(Records of the Drifters), circa 1852
by Dr. Tadashi Kikuoka
It is the hand-written, hand-stitched, mulberry paper book of four volumes, which was donated to the Millicent Library, Fairhaven, Massachusetts by the late Viscount Kikujiro Ishii, then Japanese Ambassador to the U.S. in 1918.
These volumes are the documentation of the intensive and prolonged interrogation of Manjiro who was examined as a result of his violation of the national isolation policy of Japan. During the period from 1641-1858, leaving and returning to Japan had been strictly forbidden. Manjiro, the first Japanese visitor to America, was picked up after a shipwreck by an American whaler and brought to New Bedford, Mass. After ten years of valuable new experience in Fairhaven, New Bedford and over the seven seas,
Manjiro went back to Japan in 1851. When he returned home, Manjiro was arrested as an offender of the national isolation law and placed under detention by the Shogun’s government. After one and a half years of detention by the government, Manjiro was finally allowed to return to his native place where he was once again placed under the local authorities. Later he was given a samurai title of a modest ranking due to his knowledge of the American people, society, science and technology. In 1854, when Commodore Perry negotiated the Treaty of Friendship and Amity, Manjiro played a significant role in bringing about the first U.S.-Japan diplomatic relations.
Regarding this brief account of Manjiro, these primary records have been widely scattered in the past, perhaps, because of the xenophobic reaction prevalent at the time of the arrival of Commodore Perry and the rapidly developing events of history, which had often obscured the documents concerning Manjiro. Perhaps, the nature of the documents which deal openly with the conditions in the U.S., caused their prohibition by the authorities of the Shogunate. However, these volumes were edited by Shoryo Kawata, samurai artist-scholar who was commissioned by Lord Ouchi of his feudal domain.
With regard to the authenticity of the four volumes which now belong to the Millicent Library, the present researcher located nine manuscript copies of these original documents: Two are in the U. S. Millicent Library and Rosenbach Museum in Philadelphia. Seven are in the possession of the following in Japan: Nakahama, Kishi, Saikyo, Tsuda, Matsuoka, Hokuni no Miya and Sumiyoshi (now missing).
from The Presentation of a Samurai Sword by Dr. Tadashi Kikuoka
published by the Millicent Library, 1982