Residents plan to erect John Manjiro Memorial Monument at his first landing place in Itoman

Residents plan to erect John Manjiro Memorial Monument at his first landing place in Itoman

On November 21, at the Komesu Community Center, residents held the inaugural meeting of the association for constructing the John Manjiro Memorial Monument at Odo beach, the spot where he landed on his way back to Japan from the United States.

November 27, 2012 Ryukyu Shimpo

On November 21, at the Komesu Community Center in Itoman, a group was set up to plan the construction of the John Manjiro Memorial Monument at the site of his first landing at Odo in Itoman. John Manjiro, who served as an interpreter in the late Edo period also referred to as the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate, landed on Odo beach, in Itoman, on his way back to Japan, after living more than ten years in the United States. Chosei Yamazato, the head of Itoman Municipal Social Welfare Council, was appointed the chairman of the association, and 104 people including Itoman Municipal Assembly members and residents of the Komesu and Odo districts joined the organization. They aim to raise funds to erect the monument and will ask the Itoman Municipal Office and the Okinawa Prefectural Government for assistance.

Manjiro lived in the United States for many years after he was rescued by an American whaling ship when he went missing on a fishing boat during his childhood. In 1851, because he was unable to return directly to Japan, which had an isolationist policy in place at that time, he landed on Odo beach, in the Mabuni-magiri district of the Ryukyu Kingdom, and then spent six months at Onaga-magiri (currently Tomigusuku City). After returning home he worked as an interpreter for the Tokugawa Shogunate, and also contributed to the establishment of modern Japan through his interaction with patriots such as Ryoma Sakamoto at the end of the Edo period.

The association hopes to utilize the Manjiro monument as a resource for tourism and education. In the meeting, it was also proposed to restore the Mabuni-magiri facility in which officials of the Ryukyu Kingdom questioned Manjiro for the first time.

According to Hideo Tokumoto, deputy chairperson of the association, in Manjiro’s birthplace of Tosashimizu, Kochi Prefecture, residents were promoting activities by a public-private partnership to ask NHK to air a dramatized portrayal Manjiro’s life among its long-running drama series, and that there was a plan for a film adaptation in future. Tokumoto emphasized, “There is momentum for re-evaluating the significance of Manjiro, so the timing of constructing this monument is significant.”

Itoman Mayor Hirotsune Uehara commented, “You could say that the dawn of the modern age of Japan started from Odo beach. We will be supporting the construction of the monument.”

(English translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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