Last week, as I in the middle of reading Margi Preus's middle-grade novel Heart of a Samurai, the ALA awards were announced with Heart of a Samurai winning a Newbery Honor. Hooray for Margi! And how great to have a novel about the fascinating life of bicultural Nakahama Manjiro (中浜万次郎), aka John Manjiro, aka John Mung, win such high honors.
mikan research led me to Ehime, Shikoku, I extended the trip, brought the kids, and added some Manjiro-related exploration.
After much of the week visiting and interviewing mikan growers from the cooperative Muchachaen in Maihama, we headed south. The coastline of southwest Shikoku is rugged, remote and spectacular.
At Cape Ashizuri we visited the John Mung House, actually a museum, which looks out onto this stone arch.
We explored the southernmost tip of Shikoku, visited the temple Kongofukuji and found the nearby statue of John Manjiro. We pored over exhibits in the John Mung House museum and drove to the town of Nakanohama, Manjiro's birthplace, where our son, at just about the age of Manjiro when his boat went adrift, had me take his photo by the stone marker.
The area is not easy to reach even now, and a boy from a fishing family in the mid-1800s certainly lived an isolated life. From that simple existence, after a harrowing shipwreck, Manjiro was rescued, learned navigation on a whaling ship, attended school in a Massachusetts whaling town, panned for gold in the Sierra Nevada, and spent more years on a whaling ship before managing to return to Japan as the country was just beginning to open up to the outside world. This Japan Times article "One of a Kind" has intriguing background info about Manjiro's unusual life.
Readers interested in whaling in the nineteenth century might want to pair Heart of a Samurai with If Ever I Return Again by Corinne Demas about a girl on her father's whaling ship in 1856 who also becomes a skilled navigator.