Sunday, May 9, 2010

Kaiwo Maru Leaves San Francisco After Commemoration of 150th Anniversary of First Japanese Vessel to Visit City and First Japanese Embassy to Visit America

Carrying over 400 goodwill messages from children in San Francisco to children in Japan, the captain and crew of the Kaiwo Maru sailed out of the bay this afternoon.

Several hundred people gathered on Pier 27 for a closing ceremony that marked the end of a commemorative visit celebrating the 150th anniversary of the first Japanese vessel to sail to the city, and the first visit of a Japanese embassy to America.

A member of the Japanese parliament, Mr
Taro Kono, flew into the city this morning to attend the ceremony, and a symposium on the anniversary that is taking place tomorrow.

He described the anniversary as 'a very good bridge between Japan and the US' and said he hoped the Japanese community in California would continue to be a bridge between the two countries.
(pic of Mr Kono in blue cap with Mr Steve Matsuura, Co-Chair of the anniversary committee, as they watch the ship depart)

Over 2,000 people toured the ship yesterday and saw a poster exhibition, Captain Makoto Inui said. On behalf of his crew and cadets, he said, 'We will
never forget such a warm-hearted hospitality....I don't say "goodbye", I say, "See you!"'

San Francisco's Consul General of Japan, Yasumasa Nagamine, said, 'This has been an extraordinary, magnificent five days.' Stretched before him on the pier wall was art work from schoolchildren in the city, and Japanese drummers, Maikaze Daiko, had earlier fascinated the crowd with an energetic performance.

Without the visit of the Kanrin Maru in 1860 and the accompanying delegation of Japanese ambassadors, San Francisco's Japantown 'would probably not have existed,' it was said during the ceremony. Part of the purpose of the commemoration was to deepen the friendship between the two countries.

Cultural events have been held, the city welcomed the arrival of the Kaiwo Maru on Friday with a presentation of a plaque and photo, and receptions have been held on board the ship and in the Consulate of Japan. Hundreds of schoolchildren have also been involved and had entered an art competition, which focussed on the anniversary, and friendship between Japan and the US.

The Kaiwo Maru is a four-masted, 361 ft training ship. Her visit commemorated the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the Kanrin Maru on March 17, 1860, and travelling as a passenger on board was a descendant of the orignal crew.

Acting as escort for three Japanese ambassadors on board the USS Powhatan in 1860, the battered ship arrived three days ahead of the US Navy ship that had had to stop for repairs in Hawaii.

The ambassadors travelled on to Washington and ratified the Treaty of Friendship, Commerce, and Navigation with President James Buchanan.

The visit of the Kaiwo Maru, said the Consul General, would be remembered for many years and had been 'one of the best highlights of this commemorative year.' The crew, he added, had had fun in the city playing basketball and dancing. (pic of the Consul General presenting an art award)

Co-Chair of the anniversary committee, Mr Allen Okamoto, told Captain Inui, 'Your ship is absolutely special, your crew is a delight, and you have an open invitation to return to San Francisco anytime.'

The art competition involved drawings, paintings and posters depicting the Kanrin Maru, the Kaiwo Maru and the ocean. Winners of the Consul General Award and the Captain's Award were presented with certificates.

 A winner of both awards, for a delicate pencil sketch of the Kaiwo Maru with the Bay Bridge in the background, was 15-year-old Fumi.

'I think it's a really good thing that the US and Japan are really good friends and not having a war. We were having a war but now we're friends,' said Fumi, who will be taking an art class next year.

The ship sailed about 4 pm, her crew skimming up the ropes to stand on the rigging for a final goodbye as two American Navy tugs pulled her gently from the dockside. Then, with red and white flag streaming from behind, and the crew scrambling back onto the deck, she was escorted out of the bay by the tugs and a Coast Guard boat.

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