Do you know a boy called John Mung? His Japanese name is Manjiro Nakahama, and he is known as John Manhiro. This book is based on his life, visiting America for the first time in the whole Japanese. He lived in Tosahan, which is now Kochi Prefecture. He was a normal Japanese fisherman until he was caught by a huge storm on 1841. Their boat landed on Bird Island after drifting the open sea for 5 days, and spent 143 days on the island. One day, an American whaling ship, John Howland passed near the island, and they were saved by the ship’s captain, Captain Whitfield. The captain told the fishermen they can’t even sail near Japan, because Japan was closing the country to the foreigners. At that time, Japanese called the Americans “barbarians”, and were scared of them. However, only Manjiro was different. He was interested in everything he saw on the ship. For example, knives and folks that they used for eating meals, and the chairs that they sit with their legs not touching the floor. Especially when Captain Whitfield showed Manjiro the world map, he was too surprised because he knew how small Japan is, and how huge America is. Also, he gradually became able to speak English with the captain’s help. He asked the captain everything he wanted to know, and the captain answered to all the questions. The ship, John Howland was a whaling ship, so he helped hunting the whales. After a year passed, Manjiro’s friends, who wished to go back to their own country, decided to get off the ships at Honolulu. But Manjiro, who had a strong feeling to visit America, decided not to go home. On 1843, two years passed since he left Japan, the ship finally landed on Fairhaven. There, Manjiro was adopted into the Captain Whitfield’s family and started going to school. At first, he was discriminated by some of his classmates, he shows them there is no wall against each race. He makes many friends, and experiences love. One day, Davis, who was one of the crew on the John Howland, invited him to be a crew of his ship. Manjiro decided to be so, because Davis told him that the ship sails near Japan, so he might have a chance to go home. On 1847, 6 years passed since he left Japan, he said good-bye to his precious family, and started sailing toward Japan. However, even though the ship sailed near Japan, Davis didn’t allow him to get off the ship and go home to his native country. Without keeping promise, Manjiro came back to America on 1849. In America, he starts to earn money to go back to Japan by his own. While he was working, he fortunately meets his friends, who got of the ship at Honolulu. They cooperate each other to get money to buy a ship, and they could finally land on Japan. Even though they arrived at Japan, the Japanese government didn’t allow them to go home straight. They were put in prison. It took few weeks for manjiro to meet his mother, sisters and brothers at his home country. After arriving at his home, Manjiro started to teach english to the children, and became a samurai.
This book was very interesting to me, because I could feel like I was reading many kinds of books at once. For example, when Manjiro was caught by the storm and drifted the sea, I felt like I was reading an adventure book. When Manjiro was whaling on the ship, I was like reading a book about history of whaling. It was like a love story when Manjiro tells his feeling toward a girl who he loved.
Also, in this book, there are many things that Manjiro created by himself. For example, you will be able to find the floor plan of Captain Whitfield’s house that Manjiro drew. Also you can read a letter that he wrote to his own mother while he was in America.
By reading this book, I learned from him that our dreams come true if we didn’t give up. So, I want to live like him.
This book is the winner of the Asian/Pacific American Awards for Literature 2010, and it is used in many schools in America. Therefore, please get this book and read.