Manjiro at School

In 1841, Captain William H. Whitfield on the whaleship John Howland rescued fourteen-year-old Japanese youth Manjiro Nakahama from a small island in the Pacific Ocean, on which Manjiro and four other fishermen had been stranded for nearly six months. Manjiro returned to Capt. Whitfield’s Fairhaven home, becoming the first Japanese person to live in America.

Manjiro was tutored in English by Miss Jane Allen from Oxford Street, next door to the home of Ebenezer Akin where Manjiro boarded. He also attended classes at the Old Stone Schoolhouse.

After learning American customs and studying navigation in Fairhaven, Manjiro eventually returned to Japan. Back in his native country he became a prominent figure during the opening of Japan to western trade. Manjiro became a professor of navigation and ship engineering at the Naval Training School in Tokyo. He also compiled A Short Cut to English Conversation, which became a standard book on practical English. Twice Manjiro returned to America on diplomatic missions for the Japanese government.

The story of Manjiro Nakahama’s rescue by Capt. Whitfield and his life in Fairhaven is still taught today to Japanese school children.

Each year, many Japanese visitors come to Fairhaven to see the Old Stone Schoolhouse and other sites associated with Manjiro. Even Japan’s Emperor Akihito visited here when he was Crown Prince in 1987, the same year a Sister City agreement was signed between Fairhaven-New Bedford and Tosashimizu, Japan, where Manjiro grew up.

Several Japanese and American television production crews documenting the Manjiro story have videotaped in the schoolhouse.

The Capt. William Whitfield House, located two blocks away from the schoolhouse at 11 Cherry Street, Fairhaven, is maintained by the Whitfield-Manjiro Friendship Society, Inc. For more information about Manjiro and the Capt. Whitfield House, visit the MANJIRO WEBSITE.