September 26, 2017

Two new exhibitions explore life of Manjiro Nakahama and America/Japan relations

Enlightened Encounters and The East Unlocks its Gates open October 8, 2017

New Bedford, Mass. – During a year when America and Japan mark the centennial of the America-Japan Society, a new exhibition at the New Bedford Whaling Museum explores the remarkable life and influence of Manjiro Nakahama (1827-1898), the first Japanese person known to have been educated in the United States. Shipwrecked off the coast of Japan in 1841, Manjiro was rescued by the crew of a New Bedford whaleship. He spent a decade in America or working as a whaler before returning to Japan, where he played an important role in establishing relations between the two countries. Enlightened Encounters: The Two Nations of Manjiro Nakahama opens on Sunday, October 8, 2017 with a reception from 5:30 to 6:30 pm at the Whaling Museum. This event is free and open to the public. Registration is recommended. Register at or 508-997-0046.

A companion exhibition running concurrently with Enlightened Encounters also opens on October 8. The East Unlocks its Gates: American Whalers and Trade in Asia examines the broader connections between the eastern seaboard of America and Asia. The exhibition explores the lucrative trade in hard goods between New Bedford merchants and the treaty ports of China, route-finding through the East Indies, and the story of American whalers and the opening of commerce with Japan.

Manjiro’s story is both a gripping historical narrative and a personification of larger humanities themes, including globalization of commerce and the benefits of cultural exchange. Manjiro’s influence opened the doors to a rich exchange of ideas, cultural practices, literature, and art between the U.S. and Japan.

Enlightened Encounters is timed to coincide with the 2017 centennial of the America-Japan Society, which was founded by U.S. and Japanese intellectuals to pursue educational and cultural exchanges between the two countries, and the 16th Annual Manjiro Festival, hosted by the Whitfield-Manjiro Friendship Society in New Bedford, Massachusetts. This year also marks the 190th anniversary of Manjiro’s birth and the 30th anniversary of the Sister City agreement between Fairhaven/New Bedford, and Manjiro's home town of Tosashimizu.

On October 7 the Whitfield-Manjiro Friendship Society hosts the Manjiro Festival commemorating Manjiro Nakahama and the Sister City agreement. The festival runs from 10 am to 4 pm in downtown Fairhaven, Massachusetts.

The Manjiro Festival Dinner will be held at the Museum at 6:30 pm on Sunday, October 8, following the exhibition opening. For more details and ticketing information about the dinner contact Gerry Rooney, President and CEO of the Whitfield-Manjiro Friendship Society at or call 508-858-5303.

For images contact:
Tina Malott
Director of Marketing & Public Relations
New Bedford Whaling Museum

Woodblock print triptych on paper  Shinagawa Oki no Kujira Takanawa yori Mita Zu (Seeing the whale in Shinagawa Bay at Takanawa). Shuntei Katsukawa, c. 1798. Woodblock print on paper, 15 1/4 x 31 ½ in. Gift of the Kendall Whaling Museum.


detail of painting titled Houquas Garden (detail) Houqua’s Garden. Anonymous Chinese Artist, c. 1850. Oil on canvas mounted on Masonite, 26 x 44 in.

About the New Bedford Whaling Museum
The New Bedford Whaling Museum is the world's most comprehensive museum devoted to the global story of human interaction with whales through time, and the history and culture of the South Coast region. The cornerstone of New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, the Museum is located at 18 Johnny Cake Hill in the heart of the city's historic downtown. Museum hours: April through December, daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; January through March, Tuesday – Saturday 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Admission is free for Museum members and children aged three and under; adults $17, seniors (65+) $15, students (19+) $10, child and youth $7. For more information visit