to Fairhaven in Massachusetts with Manjiro, two years later. At that time, Manjiro was 16 years old.
Captain Whitfield gave basic education to Manjiro in Fairhaven. He was the first Japanese trained in US as a seafarer, on board the whaling ship Franklin. In 1848, at age 21, Manjiro gained the rank of Harpooner and in 1849, at age 22, he went to the California gold rush, earned a small amount of gold, enough to buy a small boat, Adventure, and in 1851, Manjiro returned to Japan.
At that time, Japan was closed under Tokugawa Shougun Government and Manjiro was investigated for nearly one year against the charge of having breached national law and having visited foreign countries, but he was forgiven, escaped a death sentence and even became Samurai class, serving the Tokugawa Government.
In 1853, the American Commodore Perry came to Tokyo Bay and in 1854, the first Japan US Peace Treaty was signed. Manjiro’s knowledge about US society and advanced technology played a major contributing factor in the decision to open Japan to the United States.
In 1854, Manjiro translated Bowditch’s American Practical Navigator, and in 1856, Manjiro built a western style sailing ship and in 1857, he prepared a Practical English Guide for Japanese.
What is a truly remarkable thing was that in 1860, when Manjiro was 33, he navigated through the Pacific Ocean on board Kanrinmaru to send the first Japanese embassy to the United States for the ratification of the first Treaty. Only Manjiro in Japan could have done that.
After the 1868 Meiji restoration, Manjiro became a Professor at the University of Tokyo and contributed to the process of modernization and industrialization of Japan.
Captain Whitfield’s ability to see the potential and brightness in a 14 year old Japanese boy; Manjiro’s passion and courage to explore the new world and his desire to learn something from the advanced country, the United States, are all essential parts of this remarkable story.
The willingness and the kindness and generosity of Capt. Whitfield to arrange education in for Manjiro is very close to hearts of anybody who is involved in education and capacity building, including all of us l gathering here tonight to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the World Maritime University.”
Photo: Whitfield-Manjiro Friendship House
Manjiro Nakahama and Captain Willam H. Whitfield