Friday, March 12, 2010

Part 1-5 The Model for All the Worlds Sailors

That is how the Ryuusui-Maru made it to safety.
However, there were other troubles. We had to make major repairs to the ship, buy anchors and load up the ship with food supplies. We needed these things, but did not have the money to afford it.

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine myself in a foreign bay like this, trying to overhaul a ship and stock up on provisions. The original aim of the Hokkaido Reclamation, the owner of the Ryuusui-Maru, was simply to reap the benefits of letting a poor band of men voyage to the south sea for the winter, catch a boat-full of shark, sea-turtles and waterfowl, and if possible a sperm whale.
At length I confessed impoverished state to some Japanese Honolulu residents. After discussing it they said in gracious words, "we sympathize with you. We too are Japanese, we should do something to help you." They ran an article for a Ryuusui-Maru fundraiser in a Japanese language newspaper.
At the same time, a peculiar rumor began to spread among the non-Japanese residents of Honolulu. "Look at that ship. It's only a tiny Japanese sailboat, but they have the nerve to fly that giant Rising Sun. They're saying they came into port for aid, but before they came into the bay didn't outrun a steamboat? Just because they ran into a little rough water they think they can swindle their way into a kings ransom."
People of every nationality on Honolulu told this rumor.
Before long a message from the bay authority came to the Ryuusui-Maru anchored in the bay, for "the captain to present himself immediately in person."
I went ashore and set out for City Hall, where I was led to was a large, stately room. On the far wall hung a nautical chart of the Pacific Ocean. Before that, three American officials sat around a large table, busy at work. I entered the room unceremoniously and the officials stood and shook hands with me. We exchanged minimal greetings and one of the men said, "well, have a seat captain," while gesturing to a chair. I took my seat and the three officers sat opposite the table facing me. Another nautical map was spread out on the table. After sitting down, one of them spoke quietly but harshly, "Captain, you wrote us saying that you entered Honolulu Bay seeking aid, is that correct?"
He continued without waiting for a reply, pointing to the chart on the table. "Take a look at this map. In your report it says that here, your boat lost it's anchors, your mast was damaged and your water tank broken in the strong western wind. Following this you came here, but in this area the currents only run from the north-east. Not to mention the north-east trade wind must also have been blowing. Are you saying that you sailed a distance of almost 2000 nautical miles against the currents and the wind on a tiny sailboat that could effectively be called a shipwreck? That and further, did you not outrun a coastal patrol steamship before you entered Honolulu Bay?
"Your marine accident report impossible. We cannot accept a fabricated repot." With this, he threw the English copy of my marine accident report on the table in front of me.
I was completely and utterly surprised. Then I was angry. But, you boys too, will go overseas. In the future you may run into similar situations and at a time like this, if you get angry you lose. If you talk you can understand.
So, I explained the story of our misfortune from the beginning, slowly and in detail. I didn't just explain it to them, I expounded it. This was an issue concerning the credibility of all Japanese ships. I spoke sincerely, and tried with all my heart to let them know the truth. When I finished my story, I implored them, "knowing this, sirs, can you still say that the report is a fabrication?"
It is said the the truth speaks to the heavens, and it does. The three American officials stood. One man suddenly reached out a large hand, squeezed mine, and while pumping it said, "Captain, we see it from your side now."
The three glum frowns became shining smiles. Another of the officers said, "yes, yes, we should become sympathizers for the captain as well. The first thing we'll do is waive the bay entry tax, the anchoring tax and the piloting and the tugboat fees. Beside that, is there anything else we can do to help you?"
"Currently, we need good drinking water."
"What? Only drinking water? That's a simple matter. We'll have the Ryuusui-Maru serviced before you can make it back on board. I'll make the order by phone right away."
I left City Hall and went straight to the Japanese Consulate to report what happened.
After hearing the news, the consul said to me, "this is fantastic. After that is taken care of, the donations of the Japanese population here can cover the repairs. Now we can relax and make all the necessary repairs."
When I heard this, the gratitude for my countrymen sent a shiver to my bones. The money for the repairs was gathered in a week.

This is how the misconceptions of the Honolulu government were corrected and the Ryuusui-Maru's reputation restored. The English newspapers went so far as to publish praise for us on a daily basis. They wrote about our chivalry, morality, disciple and our abstinence from even a single drop alcohol.
Foreign people believe that the best friend of sailors around the world is alcohol. However, the men of the Ryuusui-Maru showed that they had cut off this old friend. For the foreigners it was shocking news.
At that time, a Christian missionary ship was anchored in Honolulu Bay preparing to move to western seas. They wanted moral, abstinent sailors, but were starting to believe that such sailors couldn't be found anywhere in the world. So they had a high opinion of the Ryuusui-Maru's crew, and began trying to recruit our helmsman, sailors and fishermen.
They began to say things like, "a ship like the Ryuusui-Maru is bound to have another disaster at sea, and the next time you won't be saved. The wages are low, and did you say you eat rice mixed with barley? That really is a shame. You know on the mission ship, we eat three Western style meals a day and the wages are sky high. Above that, you get a new uniform, a new set of shoes and a new hat four times a year. The ship is big enough to have rooms for each crew member, and there is enough water to bathe every day. We never go through stormy weather and we spend most of our time anchored at port. What's more is we have sermon every day.
"How does that sound? Leave the Ryuusui-Maru. If you join us, you can send money home to your family every month. You're parents won't ever have to work again."
They tried to sway the hearts of the Ryuusui-Maru's crew, but our sixteen hearts would not be swayed.
This loyalty moved the hearts of the foreigners even further, who said, "the crew of the Ryuusui-Maru should be the model for for all the sailors of the world," and brought donations and supplies for the Ryuusui-Maru to the Japanese consulate.
"We appreciate your help," the consulate told them, "but the Japanese of Honolulu have decided to pay the repairs. We cannot accept your money. You should send supplies only, to the Ryuusui-Maru."
So, the repairs for the ship progressed like a dream until finally we decided to set sail on April fourth.

Two weeks before the Ryuusui-Maru had a broken mast, the water tank was destroyed, and like a crab who has lost it's claws, we were anchorless; it entered the bay as a scarred, pitiful vessel. Now, the masts were new and a fine set of anchors had been collected. It had been repaired from bow to stern, reborn a magnificent vision.
The morning of April fourth came. A pilot came on board the Ryuusui-Maru, and drawn by a tugboat we headed out of the bay.
Our large Japanese flag flew high at the stern of the ship, warming the hearts of our Japanese brothers and foreign friends alike. The crews of ships anchored in the bay went on deck, waved their hats and raised their hands to send us off.
The tugboat chugged along, letting off clouds of black smoke. It left the mouth of the bay and pulled us out into the ocean. Outside of the bay a fine wind was blowing.
The rope that connected us to the tugboat was released, and the pilot on board gave us all firm handshakes saying, "well, good luck Captain. May you have a splendid voyage, may you fill your boat with game, and may you arrive home unharmed." With that he boarded the piloting ship that had pulled up next to the Ryuusui-Maru, and shouted, "Does anyone have mail? Does anyone have mail to send home? This is the last call for mail!" They were the final, kind words of the bay pilot. It would be months before we returned home, but there were no letters to send.
"Thank you, everyone has already sent their letters."
He smiled, nodded and raised his hand. O, Honolulu Bay, good bye! We were profoundly affected by the help we received from friends and strangers in an unexpected time, but now the Shyu-Mu-Shyu Islanders were on our minds. How long could they wait for the Ryuusui-Maru? We should already go home like and arrow sent flying--however we had another, unexpected fate waiting ahead.

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