The Man Who Discovered America

by Hisakazu Kaneko
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
©1956, Item: 93136
Hardcover, 149 pages
Not in stock

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One morning over a hundred years ago, five Japanese fishermen put out from a tiny port at the southwest of the island of Nippon. The day was the fifth of January, 1841, The Year of the Cow. The youngest of the crew was just a boy, fifteen, but a very wonderful boy. Like all men of his caste, he rated only one name. They called him Manjiro.

Here is the true story of the unforeseeable destiny that awaited Manjiro when the fragile fishing boat was swept to sea in a five-day storm that left it shattered against the cliff of an island inhabited only by an albatross. Who could have imagined the sequence of events that would lead this shipwrecked fisherboy to play an instrumental role in pushing back the iron curtain behind which his country had hidden for over two centuries? It is history that reads like a Japanese fairy tale.

Rescued by the Yankee whaler John Howland, out of New Bedford, Manjiro was adopted by her captain, William Whitfield, and brought back to Fairhaven, Massachusetts, where he became the first of his nation to reside in the United States and to attend its schools. Little was lost on "John Mung," as the captain renamed the quick-witted, good-natured boy. Not only was he soon proficient in speaking English, but he learned mathematics and surveying, became a whaler in his own right, participated in the Gold Rush of '49, and made numerous observations about this strange new land with which he was later to astound his countrymen.

"Officials there are not haughty," he related, "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."

The story of Manjiro's return to his native country at the risk of his life—and of his struggle to prepare the mind of feudal Japan for Commodore Perry's famous visit in 1853 is no less exciting as personal drama than as history. Mr. Kaneko tells it with inimitable simplicity and charm.

Jacket by William Barss

from the dust jacket

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