While most people who celebrate today are drinking green beer and thinking Irish thoughts, today is also the anniversary of the arrival of the first Japanese government ship to visit the United States. It was on March 17, 1860 that the Japanese screw steamer Kanrin Maru arrived at San Francisco as an escort for Japan’s first embassy to the United States aboard the USS Powhatan. For the 150th anniversary celebration, the mayor of San Francisco declared March 17th to be Kanrin Maru day. I don’t suppose there is a lot of celebrating of the event in the city, or anywhere else for that matter. So, I’ll just do that on my own.
But, for those interested, the journey of the Kanrin Maru is pretty interesting, and involves many important historical personalities for both Japan and the United States. The captain of the Kanrin Maru, Katsu Kaishu, is considered the father of the Japanese Navy and is later instrumental in his involvement with the transfer of power from the Shogun, the military ruler of Japan, to the Emperor. One of the crew members was Yukichi Fukuzawa who later founded the prestigious Keio University, one of Japan’s oldest institutes of eduction. Another was Manjiro Nakahama, also known to many Americans at the time as John Manjiro, who’s own story of shipwreck, rescue by an American whaler, life in the United States, and eventual return to Japan, is an adventure known to many. Then, there was then Lieutenant John Mercer Brooke, who with the help of a handful of his sailors, helped the Kanrin Maru survive a treacherous Pacific crossing, and who went on to become instrumental in the creation of the Transatlantic Cable, and in the development of a new rifled cannon known as the Brooke Rifle.
Here is some interesting reading I’ve run across:
As We Saw Them, the First Japanese Embassy, to the United States by Masao Miyoshi
John M. Brooke’s Pacific Cruise and Japanese Adventure, by George M. Brooke, Jr.
Manjiro, the Man Who Discovered America, by Hisakazu Kaneko
And a link to my previous Kanrin Maru Day post: My Kanrin Maru Day