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This was the law in Japan in the early 1800s. When fourteen-year-old Manjiro, working on a fishing boat to help support his family, was shipwrecked three hundred miles away from his homeland, he was heartbroken to think that he would never again be able to go home. So when an American whaling boat rescued him, Manjiro decided to do what no other Japanese person had ever done: He went to ...
This was the law in Japan in the early 1800s. When fourteen-year-old Manjiro, working on a fishing boat to help support his family, was shipwrecked three hundred miles away from his homeland, he was heartbroken to think that he would never again be able to go home. So when an American whaling boat rescued him, Manjiro decided to do what no other Japanese person had ever done: He went to America, where he received an education and took part in events that eventually made him a hero in the Land of the Rising Sun.
In 1841, rescued by an American whaler after a terrible shipwreck leaves him and his four companions castaways on a remote island, fourteen-year-old Manjiro learns new laws and customs as he becomes the first Japanese person to set foot in the United States.
Head of the family at the age of nine! When his father died in 1836, Manjiro had to support his mother, three younger sisters, one younger brother, and an invalid older brother who was too weak to work. Manjiro's family lived in poverty, as did their neighbors. Their squalid shacks were huddled together, hugging Japan's shore in Nakahama, a village in the province of Tosa. The men were fishermen, a vocation that had to be handed down father to son. Manjiro's father had been a fisherman; therefore, Manjiro would be a fisherman. Sons were forbidden to find any other field of employment. That had been the law of the land for hundreds of years.
Day after day, Manjiro set out to sea with boatloads of men. His job consisted of unhooking fish and emptying nets. Because he was a child, he had no chance to cast and catch. The men paid him by giving him fish to take home. They were very poor and could not afford to be more generous.
After five years of this child labor, Manjiro was unable to advance past the position of being a mere helper. And so he sought work at Usa, another coastal village ninety miles away. A fisherman called Denzo questioned him, and after learning about Manjiro's family's sad plight, Denzo welcomed him aboard a small fishing boat that he had borrowed from a friend. The crew consisted of Denzo, his two brothers, Goemon and Jusuke, his friend Toraemon, and Manjiro.
The group loaded the boat with rice, firewood, and drinking water, preparing to spend up to three days at sea. On the morning of January 5, 1841, they rowed thirty miles out and cast all the nets they had, but there wasn't a fish to be caught. At night, theyanchored near shore and slept fitfully until sunrise. The next day at sea proved equally disappointing, even when they tried their luck with rods and straw ropes strung with hooks. Again they lay at anchor for the night.
The third day, they ran into a school of mackerel. They were gleefully casting and filling their nets when the sky turned black. Before they could get ready to head in, walls of waves banged against their boat with such force that their oars and rudder were washed away. Then a ferocious wind attacked. It broke their mast and ripped their sail. The terrified crew expected to be dumped into the ocean. It was a miracle that the boat didn't capsize. Instead, it went on a wild ride, steered by wind and waves.
When night fell, sleet and freezing cold added to the group's agony. Their drenched clothes were frozen stiff. Icicles hung from their sleeves, sashes, and hair. Fortunately, the icicles, composed of freshwater, proved to be lifesavers. They sucked them, for their supply of drinking water had gone overboard. Sleet scraped from the boat also satisfied their thirst. And cold raw chunks of the mackerel they had caught halted their hunger.
Day after day, they clung to the sides of the boat, riding the swells of the sea, terrified, trembling from winter's cold, waiting for death to end their misery. At the mercy of water and wind, they helplessly rode the waves, not knowing when or where their lives would end.
The storm lasted one week without letup. On the eighth day, the ocean became calm, yet the disabled boat was carried forward by a strong underwater current. The fishermen felt as though they had fallen off the edge of the earth, for they could see nothing but sky and sea.
At noon, Denzo said he spotted an island floating on the horizon. Since the others didn't see it, they suspected that suffering had caused Denzo to hallucinate. But soon, land loomed ahead for everyone. They had sighted the island of Torishima, located more than three hundred miles from Japan. Using pieces of boards as oars, they rowed with all their might until the boat was about half a mile from shore. The island's steep cliffs looked forbidding.
Rocks and reefs just above the water's surface kept them from rowing closer. They were all paralyzed with fear. How could they land without crashing their craft? Rather than risk immediate action, they delayed decision by spending the night on board their battered boat. At daylight, they rowed around the island, looking in vain for a safe place to land. Because the shallow waters were spiked with rocks, they could not row to shore. Therefore, they decided to swim.
They jumped into the sea just minutes before their boat crashed against sharp rocks and was smashed to bits. All swam for their lives. Fright, and the fight for survival, supplied their bodies with unusual energy. Exhausted, and freezing from cold, they helped one another climb ashore.
Jusuke was in dreadful shape. His leg had been badly hurt by their boat's floating debris. But, despite severe pain, he joined the others, climbing a cliff to level land. Then all of them collapsed, glad to be on solid ground...
|An Isolated Empire||15|
|The Whaling Ship||25|
|A Japanese New Englander||39|
|A Crazed Captain||47|
|Digging for Gold||53|
|Home at Last||67|
|About the Illustrations||80|
|About the Author||80|
Posted March 20, 2013
Posted August 15, 2008
Posted December 6, 2008
No text was provided for this review.