The Kochi visitor's information center built a wonderful representation of Shikoku with figures that capture each area's significance. The city of Kochi is along the Pacific coast in the center, while Manjiro's hometown is towards the bottom left corner of the island.
|Here's the Manjiro figure near his hometown of Naka-no-hama (now Tosashimizu) on the south-western cape of Shikoku|
Judy, Junji Kitadai, and I traveled south to trace Manjiro's route from his birthplace to his shipwreck to his route home after he returned to Japan. Our first stop was the John Mung (Manjiro's anglicized name) Museum in Tosashimizu. The museum displays artifacts, period rooms, and models describing Manjiro's travels, accomplishments, and legacy.
|Kazuhiko Nabeshima, Judy Guston, and Junji Kitadai at the John Mung Museum, Tosashimizu. Also a Manjiro fan, Mr. Nabeshima kindly guided us to many Manjiro sites and somehow navigated the narrow mountain roads.|
From the museum we headed to the site of Manjiro's birth. The original house hasn't survived, but a faithful recreation based on photographs was built next to where the original stood. Manjiro lived in this tiny house with his mother, brother, and sister, struggling to help support them and eventually leaving home to join the fishing expedition that would inadvertently send him around the world. When he returned to Japan, after his exhaustive debriefing at numerous cities, he finally made his way back to Kochi, and from there walked back to his old house for a reunion with his mother. Having followed that route for half a day by both train and car, Judy and I can tell you it's a long and winding road that brought Manjiro home!
|Manjiro portrait at the John Mung Museum, Tosashimizu|
It was fascinating to see how Manjiro's significance rippled through history and can be felt in places like Usa, Tosashimizu, and Kochi. His legacy is certainly alive and well, and hopefully growing, thanks to exhibitions, research, education, and pop culture representations (toys, games, merchandise, and even an appearance as a character in the popular Japanese TV drama about Ryoma's life). More on the Rosenbach's Manjiro manuscript at the Sakamoto Ryoma museum next week!