Japan Society of Fairfield County

On Sunday, March 6th,  Daniel and Asami Green, Japan Society Benefactors, very graciously invited Society members to their home, Arcan Ridge, the former residence of Helen Keller.  Our members flocked to this event in an overflow crowd.
Listed in the U.S. Government’s National Registry of Historic Places, Arcan Ridge was built for Helen Keller in 1936 and remained her beloved Connecticut home until her death in 1968.  It is surrounded by lovely gardens, stonewalls and lush foliage, and has been visited by many distinguished international visitors and guests, who have enjoyed its quiet New England charm.  Helen Keller’s special interest in Japan was described as we enjoyed her former home.

The featured guest was Junji Kitadai, co-translator of Hyoson Kiryaku (A Brief Account of Drifting toward the Southeast), as told to the court of Lord Yamauchi of Tosa in 1852 by John Manjiro, transcribed and illustrated by Kawada Shoryo.  Kitadai-san only briefly spoke on "Manjiro and Captain Whitfield - the first grass-roots friendship between an American and a Japanese, and what Manjiro means to us today" to allow time for another unannounced guest, Ayumi Sato.  Sato-san and her husband produced a 45 minute documentary The Castaway - the Story of Manjiro and we were privileged to enjoy its premier.  This project was an outgrowth of a documentary Ayumi started for WGBH, Boston PBS, on the California gold rush.  Much to her surprise, she discovered that there was a lone Japanese immigrant, Manjiro, participating in the gold rush.  She ended up discovering the story of Manjiro, an individual who changed the course of history by laying a groundwork for the opening of Japan by Commodore Perry 150 years ago.

Daniel Green is the director of the Manjiro Historic Ship Society, which is building a working replica of the John Howland, the New England whaling ship that rescued Manjiro. Captain Whitfield adopted the 14 year old Manjiro and educated him first as a seaman, and then paid for his education as a carpenter and navigator.  After Manjiro returned to Japan, his personal testament to America's superior technology and spirit was crucial in peacefully opening Japan's closed door.     

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