Visitor reinforces link between Wareham, Japan

Originally published in the Wareham Courier/Wicked Local Wareham, and included here with permission. Click here to view the original article. Our thanks to the Wareham Courier for their coverage of community issues in Wareham!

By Chris Shott

Posted Oct. 15, 2015 at 1:41 PM

WAREHAM – You just never know who’s going to stop in town for a visit.

On a recent gray and blustery Saturday afternoon, members of the Wareham Historical Society hosted the representative of a Japanese community with ancient connections to Wareham at the Captain John Kendrick Maritime Museum on Main Street for an “unofficial” visit and tour of the facility. The purpose of the get-together was for the Japanese museum keeper to continue his research in the United States in preparation for a major historical commemoration in Kushimoto, Japan.

unnamedHayato Sakurai is curator of the Tajii Historical Archives in Wakayama, Japan, and was formerly employed for several years at the New Bedford Whaling Museum. He is visiting America at the behest of Katsumasa Tashima, mayor of Kushimoto, who is seeking to enhance that community’s 225th commemoration in 2016 of the expedition of Captain Jonathan Kendrick of Wareham to Japan (and ultimately that nation’s entry into the international community) with historical documents and artifacts.

Sakurai appeared in Wareham on Saturday, Oct. 3, along with Jonathan Olly, Ph.D. of Providence, a public historian and research fellow at the Newport (R.I.) Restoration Foundation. They were joined by author Scott Ridley, whose book titled “Morning of Fire” detailed Kendrick’s travels to Japan.

Sakurai was greeted warmly by WHS President Angela Dunham, Vice President Mary Hull and members Mac Phinney and Cathy Phinney, who all offered him their support and cooperation. Sakurai said Mayor Tashima had asked him “to commence exploration of artifacts dealing with Captain Kendrick and to study the 1791 event to tie it into next year’s commemoration.”

“This is an unofficial visit,” Sakurai said. “I am here to see if there is anything I can bring back to Kushimoto” in preparation for next year’s festivities.

Kendrick captained the Lady Washington in 1791 when it docked in Kushimoto to open trade relations, a full six decades before U.S. Commodore Matthew Perry visited Japan and is historically credited for opening diplomatic relations with that nation. Although Ridley said Kendrick’s saga “is lost in history,” he is considered by most historians to be the first American to display the Stars and Stripes in Japan.

Ridley said Kendrick exhibited “incredible audacity” in making contact with the Japanese people at a time when that nation was considered off-limits except to minimal access to representatives of The Netherlands. Ridley also said Kendrick was a “nefarious character,” winning considerable acclaim for his exploits as a privateer for the fledgling United States during the American Revolutionary War.

The Kendrick family lived for a lengthy period on Main Street at the current site of the Kendrick Museum. Ridley said Kendrick purchased the property with proceeds he received from the King of France for commandeering British ships during the Revolutionary War.

Sakurai was granted a tour of the Kendrick Museum by Dunham and the other WHS volunteers and presented with some printed materials for the Kushimoto exhibition next year. The locals also shared their experiences of last year’s “Summer of Celebration” commemoration in Wareham and suggested that he relay those reminisces to his Japanese sponsors.

The Captain Jonathan Kendrick Maritime Museum is located at 124 Main St. and is one of four properties in Wareham overseen by the Historical Society. The museum is open for most of the year by invitation only.

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