WMU 30th Anniversary Celebrations
Old City Hall, Malmö
Speech by Koji Sekimizu
Secretary-General, International Maritime Organization
23 November 2013
Your Excellencies, Representatives of the Government of Sweden, Mayor of the City of Malmö, Secretary-General Emeritus, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to say a few words on this very special occasion to celebrate 30 years of activities of the World Maritime University.
The World Maritime University is celebrating its 30th anniversary and I consider it a privilege to be able to play a part in this celebration.
At this occasion of celebration of the University, I would like to share with you a story which is close to the idea of education in international fields.
Recently, I visited a house in Fairhaven in Massachusetts. A House where the first Japanese stayed in the United States 170 years ago. It is a story of a Japanese boy, called Manjiro, and a whaleship Captain Whitfield.
In 1841, 172 years ago, a fishing vessel was shipwrecked at an island in Pacific ocean and a boy called Manjiro at age 14 survived. He was rescued by Captain Whitfield on whaleship John Howland, because they came to this island to collect sea birds eggs. The boy was among four fishermen rescued and except Manjiro, they all stayed in Hawaii.
Captain Whitfield found something very bright in Manjiro and took him with him and returned to Fairhaven in Massachusetts, two years later. At that time Manjiro was age 16 years.
Capt Whitfield gave education to Manjiro in Fairhaven. He was the first Japanese trained in the United States as a seafarer on board whaleship Franklin. In 1848, at age 21, Manjiro achieved the rank of Harpooner; in 1849, at age 22, he went to join the California gold rush, and made a small amount of gold to buy the small boat Adventure; and in 1851, Manjiro returned to Japan.
At that time, Japan was closed under Tokugawa Samurai Government and he was investigated for nearly one year, but forgiven to escape from the death sentence and even became Samurai class serving the Tokugawa Shogunate.
In 1853, Commodore Perry came to Tokyo bay with Black Ship. The black smoke, which puffed off the steam ship, was the reason for this name. In 1854, the First Japan US Peace Treaty was signed and Japan opened up to the world. Manjiro's knowledge about the US society and advanced technology played a major contributing factor for the decision to open Japan to the United States. In 1854, Manjiro translated Bowditch's American practical Navigator; in 1856, Manjiro built a western style sailing ship; and in 1857, he prepared a Practical English Guide.
What is really remarkable is that, in 1860, when Manjiro was age 33, he navigated the Pacific Ocean on board Kamrinmaru to send the First Japanese Embassy to the United States for ratification of the first Japan-US Treaty.
After the 1868 Meiji restoration, he became a Professor of the University of Tokyo and contributed to the process of modernization and industrialization of Japan. Manjiro's education and training in the United States contributed to Meiji Restoration opening up Japan and allowed Japan to progress in modernization and industrialization.
Captain Whitfield's ability to find capacity and brightness in the 14-year old Japanese boy, and Manjiro's passion and courage to explore the new world, the courage and desire of Manjiro to learn something from an advanced country, the United States, are essential parts of this remarkable story.
The ability of Captain Whitfield to see Manjiro's capacity and willingness; and the kindness and generosity of Captain Whitfield to arrange an education in the United States is very close to hearts of anybody who is involved in education and capacity building
The Unitarian Church in Fairhaven where Manjiro was accepted is now converted into the Headquarters of Northeast Maritime Institute, a leading seafarers’ training institute in the United States.
In celebration of the 30 years of WMU, I wanted to share this story with you.
I hope that WMU will produce many many more Manjiros in many developing countries in the coming thirty years.