When he was a young boy, Manjiro Nakahama ran away from his home in a poor Japanese fishing village. Joining up with some fishermen who took him under their wing, one of their fishing excursions soon turned into a disaster, stranding them on a deserted island. As they awaited their rescue, he had no idea he was about to say goodbye to his country for two decades and hello to what would lead to adventures on whaling ships, tropical islands, and even a life in America. Or that he would someday grow up to be the man responsible for opening the door between Japan and the rest of the world.
The New Bedford Samurai is an amazing and true story in a narrative setting. I’ve read quite a bit of Japanese literature, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover author Anca Vlasopolos’ book reads very much in the Japanese style. The writing has an almost fable-like quality, something I’ve often felt while reading a Japanese novel, and this style works well here, as Manjiro lived a life that could only have come from either a wild imagination or complete truth. One simply cannot read this book and wonder why we haven’t heard of Nakahama before. Vlasopolos has certainly brought forth a story long awaiting a writer to share it.
It is evident Vlasopolos did extensive research for this book, and she even mentions traveling to Japan to do so. Manjiro Nakahama’s life was complex, spanning many countries and major world events, and she takes you through every fascinating corner. She not only provides the reader with a story of a man that had to be shared, she manages to include a look into how the ways of today’s world have affected the environment. The reader will ponder not only how the attitudes of yesterday have impacted the earth of today, but how today’s attitudes will impact our future as well.
Read an excerpt of The New Bedford Samurai.