Jan 12, 2011

A Strange Destiny of an Interpreter in the End of the Edo Era

I read Mayuko Sano's book "Alcock in Edo". In this book she wrote about Sir Rutherford Alcock who was the UK's first minister in Japan, and arrived in Edo at the end of the Edo Era. I found a person in this book who appeared in Ryutaro Iwao's book "Robinson of the End of Edo Era" (http://goo.gl/ilHd6). He is Einosuke Moriyama, an interpreter working in the End of the Edo Era.

The book "Robinson of the End of Edo Era" and the previous book "Robinson in the Edo Era" cover stories of drifters from Japan. But chapter 3 in this book covers a story of Ranald MacDonald, an American who tried to visit to Japan by pretending to drift.

Ranald MacDonald, whose father was a Caucasian and mother was a Native American, had anguish about his own identity. He ran away from his home, and roamed around. Then he planned to visit to Japan where the Edo government had closed the country at that time.

Since the Edo government had diplomatic relations only with China, Korea, Ryukyu and the Netherlands, he who had US citizenship could not enter Japan in the legitimate way. So he pretended to be shipwrecked in the sea around Japan, and succeeded in landing in Hokkaido, the northern region of Japan.

Ranald MacDonald was arrested, sent to Nagasaki where there was the only open port in Japan, and interrogated by the Edo government. At that time there were only interpreters between Dutch and Japanese in Japan, and no one could speak English. While Ranald MacDonald had been interrogated for three months, he taught Dutch interpreters English. One of these students was Einosuke Moriyama.

In the book "Alcock in Edo" Mayuko Sano wrote that there were just two people who could speak English in Edo when Alcock arrived there. Two of them were this Einosuke Moriyama and John Mung, who was also covered in"Robinson of the End of Edo Era". So Einosuke Moriyama attended almost all meetings between the Edo government and Alcock, and Alcock was getting to trust him very much.

The most significant diplomatic achievement which Alcock made was arranging the mission of the Edo government to Europe. He recommended Einosuke Moriyama as a member of this mission, and traveled with Einosuke Moriyama to Europe. Alcock wrote that Einosuke Moriyama was able to talk with Dutch people fluently and also communicate with English people enough.

Ranald MacDonald who had a complicated origin of the Caucasian and the Native American tried to smuggle himself into Japan, whoes government had closed the country at that time, and taught Japanese people English. After that one of his students made a big contribution to promoting the relationship between the UK and the Edo government. In the end he gained the trust of the UK's minister, and traveled with him to Europe.

What a strange destiny this is!

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