By Beth David, Editor
Four Japanese students from Fairhaven’s sister city, Tosashimizu, vistied Fairhaven last week, staying with host families and engaging in a variety of activities, including English lessons, cooking lessons, and visits to downtown New Bedford.
The group, organized by the Whitfield-Manjiro Friendship Society, included three girls, one boy, and one male teacher.
Most of the students said that practicing English was a prime reason for making the trip. And, since they were all staying with families who do not speak Japanes, they all got a lot of practice.
Ms. Shiori Okutani said that she wanted to learn more about Manjiro Nakahama, the 14-year-old castaway who was rescued by Capt. William Whitfield in 1841. Young Manjiro became the first Japanese person to live in America and was instrumental in opening up Japan to the west.
The Old Stone Schoolhouse, which Manjiro attended, was a stop for the students.
Ms Okutani said she also had fun being in Fairhaven.
Ms. Miu Niiya said that getting better at English was also one of her goals, but she wanted to learn about Manjiro, too.
“I wanted to talk to many people,” to improve her English, said Himeka Yokoyama.
She had a lot of opportunity to do just that.
“It’s very interesting,” said Ms. Yokoyama.
“I wanted to practice my English,” said Mr. Masaaki Ikeuchi.
He said he thought about Manjiro and the experiences he had in Japan and the US.
“He opened up Japan to the world,” said Ms. Okutani. “He was great.”
Ms. Niiya called Manjiro a “pioneer” and the “first translator,” between Japan and the US.
Teacher Hidehiro Kumeda said that all students in Japan learn about Manjiro, especially those from his home town. He said they learn a lot of details about his life in Japan, but they do not get a lot of detail about his time in Fairhaven. That’s why students want to come to Fairhaven.
Grace Davignon is the student who won the trip to Japan with her essay. She is also a host sister to Mr. Ikeuchi. Ms. Davignon said she is looking forward to her trip in October and is happy that she will already have a friend in Japan.
The students visited stops on the Manjiro Trail, including the Millicent Library, where the Emperor of Japan signed the log book back in the 1980s when he was still crown prince.
Oh, and they had campfires and made smores, something Ms. Niiya said she had never eaten before, but definitely enjoyed.
To learn more about Manjiro’s story and Fairhaven’s special relationship with Tosashimizu, visit http://www.whitfield-manjiro.org or http://millicentlibrary.org/manjiro-2/