Matthew Calbraith Perry plans to visit a remote island south of Tokyo where his famous namesake ancestor gave a 31-star American flag to an American immigrant some 170 years ago.
The 80-year-old hopes to travel to Chichijima Island in the Ogasawara island chain to meet Takashi Savory, a descendant of Nathaniel Savory, who received the Stars and Stripes from Commodore Matthew C. Perry ( 1794-1858).
Matthew, who resides in the US state of Maryland, located Takashi in September after reading a translated article by Asahi Shimbun on a replica of the original flag presented to him by Akira Kondo, a resident of Saijo, Ehime Prefecture. .
“I was very excited and delighted to learn of the existence of the American flag donated by Akira Kondo recently,” he said in an email to Takashi, 64. “As a descendant of Commodore Perry, I have been very interested in the descendants of Nathaniel. Savory.”
The commodore led his fleet of “Black Ships” to Uraga at the entrance to Tokyo Bay in 1853 and played a key role in opening Japan to the West after a policy of national isolation lasting more than 200 years .
When he visited Chichijima in June 1853, a month before his arrival off Uraga, part of present-day Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, Perry appointed Nathaniel the island’s chief magistrate and gave him the American flag.
Matthew, who has traveled to Japan several times as director of the American section of the Center for International Exchange, has never been to Chichijima, located 1,000 kilometers from the Japanese capital.
He wrote to Takashi that he hoped to visit the island this year and was looking forward to meeting him and seeing the flag.
ORIGINAL FLAG BURNT DURING THE WAR
Takashi is a fifth-generation descendant of Nathaniel, originally from Massachusetts who arrived in Chichijima in May 1830. He was one of about twenty people from the United States, Great Britain, Italy, Denmark and the islands of Pacific who settled in Chichijima, which was uninhabited at the time.
The Meiji government declared the Japanese territory of Chichijima in 1876. About 70 islanders of Western descent and other areas later became naturalized Japanese citizens. They lived side by side with Japanese settlers, and Chichijima’s population grew to over 5,000 during the Taisho era (1912-1926).
However, when the United States went to war with Japan in 1941, Nathaniel’s grandson, who was Takashi’s grandfather, and other family members burned Perry’s American flag out of fear. to be persecuted.
In 1944, Japanese authorities forcibly evacuated 6,886 islanders from the Ogasawara Islands and conscripted 825 island men as civilian employees of the military.
One of the conscripts was Swaney Savory, a fourth generation Savory, who was Takashi’s uncle. Despite his American ancestry, he was killed fighting American troops as a soldier in the Imperial Japanese Army.
FLAG REPLICA MADE FOR THE FAMILY
Kondo, 83, a watch store owner, learned of the sad story of the Savory family through a newspaper article last spring.
He thought, “A national flag equals love of your country. I want to return the lost flag (to the family). »
The flag Perry gave Nathaniel bore only 31 stars, less than the 50 on the current American flag, which represents the number of states in the union at the time.
Kondo studied the design of the original flag with his colleagues from the Iyo-Saijo Indirect Tax Association, a group of commercial operators in Saijo, and commissioned a specialty store to reproduce a banner of this design.
He gave the full replica, measuring 102 centimeters tall and 163 centimeters wide, to Takashi last summer.
Matthew contacted Takashi and Kondo through his Japanese acquaintances and the Asahi Shimbun reporter who wrote the original article.
Kondo said, “I’m really happy to have received words of thanks from a descendant of Commodore Perry.” Takashi said he looks forward to Matthew’s visit to Chichijima.
In an article for the Center for International Exchange newsletter published in December, Matthew wrote: “These individual acts of kindness and respect (by Kondo) are important in the current tensions in the world and are greatly needed for the world peace.”
The center (http://www.manjiro.or.jp/e/) holds an annual gathering of Japanese and American citizens called the Japan-America Grassroots Summit, alternately in Japan and the United States, to celebrate the friendship between John Manjiro (Nakahama Manjiro) and Captain William Whitfield.
Manjiro (1827-1898) was the first known Japanese to live in the United States after being abandoned off the coast of Japan. He was rescued by Whitfield who brought him back to the United States.
Matthew, who has traveled to Japan since 2009 to attend the summit, told The Asahi Shimbun: “It was very satisfying to establish personal contact with Mr. Savory and Mr. Kondo” and “I hope a day to meet them both”.