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On Thursday, March 16, The Whaling Museum of New Bedford hosted a symposium on several of the local connections to Japan.  

Scott Ridley (author) gave an account of the voyage of Wareham's Capt. John Kendrick in 1791 which resulted in one of the earliest contacts between citizens of Japan and the USA at the port of Kushimoto.  

Gerry Rooney traced the voyage of Fairhaven's Capt. William Whitfield who rescued five Japanese fishermen on an island south of Tokyo in 1841 and brought the youngest, Manjiro, back to Fairhaven for his first education.  Thus, Manjiro became the first Japanese person to live in the USA.  

Dr. Perry recalled the role that his famous ancestor played in the re-opening of Japan to the outside world after 200+ years of closed isolationism.  

Hayato Sakurai reported on the preparations being made in Japan and the USA for the renovations of two museums in Japan to commemorate the historic relations between the two countries based on the accomplishments of seamen of our local area.

Consul General Rokuichiro Michii of Boston was the honorable guest.  

Angela Dunham of the Wareham Historical Society coordinated the entire event.


Note: Many student groups have visited the "Manjiro Trail" to experience the locations where Manjiro and Capt. Whitfield shared time and space. Contact us for your group's visit. Call 508-858-5303 or e-mail: Gerry@WMFriendshipHouse.org

Charlie Murphy greets the audience at the festival opening as Ayako translates.

Joining 105 year old Dr. Hinohara at the dining room reception at St. Luke's International Hospital are (L to R) Jeff Pierce, Gerry Rooney, Grace Davignon, Ayako Rooney, Junji Kitadai and Michael Silvia. At front-right is Hiroko Todoroki of the Center for International Exchange.  (Photo by Henry Mastey)


On August 14, Dr. Shigeaki Hinohara journeyed from Japan with 30 other visitors to the Cooke Memorial Park in Fairhaven to dedicate the cherry trees he had donated to the town. Also in attendance were Fairhaven Selectmen Dr. Brian Bowcock (chairman), Mr. Charles Murphy, Jr. and Mr. Robert Espindola as well as, Consul General and Mrs. Hikihara, Ms. Tomoko Nakahama, her daughter, Kei Konishi (5th generation descendant of Manjiro) and Gerry Rooney, President & CEO of the Whitfield-Manjiro Friendship Society. The group was joined by Mr. Junji Kitadai (Manjiro historian and current member of the Executive Committee of the Society) and six members of the Kochikenjinkai of New York.

During the earlier weeks 14 cherry trees had been planted in Fairhaven and New Bedford. One tree had been planted at each oif the following sites:
Fairhaven: Town Hall, Unitarian church, Academy building, Old Stone School, and Whitfield Gravesite at Riverside Cemetery. Three trees were planted in New Bedford (one in each of the major parks). The main cluster of six trees had been planted in the Cooke Memorial Park (corner of Pilgrim and Cherry streets, Fairhaven). Note: three additional trees are included to be planted next year at the site of the new Wood School in Fairhaven.

In his remarks Dr. Hinohara's stated, "...Japanese cherry trees were planted on the banks of the Potomac River in Washington, D.C. exactly 100 years ago as a token of friendship between two great nations. In the same spirit, we are happy today to be able to plant 17 cherry trees at meaningful places in Fairhaven and New Bedford. I sincerely hope these cherry trees will grow strong and bloom beautifully and become constant reminders of the spirit of Captain Whitfield and Manjiro."

The dedication ended with the presentation of a granite bench with plaque in Dr. Hinohara's honor from the Town of Fairhaven. The bench is located in the Cooke Memorial Park.

Bench monument plaque



Bench view to cherry trees

Dr. Hinohara's remarks.

Dr. Bowcock presents bench monument to Dr. Hinohara.


It was Saturday, October 29, but the traditional "Manjiro weather" was nowhere in sight.  Mayor Hijiya enthusiastically greeted the visitors from Fairhaven/New Bedford, Okinawa and various parts of Japan on a clear and sunny day.  It seemed that the whole city had turned out to make the day very special for all the visitors.  The Whitfield-Manjiro Friendship Society delegation included President Gerry Rooney, Vice-President Michael Silvia, Selectmen Chairman Charles Murphy, Cultural Advisor Ayako Rooney, local scrimshander Jeff Pierce, New Bedford educator Henry Mastey and Grace Davignon (Fairhaven High School sophomore who won the trip by being the winner of the Manjiro essay contest).

The three days of celebration on Shikoku Island were followed by four days of visiting other parts of Japan including being hosted to a reception party in Tokyo by the Society's 105 year old benefactor, Dr. Shigeaki Hinohara, who continues to amaze all by his schedule and activities.  


Twenty-nine students and two teachers from Uenomiya High School in Osaka made the annual visit to the Manjiro Trail on November 10.  The visit was enjoyed by visitors as well as the volunteer WMFS tour guides.  We look ahead to next year's group.


Grace reads her essay at the Manjiro Summit.


On May 7, 2009 Dr. Shigeaki Hinohara led a delegation of 100 supporters and an 8-piece orchestra to dedicate the home of Capt. William Whitfield which had been purchased and renovated through his incredible fund-raising efforts.

Left to right: Dr, Matthew Perry, 4th generation descendant of Commodore Perry, Gerry Rooney, Pres. & CEO of Whitfield-Manjiro Friendship Society, Angela Dunham, Pres. of Wareham Historical Society and event coordinator, Consul General Rokuichiro Michii of the Boston Japan Consulate, Scott Ridley, author of Morning of Fire (biography of Capt. John Kendrick) and Hayato Sakurai, Curator of Taiji Historical Archives in Japan.

Gerry Rooney, President of the Whitfield-Manjiro Friendship Society,
​greets the guests from near and far.