Aug 24, 2012

Hawaii in 1866 and 2012: "Mark Twain's Letters from Hawaii"

As I wrote in the previous entry, I visited Kauai Island, one of the Hawaiian Islands in this summer.

At a bookstore in Honolulu airport I bought the book "Mark Twain's Letters from Hawaii." I brought it everywhere I went during my visit to Kauai.

This book was written by Mark Twain in 1866. At that time he hadn't yet written any novel yet and he was a journalist. He took a trip to Hawaii islands and sent 25 articles to some newspapers in mainland America.

He observed astutely every side of Hawaii, nature, culture, society, industry, language, politics, and so on. Of course he had a great sense of humor and I really enjoyed reading it.

When I read it lying on the deck chair beside the pool in the hotel where I stayed, I went back to Hawaii in 1866.

In 1867 the Meiji Restoration occurred in Japan. The Edo Bakuhu, which was a regime ruled by the Samurai, was overturned, and Japan had became to be a modern nation state. One of the biggest causes of the Meiji Restoration was the visit of Matthew C. Perry's fleet of the U.S. Navy to Japan asking the Edo Bakuhu to open the country, because the U.S. Navy, American whalers, and shipping companies wanted to have bases in the eastern Pacific.

In this book, Mark Twain wrote about the whaling industry and shipping in the Pacific at that time in exact detail and I could understand the background of Japanese history much more than before.

In 1866, Hawaii was the Kingdom of Hawaii, which had been at the mercy of the imperialistic countries. Now, of course, Hawaii is a state of the U.S. The history of Hawaii reminds me Okinawa, Japan.

The Kingdom of Hawaii was established in 1810 by Kamehameha the Great with the help of western weapons and advisors, so it was deeply influenced by Western culture. For example, the flag of the Kingdom of Hawaii was the combination of the flags of British, French, and U.S. (, and now it is the flag of the state of Hawaii.), and some ministers were assumed by American, English, and French people.

In 1866, Okinawa, the southernmost part of Japanese islands, was the Kingdom of Ryukyu, which was formally an independent country. It had been at the mercy of China and Japan, and in 1879 it was annexed to be part of Japan. From 1945 to 1972 Okinawa was occupied by U.S. army, and it's no wonder that Okinawa could be like Guam, which is the unincorporated territory of the U.S, now.

I love Hawaii and Okinawa, so I visit there frequently. Though I love Hawaii in present times, I am thankful to Mark Twain for making it possible for me to to enjoy a Hawaii long gone, Hawaii in 1866.

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