By Beth David, Editor
The 16th annual Manjiro Festival squeaked in before the rain this year on Saturday, 10/7, a welcome change from 2015’s stormy weather, which pushed all the booths and activities inside. The festival is held on alternating years in Fairhaven and sister city Tosashimizu.
The festival celebrates the friendship that formed when 14-year-old Manjiro of Japan was rescued in the Pacific by Captain William Whitfield of Fairhaven in 1841. Manjiro became the first Japanese person to live and be educated in the US. He was instrumental in opening up Japan to the west.
Politicians from both sides of the Pacific were on hand for the occasion Saturday, including the mayor of Tosashimizu Hijiya Mitsunobu; the Consul General of Japan in Boston Rokuichro Michii; State representatives William Straus/Mattapoisett and Keiko Orrall/Lakeville; New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell; Fairhaven Selectboard member Charles Murphy, and many other dignitaries.
More than 30 visitors from Japan traveled to take part in the ceremony, according to organizers. The weekend also included a Friendship dinner and other group activities for guests.
During the festival a shuttle bus took people around the Manjiro Trail, vendors sold unique items, the smell of Japanese noodles filled the air, and children were treated to a variety of demonstrations including origami, calligraphy, and Japanese toys. Other free demonstrations included martial arts demonstrations on the lawn of the Unitarian Church, Japanese drumming inside the town hall, and musical performances in front of town hall.
The Millicent Library also held some author events to join in the fun.
Rep. Keiko Orrall addressed the crowd in Japanese and then in English.
“Try to make one new friend today,” she said, in keeping with the spirit of the purpose of the Friendship Society and Sister City Committees.
Bob Whitfield, a 5th generation descendant of Capt. Whitfield, agreed with that sentiment, telling the crowd it was a “wonderful day.”
“Please, make a new friend today,” he said.
“I am grateful for the bond that was formed so many years ago,” said Hodoka Yo, Chair of the Tosashimizu Sister City Friendship Association.
“It’s a great day to celebrate, especially with the political climate we’re in,” said Rep. Orrall after the speechmaking was over.
The story of the friendship between the Nakahamas and the Whitfields has endured through the years, including World War II.
“It’s always great to be here,” said Bob Whitfield. “It’s like coming home.”
His son Scott said he is doing his part to keep the story and the friendship alive. He said he told the tale to his children as a bedtime story, as his parents did with him.
Then they got older and realized it was true.
David Horne, Sue Golding and David Leslie said hail from Fairhaven, New Hampshire and Falmouth, respectively.
Ms. Golding said she heard about it from her friends and got curious.
“It’s nice. The noodles are good,” she said.
She did not know anything about Manjiro, but was happy to learn the story, she said.
Mr. Leslie said he lived in Japan and so has an interest in all things Japanese. But he did not hear the Manjiro story until he came to Fairhaven.
To learn more about Manjiro’s story, visit http://www.whitfield-manjiro.org/ or http://fairhaventours. com/manjiro-nakahama/.
Click here to download the entire 10/12/17 issue: 10-12-17 Manjiro_REV
Support local journalism, donate to the Neighb News at: https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=Y6V5ARRYH689G