FAIRHAVEN, Mass. (Kyodo) A home in Fairhaven, Mass., has opened as a museum dedicated to one of its early inhabitants, John Manjiro, the first Japanese to live in America.

An opening ceremony was held Thursday with about 200 people from Japan and the United States attending.

Manjiro Nakahama, more commonly known as John Manjiro, resided in the home in the mid-19th century.

The home belonged to William Whitfield, captain of a whaler that rescued Manjiro, a shipwrecked fisherman, in 1841 in the Pacific.

A Japanese civic group led by Shigeaki Hinohara, a noted terminal-care physician, collected donations to open the three-story, wood-framed Captain Whitfield-Manjiro Friendship Memorial House, which faces the Atlantic Ocean.

“We want the memorial house to serve as a reminder of John Manjiro and Capt. Whitfield and become a symbol of friendship between Japan and the United States,” Hinohara said in a speech at the opening ceremony.

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick sent congratulatory remarks for the opening of the museum.

After learning that the Whitfield house had fallen into disrepair and was due to be auctioned, Hinohara, chairman of the board of directors at St. Luke’s International Hospital in Tokyo, and other well-wishers began collecting donations and acquired the house in November 2007 for about ¥50 million.

Manjiro was born in a fishing village in what is now Tosashimizu, Kochi Prefecture, in 1827. In early 1841, he and four other fishermen were caught in a storm at sea and stranded on a small island. Six months later, they were rescued by Whitfield’s whale ship, the John Howland. Manjiro’s four shipmates were set ashore at Honolulu but Manjiro chose to return with the captain to America.

Manjiro arrived in Fairhaven in May 1843 and spent his first night in Fairhaven at the Whitfield home. In 1987, Emperor Akihito — then the Crown Prince — and his wife, Michiko, visited the house to honor the memory of Manjiro’s rescuer.

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