John Mung

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One World English Course 3 (2021) pg. 114-119

John Mung
Word count600
BookOne World

Manjiro's story starts when he was born in 1827. He was a fisherman in Nakanohama, Tosa, but he became one of the first Japanese to live in the United States. He returned to Japan only two years before Perry's visit.
When he was 14, his boat was wrecked. Manjiro and four other fishermen swam to an island. There were no people living on the island. They ate albatrosses and drank rainwater.
After 143 days, they were saved by an American whaling ship, the John Howland. Captain Whitfield liked Manjiro and named him John after the ship. John Mung became his nickname.

The ship went to Hawaii. There, everything was new to Manjiro—beds, forks, knives, everything. He had a very good ear, and he learned English very quickly.
Two years later, when the John Howland was going to return to Massachusetts, Captain Whitfield wanted to take John Mung home with him and give him an education. Manjiro decided to go with the captain. He wanted to see the new world.
In Massachusetts, Manjiro went to elementary school. He was a very polite, kind, and eager student.

The Whitfields went to church on Sundays, but their church didn't want Manjiro to attend the service. It was only for white people. Mr. Whitfield found a church that Manjiro could go to and he went there, too.
When Manjiro was 17, he started to go to a navigation school. There he studied math and sailing, among other things. After he finished school at 19, he became a sailor. When he came back three and a half years later in 1849, he lived with the Whitfields again for two months.
During all this time Manjiro missed his mother. He wanted to go back to Japan, but he didn't have enough money to do it.

The year 1849 was a big year for the "Gold Rush." Thousands of people went to California to find gold. Manjiro didn't miss the chance. In about 70 days, he saved enough for his trip back to Japan.
Manjiro wanted to go right back to Tosa, but he couldn't because in those days Japan's doors were closed to other countries. Anyone from a foreign country was caught and sent to prison. So he got off the ship near Ryukyu in 1851. Still, he was caught and questioned there for seven months.
After one year, he finally went back to his hometown. He was able to see his mother, brothers, and sisters.

The next year the Kurofune, or black ships, came to Uraga. Manjiro was the only person who knew anything about America. He was also the only person who spoke English well. The Tokugawa Government called him to Edo. Manjiro was made a samurai. His name was changed to Nakahama Manjiro. The meeting with Perry went well because of Manjiro's help.
In 1860, the Tokugawa Government sent a group of messengers to the United States in an American ship. A Japanese ship, the Kanrin-maru, also went to the United States. Katsu Kaishu was the captain of the ship. Fukuzawa Yukichi was also on the ship. Manjiro went along as interpreter.

The ships arrived in San Francisco. The Japanese messengers were warmly welcomed. American people were very surprised when Manjiro spoke English naturally.
Manjiro wrote several textbooks. For example, he wrote an English textbook and a textbook on navigation. He was the first Japanese teacher who taught English. His life was full of hardships, but he tackled them bravely. He never gave up. He wanted Japan to open its doors. More than anything, he was a bridge between Japan and America.

See also