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David Chesanow


Museum exhibition honors first Japanese to live in U.S.

In 1841, a 14-year-old Japanese fisherman and four older friends were caught in a squall and left stranded on a remote desert island in the Izu chain. They were rescued months later by an American whaleship, the John Howland, out of Fairhaven, Mass. The ship’s captain, William H. Whitfield, couldn’t repatriate the five castaways—Japan’s isolationist policy prohibited foreign ships from landing and Japanese from returning from abroad—so he left the four older boys in Honolulu. The youngest, Nakahama Manjiro—known as John Manjiro (John Mung to the whalemen)—asked to go to New England with the John Howland, becoming the first Japanese to live in the U.S.