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The New Bedford Samurai
cover artwork © 2007 Rick Lieder.





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The New Bedford Samurai
Non-fiction novel

Anca Vlasopolos


Chapter One

How It Began (for Manjiro): Rice Husking


The large shadow fell across him. The wind was whipping up the chill off the expanse of waters outside the bay and spewing it here, over them. The boy hated the way the shadow stood between him and the sun, cutting off his chance at getting warm. He had resented that wide shadow from the first, when he felt it fall over his mother's bowed back and himself, a mere child still clutching to her though trying to be the man of the house now that his father was dead. He wasn't officially eldest son, but Etsuke, his adopted brother, already a young man, could be led by the nose by anyone and often was.

The shadow spoke. It had the tone of men speaking to a woman not of their household, a woman by rule beneath them, in this case even lower, a dependent. This was not shocking, but the boy still bristled at it.

"I have found you a bit of work drying the fish. The boy will husk rice. I need him to pay attention to his work, not look out to sea and dream with his eyes open."

"Thank you. We are in your care," Shio answered, her voice so soft as hardly to rise over the fanning in the building where the bonito was being dried.

The smell of fish drying before fires, smoke fanned out, made Manjiro's mouth water. He felt hunger pains, a daily, sometimes hourly sensation. Never enough fish, enough meat for bones that wanted to grow, he could feel them, to grow so big that he would out-shadow their so-called benefactor, the rich merchant whose power with the lords made him impervious even to the village heads' authority.

The man took his leave, Manjiro and his mother bowing repeatedly to his retreating presence. Shio turned to her son.

"Manjiro, do mind what Imazu-san said to you. We need the work to keep us all from hunger. You have two sisters to think of. And Etsuke's doing his best, hauling the nets to and from harbor."

"I want to haul nets, too, Mother."

"You're too small. Etsuke does man's work. When you get bigger."

"Do you think I'll grow bigger, Mother? I'm fourteen already. I don't think I'll get as big as Father was."

His mother sighed and said nothing. She knew her children were not getting enough to eat. Manjiro had been in a fair way until his eighth year, when his father had died. After that, the fish they ate almost daily had disappeared, and they eked out a living on this harsh coast, where having a rice paddy meant carving out a terrace from the stone of the mountains.

"Run to Imazu-san's warehouse and see where the overseer wants you to husk the rice, my boy," she said. "I'll see you this evening. If I can get them, there'll be a few pieces of fish in our rice tonight."

Manjiro sprinted away. Shio looked after him, her brow furrowing. A bright, energetic child, needing a father's hand more than her other children put together. How would she guide him into the life of an honorable man? She feared for him, was already oppressed by the sensible adult questions he put to her, insistently, with the obtuseness of a child about their dangerous improprieties. She shrugged and turned toward the path to her job. If only she could collect some discarded pieces of smoked fish.

Manjiro made his way down the narrow muddy streets, fenced small yards on both sides fronting ramshackle houses with thick thatch roofs. Years later, many a traveler would find them picturesque, photograph them with a large box camera, show them in European and American drawing rooms, black-and-white, sepia, sometimes hand-tinted and thereby made dreamy, these habitations of people who lived by the bounty of the sea and the stinginess of the land. Fruit trees struggled for light. Fishing nets were strung out to dry, to be mended. Buoys sprawled against the walls, the ground. Stray cats, with eyes, ears, other body parts missing, hung around hoping that the small silver fish, the aji, drying on the tips of branches would be blown off by the strong ocean winds. But the humans who had impaled them had been equally mindful of each precious morsel, and the fish swung on trees in the breeze as if this small village were an underwater world, where humans moved alongside schools of finned beings.

The boy got to the warehouse. He was shown the implements he knew well--a bucket for the rice, the grinding tool and the wooden lever to which it was attached. The contraption looked like a long-necked sea bird, dipping its beak into a fisherman's basket. Manjiro had to move the lever back and forth so that the wide wooden beak inside the bucket pressed the rice between itself and the walls, and the rice was gently husked, turned to the precious white kernels that were the measure of wealth, the standard currency of the empire. Manjiro began his work. After a good hour's steady labor, his hunger-ridden body tired of the movement and his mind of the monotony. He thought of something, so exciting that he nearly jumped off the ledge of the platform where he was working: perhaps by gathering pebbles and placing them in the bucket, he would be able to speed up the grinding. The friction would be that much greater, and maybe he'd get through the sacks of rice in no time. Then he could walk down to the sea and watch the men and the boats.

Trembling with fatigue and excitement, he started looking for the right-size stones. He carefully selected a handful of round small pebbles of almost equal size. He was grateful for once for a land that yielded stones aplenty, in short order, so he could finish his project before the overseer came to check on the yield. He put the pebbles in the bucket and began grinding away, feeling the rice give way much more easily under the double pressure of wood and stone. He was elated. An invention! His own! He would keep the secret for a while and husk a whole lot of rice in no time. Then he would share it with everyone. He would be honored by the state for having improved the hard labor essential to everyone's staple food, to life itself. Smiling in triumph, he ground and ground till he felt no more resistance. He went to the bucket. The rice had been much more efficiently ground, that much was true, but ground to a white powder, fine enough to use on a lady's face. And just his luck, the overseer was heading his way. Manjiro sat stock still while the man bent over the bucket, then let out a shout. Several workers gathered to look at Manjiro's bucket. They broke out in laments. Manjiro was trying to edge himself out of his corner amid the small crowd when a heavy hand descended upon his nape.

"This is how you repay me for having taken fatherly care of you all these years? You ungrateful, miserable boy. You can never do your work like other people. You misfit! Get out. I'll take the loss of this weight of grain from your mother's wages. We'll see how happy you've made her when she hears of this."

To Manjiro it seemed as if Imazu would never stop shouting, as if the stinging remorse he felt would descend from his throat into his heart and shred it. He had no words to say--it was an experiment; it didn't work, but if it had, it would have revolutionized the long, tedious labor of rice husking; it was worth the risk. He simply stood, silent and alone, in the shadow of the man shaming him in front of the villagers, making them all see what a bad son he was, what a burden to his already impoverished and unfortunate family, without a father, with an eldest son not quite right in the head, with younger daughters who would need a great deal of luck to marry well.

And then the grossest humiliation--Imazu struck him.

Manjiro felt his eyes fill with tears, and he took off with all the strength left in his body. He ran toward the only place of solace he knew, the beach, the vastness of waters before him, the untrammeled vista. People in trouble often made for the mountains, hid there for a time, even took off for another fiefdom, but the boy had always looked to the ocean as the consolation for the smallness of the rooms, and the houses, and the alleys, and the patterns of so many of his kind. What would he do now? With the absoluteness of adolescence, he knew he could never go home. He had been struck in public by a man not his father, by a man who wasn't even noble, or made or grew anything, by someone casting a large shadow just because he traded well and was rich. His mother would be sorrowing in her quiet way, looking at him with eyes filled with disappointment, despair. He kept walking along the beach, farther and farther, he himself not knowing where to.

The afternoon was far advanced. Would he spend the night sheltered against the rocks that fronted the beach? A giant, prolonged sigh rose from the bamboo forest behind him. The sea heaved slowly before him, like the deep breath of sleep. He decided. It was irrevocable, like seppuku, an act of honor to which he, however, was not entitled. But he could swim off, to places unknown. If he died, he would relieve his family of shame and an unworthy mouth to feed. He plunged into the chill waters. He swam with sure, even strokes taught him when just an infant by his father, but he knew he could not keep them up long on the half-cup of rice and water that had been his only meal. So much the better. He would drown, perhaps be devoured by the creatures of the sea, perhaps be spewed up by the ocean somewhere far away, where people would mistake him for a lost fisherman, and his remains would be disposed of decently, not left prey to the scavengers. He felt himself being borne along by the strong coastal currents and let himself drift.

As dark fell upon the waters, despite his fantasy of heroics, the boy felt the strong prompting of the body to live another day. He rode the waves without fighting the water, as he'd been well taught, letting the sea be his friend, cast him slowly, rollingly, as if he were driftwood, back onto land. It was windy and cold as he rose from the surf. He ran to the bottom of the cliffs, where the wind was somewhat blocked. He found a small dent, not quite a cave, but sufficient to keep his whole body out of the slaps and jars of gusts on his soaked clothes. He curled up and slept without dreams, the sleep of deep bodily need that keeps out the fangs of worry.

In the morning, the sun was out, and with a good night's sleep restoring his wiry frame, Manjiro felt happy for his previous day's adventure and looking forward to what the new day would bring. He went searching the shore. From his years of hunger, he knew where to look for small living things he could feed on. He used rocks to break open mollusks and savored their strong sea taste. But they only made him thirsty, and he looked around for a source of fresh water. He kept walking on the beach nearly the whole morning before getting to a small channel that carried a trickle of water from the hills to the sea. He drank and drank. He rested. He drank again. When he'd had his fill, he plunged into the ocean again, easing himself into the jade-green water, using as little of his strength as he could, waiting to see where the deeper, dark-blue would take him, nostrils breathing avidly, lungs filling with exhilaration at the vast unknown before him.


Chapter Two

From Usa, Fishing the Pacific


The village heads conferred. Usa was abuzz with the news of the boy washed ashore the other night. After their council, which dealt with many more things than a skinny young boy who seemed not even to remember where he came from, the leaders acquiesced to Denzo's charitable plan of taking the boy with him and his crew and teaching him fishing. The boy would earn his keep and learn a skill that would stand him in good stead anywhere in the Tosa province, along the long southwestern coast of Shikoku.

"Luck is with you, Manjiro. You have a lucky name, meant for survival," Denzo told the boy, pleased with the approval of the council and, alas, more importantly, the permission of Tokuemon, the wealthy merchant who loaned out fishing boats for a large share of the take.

Denzo looked at the boy, who was showing all his teeth in a grin from ear to ear. Not much hidden on this young face. Manjiro already looked better, less like a drowned cat. The way Denzo had found him--nearly dead, covered in sand, with scratches bleeding and fresh bruises on his skinny thighs and legs, and cold as a fish--he didn't think the youngster would last the night. But he took the boy on his back and carried him to his aunt's house, where they bathed him and gave him fish broth and tea, and the boy's eyes began to focus and even, by morning, sparkle. That left Denzo shaking his head at the marvelous powers of recovery in the young. The boy seemed no more than eleven, but when he could speak coherently, he told them he was fourteen, only a year younger than Denzo's own youngest brother, Goemon. Good, Denzo thought, they'll make friends, and Goemon will show him how to handle the long poles and help store the fish.

The harbor in Usa was on the open sea, not sheltered by rocky mountains rising out of the water. There was a multitude of fishing boats. The merchant's fleet consisted of boats twenty-four-feet long, with tiny rudders and a stick of a mast, from which a rectangular sail, about the size of a throw rug, was attached by thin cords. Two small oars on each side, buckets for bailing and storing the catch, and a bench in the middle made up the rest. The waters were fine, not quite warm. The confluence of the Black Current--Kuro Shio--and the coastal waters made for a rich mix of fish schools and sea turtles. At Cape Muroto, the villagers had even set up a watch hut from which they'd spot whales, and when they called out, the village would sail toward the spouts, armed with lances and spears, and try its luck at bringing in an animal that could feed the whole village and whose parts--meat, fat, and bones--could be exchanged with the neighboring villages for specialized goods. As the inhabitants of the coast well knew, luck was what mattered most for success in hunting whales, much the same as in fishing or turtle taking. That was why along the footpaths of the coast stood ancient, sacred wind-carved stones: a huge turtle-shaped rock, which brought luck; another, on which you could set a tiny cairn that brought blessings upon your parents; fungus growing out from the temple grounds trees, that looked like frogs, which you would touch, water, and feed with a coin.

Denzo well knew how much of a burden another mouth to feed was to his uncle's family, who had been kind enough to take the stray boy in. Of course, the boy would bring his small share of the fish back to them, but that was counting the present hardship against future, and uncertain, gain. So he resolved to have his two brothers, Jusuke and Goemon, and another villager, Toraemon, a strong and useful if sharp-tongued man, get provisions on board for an extended fishing trip, Manjiro's first venture out into open waters.

The supplies were routine: a sack of rice, kindling and firewood, fresh water, fishing gear. Manjiro was given a pair of trousers and a tunic, a head band and a sash by various members of Denzo's extended family. The trousers had been Goemon's, and they were comically large on Manjiro, but the rest did very well, since his own tattered clothes had become useless after his days and nights of swimming and sheltering along the coast, before he was washed, unconscious, onto the sands of Usa.

The day they set out was brisk and clear. The wind took them west, and they sailed to one fishing ground, then put to on the beach, where they grilled fish and boiled rice. Manjiro thought that was the best meal he'd tasted in his entire life. On the boat, Toraemon had yelled at him for not paying sufficient attention to the lines, and Denzo had more kindly shown him how to row more efficiently, but the two older men hadn't made him guilty to be alive, as Imazu had in Nakanohama, so his heart was at peace. Having a full stomach also made it a lot easier to take advice not always most politely offered under the pressure of sailing and having a job to do. Around them were other fires, the beach cheerful with the sound of crackling wood and men's voices and laughter. At least two dozen other boats had weighed in with them that evening.

The next day, Denzo set their course west again, the wind helping them to the Hajikari-nada rich fishing grounds, where they could catch the fat, nourishing species that gave the best food value for the work--mackerel, tuna, bonito. They were lucky again, fishing all morning despite a squall that sent them seeking land before noon. But then the fair weather returned, and they made farther and farther out to sea. By late afternoon, a strong northwester raised such waves that they could no longer see the land. Denzo grew alarmed. They didn't know in which direction they should row, not that the rowing helped much in those tossing waves and swift gusts, sending them away from where they thought the sun had been setting. All night they drifted. The skulling oar had broken and been swept off. The weather got colder. Sleet fell on them, settling ice caps on their heads. The men tried to get together a makeshift roof of rush rugs and to light a fire to cook some gruel. The waves splashed into the boat, mocking their efforts at concocting a shelter and getting themselves warmed up.

For ten days they kept going southeast, away from the coast, they knew, and their hopes of returning, without oars, now with a broken rudder, began to fade. The sky kept its dull leaden color, sometimes sundered with lightning streaks, and the boat raced like a loosened demon, bobbing among the waves, taking water, requiring their constant work and care to bail out, to keep each other from being swept up and over, to keep it from capsizing. Each day drove them into deeper despair, more fervent prayers to Buddha to see them home. Rain had supplied them with fresh water, but the cold and hunger made them all weak. Manjiro, for whom hunger was an old companion, suffered less than the others, although his small frame was more shaken by the cold.

On the thirteenth day, the clouds parted to reveal a calm and infinite sea. Then, toward the afternoon, Manjiro rubbed his eyes before calling out, "Land!" It was a speck of black on the horizon.

"It's probably just a rock," Denzo said.

"Look, Denzo-san, there's some green, too," Manjiro shouted.

But his good eyesight alone saw their hope for the next half hour. Only then did the other four begin to discern the outlines of an island. Who knew where they were? An island of Japan, with people on it, shelter at last! They would be saved.

They got within the perimeter of the island at nightfall, an unpropitious time, an inauspicious approach. The coast was all huge, jagged rocks, sticking out like a monster's open maws, readying themselves for chewing. The men kept desperately trying to steer the boat, with feet and hands and stumps of oars, keeping the shore to port, wary of being sucked out to open sea again. They circled until, at last, it looked as if they might approach the coast and land on a small narrow strip of sandy beach, but as they rounded that side of the island the wind rose suddenly and their boat hit the first rock, wood groaning as it split. Denzo, Goemon, and Manjiro jumped off, into the water, yelling to Jusuke and Toraemon to follow, to swim to shore, but Jusuke was attempting to tie what was left of their rice sack to his body and Toraemon to gather tools when the splintered boat capsized. The three men watched in horror as waves covered the bottom of the boat, then, as they themselves were swimming with all their forces at the same time that they tried to avoid being hurled into rocks, they saw the heads of Toraemon and Jusuke almost simultaneously emerge above the water, as if they were doing a dance. A shout of joy sprang from Denzo, and yells of here, this way, watch the rock to the left, were blown over the roar of waters. Debris from the boat was floating now close, now far. Manjiro set out away from shore, with sure swift strokes, as if he were escaping from them all.

"Manjiro, come back, you won't have strength to return," Denzo shouted after him, voice lost in the noise of crashing waves.

Manjiro waved to him, and the dying light seemed to glint over his teeth. Could that be, they wondered, the boy's grin visible this late, in these churnings? What was he laughing about, the fool?

As they made their way to shore--Goemon, the first to reach the sand, shouting encouragement and direction to the others--they lost sight of Manjiro. Jusuke had screamed out, and Toraemon, the closest to him, had disappeared under the waves along with him, but they both surfaced again, and Toraemon now had one arm beneath Jusuke's arms, dragging Jusuke behind him as he swam for shore. Goemon jumped back in the water, helping Toraemon drag Jusuke's limp body to the patch of sand that was for the moment their salvation. Jusuke's right leg looked strange, the foot almost facing the wrong way, the shinbone sticking out through the skin that seemed nearly bleached of blood.

"My brother," Denzo moaned at the sight, wondering if all Toraemon had managed to rescue was a corpse.

A vomitous cough from Jusuke, expelling water, made the men hope.

"He'll be all right, Denzo-san. We'll save him," Goemon yelped.

"Let's move farther up, to make sure we're not swept in again," Toraemon said.

"Should we not look for Manjiro?" Denzo asked.

"Look, Denzo-san, his head, there it is, he's coming in!" Goemon couldn't keep his voice down. He shouted to be heard above the waves and to relieve himself of the anger and fear of their thirteen days at sea, not to mention this past hour. He went back into the water, holding out his hands for Manjiro to grab as he was struggling up, objects in his teeth and both his fists.

As Manjiro crawled onto the beach, helped by Goemon, he dropped to the feet of the astonished men two short spears and three fishing lines. They all cheered. With the tools that Toraemon had tied to his clothes, the rice sack tied to Jusuke's body that had no doubt been the cause of his being slammed against the rocks with enough force to shatter a leg, and Manjiro's trophies, they'd have a chance.

The men all carried Jusuke inland, as far as their worn-out bodies and fatigued minds would let them, this first night. They huddled together till dawn, teeth chattering. Toraemon found a couple of sticks and fashioned a splint for Jusuke's leg, and they used fabric from their clothes to make strips with which to bandage it.

They woke to the morning light, the sun like a blessing breathing warmth and dryness on their soaked bodies and clothes. Oh, how different, how blessed the day looked, in flooding sunshine, with green for the eyes, the sound of sea birds hunting, the sea roaring, but far off enough not to beat against their hearts.





Author Bio

Anca Vlasopolos

Anca Vlasopolos was born in 1948 in Bucharest, Rumania. Her father, a political prisoner of the Communist regime in Rumania, died when Anca was eight. After a sojourn in Paris and Brussels, at fourteen she immigrated to the United States with her mother. Anca is a professor of English and Comparative Literature at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. She is married to Anthony Ambrogio, a writer and editor. They have a daughter, Olivia, who is a graduate of Oberlin College and a PhD candidate at Tufts University. They adopted another daughter from Guatemala, Beatriz, who is now sixteen.

TTB title: The New Bedford Samurai

Author web site.




The New Bedford Samurai Copyright © 2007. Anca Vlasopolos. All rights reserved by the author. Please do not copy without permission.


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  Author News

The New Bedford Samurai by Anca Vlasopolos is a finalist in the category of historical fiction in the ForeWord Magazine 2007 Book of the Year Award.

The New Bedford Samurai has also been accorded the LiFE Award: Literature For Environment and has been submitted for the Pulitzer Prize in fiction, the PEN/Faulkner Foundation Award for fiction as well as the Kiriyama Prize in fiction.



"A brilliant fusion of a nonfiction novel and an ecologically concerned memoir, Anca Vlasopolos' latest book, The New Bedford Samurai, takes the reader on multiple journeys. She takes us back through time, bringing to life the true saga of a nineteenth-century Japanese castaway, Manjiro Nakahama, and through space, taking us with her to Japan, where we learn of the plight of the short-tailed albatross. What's more, this creative, eloquent, and heartrending book makes us care."
Susan Morgan, author of Place Matters: Gendered Geography in Victorian Women's Travel Writing about Southeast Asia.

"Anca Vlasopolos brings passion and poetic talent to vivifying the poignant story of the nineteenth-century boy castaway Nakahama Manjiro. His inadvertent displacement from one side of the world to another is used here as a jumping-off point for adumbrating some of the destructive aspects of present-day globalization. Describing the career of her protagonist, Vlasopolos has brought particular attention to nineteenth-century environmental depredations whose fallout continues to destroy our world. Her imaginatively structured account includes pleas for reconsideration of some of the present-day attitudes and practices that are extending the scope of the destruction, adding to the growing body of literature that seeks to address the urgent need for consciousness-raising in these areas."
Lindsley Cameron, author of The Music of Light: The Extraordinary Story of Hikari and Kenzaburo Oe.

"Vlasopolos brings to life the remarkable and adventurous story of John Manjiro, an indomitable trans-Pacific ambassador between east and west at a time of isolation, ignorance, and distrust. Here is an evocative slice of space-time: the world of maritime commerce and culture in the mid-nineteenth century, taking the reader on an epic adventure--from being marooned on a deserted island, to whaling the western Pacific, Hawaii, early New Bedford, the California Gold Rush, and into the reclusive traditions of early Japan. The Manjiro story is a parable for modern times--a portal into the relationship between cultures and between humans and the natural world. This is a fascinating, heretofore untold story, and Vlasopolos tells it with beauty, charm, historical accuracy, and introspection.

"The extraordinary story of the near-extinction of short-tailed albatrosses of Torishima at the hands of feather hunters, and the subsequent volcanic eruption killing all of the feather hunters, stands as powerful metaphor for nature's golden rule: treat nature as we wish nature to treat us. This admonition is valid today, evident in how poorly we treat the oceans, through pollution and over-harvesting marine species, resulting in declining ocean ecosystem services to humankind. The New Bedford Samurai gives a fresh, historical reminder of this time-tested truth. This is a lesson we ignore at our own peril."
Rick Steiner, Marine Conservation Specialist, co-director of the environmental NGO “The Coastal Coalition,” and notable environmental writer.

"As an editor, I read a great number and variety of books. Occasionally, an unforgettable one comes to me. This book is one of those.

"It is a true story, obviously well researched--but, had it been fiction, it could not have been more gripping. This is a book to be read for the sheer pleasure of the language, for its insight into the thoughts and culture of many people as varied as a poor fishing boy from pre-westernized Japan to a traumatized American ex-soldier, and above all for the fascinating knowledge the reader can glean about little-known aspects of history.

"The story, as told by a talented author, will make you understand the essential identity of all humanity while emphasizing the effects of culture. Moreover, it gives you an appreciation of the essential identity of all life--that, if we damage any part of our planet, we damage ourselves. It is a book you must read."
Dr. Bob Rich, environmental activist, author of Anikó: The stranger who loved me.

"An interesting fusion of nonfiction, historical information, and the environmental effects of 19th-century globalization, this book tells the story of Manjiro Nakahama, a Japanese boy who in 1841 runs away from home. His adventures with four older men on a fishing boat, being cast ashore on a deserted island with his shipmates, his rescue by an American whaling boat, and his return to Japan where he becomes a samurai, are all interspersed with contemplative sections on various animals, places, and other fascinating tales related to environmental pollution and declining species due to man’s industrial revolution.

"The blend between historical action and current concerns is expertly woven by the author. A partial bibliography is included for those who wish to explore and learn more about the issues portrayed in the novel. The New Bedford Samurai is a wonderful and exciting tale, as well as an informative tome."
Brad Eden for
The Historical Novel Society.

Shipwrecked on a deserted island with three companions, fourteen year-old Manjiro has already known a lifetime of hardship and oppression, and it has given him a spirit that won’t be conquered. When the others begin to give up hope, he forms a plan for rescue that results in their salvation by an American whaling ship. In a time when Japan is still closed to outsiders, Manjiro is given a chance to see the world beyond the borders of Japan. Aboard the whaling ship, he learns a seaman’s life, and when his benefactor and savior, Captain William Whitfield, brings him home to New Bedford, Massachusetts, he quickly adapts to American ways, though in his heart, he dreams of returning to Japan so as to help his country better understand the ways of the world. When the opportunity comes to return home after many years, he struggles with his identity as a man who loves two countries, yet belongs wholly to neither.

Coursing through the nineteenth century, around the globe, and across several cultures, The New Bedford Samurai is a book that educates us of the errors of the past and enlightens to how little change has been made in over one hundred years in regards to racism and the threat humans still inflict on the planet. The tale follows the real life person of Manjiro Nakahama from his youth to elderly death, and by writing his life story, author Vlasopolos not only allows readers to learn about this remarkable man who worked to bring two cultures together, but also gives an in depth look into many societies of that time; that of the poor peasants of Japan before the fall of the Tokugawa Shogunate; the lives of sailors aboard the whaling ships of old who had their own sub-culture and laws of survival; the people of New Bedford, whose lives were touched by Manjiro.

Not only are the stories of Manjiro and the people he met told, but the story of the planet, the gruesome slaughter of whales being hunted for their precious oil, the short-tailed albatross brought to near extinction for the sake of adorning ladies’ hats with its beautiful plumage, and how still in this “modern” age, the planet is continually exploited for the want of money and comfort. Author Vlasopolos does a wonderful job in spreading awareness about the past, and the repercussions our present actions could have on the future world. Written with the creativity and excitement of a work of fiction, but the authority and truth of nonfiction, The New Bedford Samurai is a book that must be picked up, and when it is, it grants all readers a deeper appreciation for the people and creatures we share this planet with.
Reviewed by Shannon Frost for TCM Reviews




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