Opening Reception: Enlightened Encounters – The Two Nations of Manjiro Nakahama

Companion Exhibition – The East Unlocks its Gates: American Whalers and Trade in Asia

Sunday, October 8, 2017
5:30 pm – 6:30 pm
Free and open to the public

Enlightened Encounters

Enlightened Encounters: The Two Nations of Manjiro Nakahama will explore the remarkable life and influence of Manjiro Nakahama (1827-1898). Manjiro was the first Japanese person to live in and learn English in the U.S. after his rescue at sea in 1841 by the John Howland, a New Bedford whaleship. Upon returning to his homeland, Manjiro helped facilitate its opening to American relations in 1854. Through his understanding of navigation and seamanship, he also helped build Japan’s first ocean-going vessels. 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. The Museum’s Japan collections span two significant categories. The first category pertains to Manjiro, Yankee whaling and the opening of Japan. The collections around this subject, particularly the Mercator Cooper manuscript collection, and the Cooper Family Papers address this subject significantly. Among the treasures collected by Cooper was a 19th century map of Japan, the first such map ever to be seen in the U.S. Another significant piece is the “Perry Exhibition Tusk,” by Midshipman Edward Yourke McCauley. This is an extraordinary piece that transcends both whaling and naval tradition to document the Perry Expedition in a unique art work. Learn more

The East Unlocks its Gates: American Whalers and Trade in Asia

This companion exhibition to Enlightened Encounters focuses on the broader connections between the eastern seaboard of America and Asia. Drawing from its permanent collections, the Museum presents a deep look at relationships built between American whalers and merchants and the East.

The East Unlocks its Gates: American Whalers and Trade in Asia 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. Several American seaports specialized in trade with Asia. Merchants in Salem, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore all had significant investments in China, India, and the East Indies. By the 1830s prominent New Bedford and Fairhaven whaling merchants expanded their interest beyond the whaling industry and engaged in the China Trade. Come learn about the fascinating connections between Asian and Pacific maritime cultures and New Bedford in this exhibition. Learn more

The 16th Annual Manjiro Festival

Saturday, October 7
10 am – 4 pm
Downtown Fairhaven
Free and open to the public

The exhibition was timed to celebrate the 2017 centennial of the America-Japan Society, which plays a crucial role in maintaining the relationship between America and Japan. It is also 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.

The Whitfield-Manjiro Friendship Society proudly hosts the annual Japanese-American festival commemorating Manjiro Nakahama and the Sister City agreement. There was Japanese and American music and food, martial arts demonstrations, taiko drummers, flower arranging, raffles, Japanese items plus 30 food and craft booths, a tea ceremony, and much more! Free admission to the festival, a bus tour of the Manjiro Trail, Captain Whitfield’s house, and the Old Stone School House.


Manjiro Festival Dinner

Sunday, October 8
6:30 pm – 9:00 pm
This ticketed event followed the exhibition opening.
Whitfield-Manjiro Friendship Society