Lesley Downer

East Meets West

Pacific Cosmopolitans: A Cultural History of US–Japan Relations


Harvard University Press 315pp £36.95 order from our bookshop

In 1848 a half-British, half-Chinook Indian called Ranald MacDonald decided he wanted to be the first American to breach the hermit kingdom of Japan. The only Westerners allowed into Japan at the time were Dutch traders. He jumped ship off Hokkaido, the northern main island, set himself adrift and, when a Japanese coastal boat passed, overturned his barque, assuming that the Japanese would rescue him and take him to Japan. Unfortunately they didn’t see him. When he eventually washed up on Japanese soil, he was arrested immediately. He was shipped back to America, dispirited, after seven months in Japanese prisons, and his account of his experiences was only published posthumously, in 1923.

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