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Moriyama Monument Dedicated

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015


For the past 20 years, there stood a lonely monument of Japan’s very first “Native-Speaking English Teacher”, Ranald MacDonald, along Matsunomori Street of Kaminishiyama-cho in Nagasaki-City.  It was erected in 1964 by the Nagasaki-Minami Rotary Club as part of their 30th Anniversary Project under then-President, Dr. Masami Obama.

Ranald MacDonald was captured as an illegal intruder on the shores of Rishiri Island in 1848; however, because of his good attitude and respectful behavior toward the Japanese people and its culture and traditions – unlike other foreign sailors who were washed ashore – he was “merely” placed under house arrest at Daihian.

At that time, the Tokugawa Shogunate was feeling the need for trained interpreters who could be effective in the English language rather than the traditional Dutch-oriented interpreters.  The arrival of MacDonald, who had received a good education because of his Scottish father, Archibald MacDonald, was quite timely, and the Shogunate immediately arranged to use him as a temporary teacher of English, primarily for “conversation and pronunciation”.

The Dutch interpreters, 14 of them, commuted to Daihian for the next 7 months for Ranald’s English lessons till Ranald was forced to return to go back home. The leader and best student among the 14 was Einosuke Moriyama.

Several years later, when Commodore M. Perry of the US East Indies Squadron came to Japan to demand the Shogunate to open its door to America, Moriyama acted as a chief interpreter on behalf of the Shogunate. Subsequently, Moriyama worked hard to interpret and negotiate with the British, French, Russians, etc. Much praise of Moriyama’s language and negotiation skills were written in the records of foreign governments.

A monument dedicated to Einosuke Moriyama was (finally) dedicated on September 12, 2014 – it can be found along Matsunomori Street of Kaminishiyama-cho in Nagasaki-City, right next to the MacDonald Monument – and it is quite appropriate that the two monuments of MacDonald and Moriyama were erected side by side. Be quiet and listen! You might hear the exchange of laughter and conversation between the two.  I am confident Ranald is no longer lonely there.   ~ Mas Yatabe






今回、師弟関係にあったラナルド・マクドナルドと森山栄之助の顕彰碑が並列して建立された事は、実に喜ばしい! 耳を澄ますと、二つの碑の間で往時を偲ぶ会話と笑い声が交わされているのが聞こえてくるようにさえ感じられる。 察するに、今ではラナルドも寂しさから開放されたに違いない。- 谷田部 勝

Moriyama Monument Nagasaki

(from L to R) Dr. Masami Obama, Mas Yatabe, Kazukuni Yamazaki(Sculptor), Michi Goto, Yuji Aisaka  小濱正美医、谷田部 勝氏、山崎和國氏(彫刻家)、後藤 道女史、逢坂祐二氏

FOM members gather for Moriyama monument ceremonies

It was a gathering of FOM members from Hokkaido, Tokyo, Aichi, Kyoto, Osaka, Nagasaki and even Holland and the U.S.A.  “It was fun and enjoyable – just like a class reunion,” per Ms. Yumiko Kawamoto.  記念撮影: 森山栄之助顕彰碑除幕記念晩餐会出席者一同 出席者は北海道、東京、愛知、京都、大阪、長崎、更に海外のオランダ、アメリカ・・・と「和やか、且つ楽しく同窓会みたい!」とは河元由美子女史の弁。

Japanese students tour in the spirit of Ranald MacDonald

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014
~Edward Stratton; Reprinted from The Daily Astorian, Oct. 17, 2014

The “MacDonald’s Encouragement Study Fund”, in honor of historical English teacher and former Astorian Ranald MacDonald, sent over, from left standing, English instructor Mayumi Nakanishi and students Ren Miyashita and Takeru Oshima. Hosting and touring them around are Astoria High School student Bryce Nurding, second from right, Masaru Yatabe, Chairman of FOM, right, and Kaheawai “KK” Kaonohi, founder of the high school’s Japanese club.

The educational exchange between Astoria and Japan, foisted on the Asian nation 166 years ago by a native Astorian bent on leaving his whaling vessel and joining its relatively closed society, restarted earlier this week.

Honoring the spirit of Ranald MacDonald, an Astoria native and Japan’s first English teacher, the ’MacDonald’s Encouragement Study Fund’ sent two students and their English teacher from Rishiri Island to Oregon this past week. The group has been sightseeing around Portland and shadowing their host students at Astoria High School.

“I like talking, speaking English,” said Ren Miyashita, one of the two students visiting Astoria. “I’ve never been abroad before this time.”  Miyashita, in his second to last year of school, and Takeru Oshima, a senior, both come from Rishiri Island, located 12 miles west of northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. The island, reachable by ferry and one flight a day, boasts a population of about 5,100. Miyashita and Oshima attend Rishiri High School, which with a total of 93 kids is about 16 percent of Astoria High School’s enrollment. Rishiri Island also includes three elementary schools and two junior high schools.

“The whole objective is to internationalize the future generations of Rishiri Island by having a couple of students come over each year so they will be ready for life in a global world,” said Masaru Yatabe, chairman of the Friends of MacDonald.

MacDonald, who was born at Fort Astoria in 1824 to a Hudson’s Bay Co. fur trader, traded his wages on the whaler for a small boat and supplies and sailed toward Rishiri Island at age 24. Nearing some native Ainu fishermen, he pulled the plug, and in his sinking boat, he became a bona fide sailor in distress.  Originally imprisoned, MacDonald eventually started teaching Japanese scholars English. He became famous in Japan. Congressional reports note an interpreter asking incoming Commodore Matthew Perry, who forcibly opened Japan to trade with the U.S. in the mid-19th century, “Do you know Ranald MacDonald?”

Traveling Oregon

The 26-year-old Friends of MacDonald help guide the students and teacher on their trip. They started earlier this week in Portland with sightseeing trips to the International Test Rose Gardens and Multnomah Falls.  The group also met with the consulate-general of Japan in Portland, Hiroshi Furusawa. At the consulate, said Yatabe, Furusawa explained how Japan is trying to double the number of people in the Japan Exchange & Teaching Program, which sends young, college-educated English speakers to communities around Japan.

In Astoria for the past few days, Miyashita and Oshima have been attending sporting events, exploring the area and shadowing their host students, juniors Kaheawai “KK” Kaonohi and Bryce Nurding.  Kaonohi, who moved to Astoria from Bend, started a Japanese club at AHS, having traveled to Japan himself over the summer.  “I was part of the Japanese National Honor Society,” said Kaonohi, adding that his grandmother in Hawaii is originally from Japan.

Nurding, who’s hosted cyclists from Virginia and Sweden through hospitality exchange group Warm Showers, said he was contacted by Kaonohi and is always up for hosting and learning about different people and cultures.  Miyashita and Oshima take all the classes of their host students, including math, science, language arts and other classes as they expand their English skills. They describe their peers in Astoria as freer and more open to asking questions. Yatabe and Nakanishi said that students in Japan respect the teachers more and are much less likely to speak up, often to the detriment of their own social skills.

This is the second year of the exchange through the MacDonald’s Encouragement Study Fund. Last year, students Tatsuya Koujiya and Yuuki Komatsu arrived in Astoria with their principal, Hiroyuki Tsukamoto.  For 2016, said Yatabe, Kaonohi is trying to organize a similar trip to Rishiri Island, where he and Nurding can experience life there, although the effort will likely require raising the funds. “Then the exchange will be complete.”

On Friday, after attending the Astoria-Banks football game, the exchange group heads for a similar experience in Republic, Wash., where MacDonald died in 1894.

Early Summer Flowers of Rishiri

Sunday, June 22nd, 2014


“Haku-san Chidori”, the Alpine Swamp Orchid ~ dactylorhiza aristata .  There are many alpine plants which have “Hakusan” in their name because they were first discovered and named along the older hiking trails leading to Hakusan Shrine in Gifu Prefecture; however, the same plants can be found on many mountains throughout Japan – including Rishiri-Fuji.  ~ photo by Eiji Nishiya


Sendai Hagi – Japanese ‘Bush Clover’ (also known as Russian False Yellow Lupine) ~ Thermopsis lupinoides. In China the aerial parts and seeds are used as a crude drug as anti-inflammatory, expectorant, and emetic (a medicine or potion that makes you vomit; the Chinese name for medicinal use is ye jue ming). ~ photo by Eiji Nishiya

Students trace MacDonald back to Astoria

Sunday, June 22nd, 2014

Japanese teens learn about famous resident’s birthplace ~ By Edward Stratton, The DAILY ASTORIAN,  Oct. 9, 2013

Ranald MacDonald, an Astoria native born at Fort George, landed on the Japanese island of Rishiri 165 years ago, and became the first English teacher in Japan.  During October 2013, two students from Rishiri Public High School visited Astoria to improve their English skills and understanding of MacDonald’s birthplace. They departed for other locations in Washington before heading back to Japan.

Tatsuya Koujiya and Yuuki Komatsu, both 17, arrived in Astoria Oct. 6 with their principal, Hiroyuki Tsukamoto.

“The purpose of it is to encourage the students to learn English and nurture international-minded youth,” said Masaru Yatabe, chairman of the 25-year-old Friends of MacDonald and host and interpreter for the students during their visit to the U.S.

The Japanese newspaper Daily Souya reported Dec. 11 that the communities on Rishiri Island, namely Rishiri and Rishirifuji, established the MacDonald’s Encouragement Study Fund, encouraging students to learn English. One or two top students will be chosen each year from their English-language class and travel to Oregon and Washington to experience American life and encourage their English-language skills.

Tatsuya and Yuuki are the first recipients of the fund. They passed a standardized English test, wrote theses in Japanese about what their goals were during the visit and were interviewed by their principal, vice principal and English teacher.

Tatsuya, a senior at Rishiri, said he was hurt and unable to play for his school’s badminton team. So he looked into the study abroad fund and thought it would contribute to his future. Yuuki, who had never left Japan before, works part time at a restaurant and wants to improve his language skills for when he helps foreign customers.

Yuuki and Tatsuya moved in with the families of 15-year-old sophomores Clay Williams and Ben Williams, respectively (they are not related). They’ve been shadowing their hosts in class, visiting local tourist attractions and the MacDonald monument near Fort George. They also attended a 15-6 AHS junior varsity football victory in Tillamook.

Rishiri’s high school has 96 students compared with AHS’ more than 600. Yuuki said at first it was overwhelming, but that over time Ben and Clay have introduced him and Tatsuya to other students, and that they’ve been enjoying the last couple of days despite the language barrier.

“Anyone going to a new place would feel kind of … nervous and quiet,” said Ben Williams, who along with Clay Williams said their Japanese peers are particularly polite. “The language sometimes is a little bit of a problem.”

The relative freedom and individuality of AHS was something new to Tatsuya and Yuuki, who said their high school environment in Rishiri is much more controlled with a focus on group action.

“Sometimes we feel like we lack the structure, so it’s the meeting of the minds,” said AHS Principal Lynn Jackson about the differences.

The two students and their principal left for Spokane, Wash., this morning, bound ultimately for Republic, Wash., where MacDonald died in 1894. Yatabe said they’ll shadow more students at Curlew High School in northeastern Washington, pay respects at MacDonald’s graveside and visit Mukogawa Women’s University in Spokane, Wash.  Then they will spend two days getting back to Rishiri, traveling through Spokane, Seattle, Tokyo, Sapporo, Japan, and finally home.


Why ‘Gates Ajar’?

Friday, July 5th, 2013

2013 05 11 Astoria

In the course of explaining exactly what and who the Friends of MacDonald are to our guests and new members, the idea and concept – if not the actual words themselves – of “Gates Ajar” pops up. This expression and these words are more than just the name of our committee’s newsletter.

When asked, we usually begin by explaining that Ranald MacDonald – though not the “first” person to do so – was the first native-English speaking person to “teach” English in Japan. Following this explanation, it has often been asked just how the 14 samurai who were Ranald’s pupils could have picked up their English proficiency so quickly – in a mere 7-months time. No doubt each of these men were ‘special’ in their own way, obviously being of high rank in Japan and quite capable, otherwise they would not have been among those chosen for the special assignment of learning English from this very peculiar and unusual foreigner. The truth is, most, if not all, of these men were already ‘employed’ as translators and cold have been considered linguistics experts; each had been studying English, perhaps for years, from the Dutch translators at Dejima. Their Dutch teacher/translators, however, spoke far from ‘perfect’ English. Using Moriyama Einosuke (perhaps the best known of Ranald’s pupils) as our example, we know that when he first met with Ranald he could already read and write English with a certain amount of fluency, and history tells us that Moriyama could also “speak” English, though with such such a heavy Dutch accent so as to be frustratingly unintelligible to native English speakers. But Moriyama and the others could read and write in English; they understood basic English vocabulary and syntax – all that was needed was some rather intense work on pronunciation, and Ranald was more than up to the task.

But back to the expression “Gates Ajar”. What could this rather ambiguous catchphrase mean in the context of an historical committee?

When Ranald approached Japan in July of 1848 her borders were sealed, her windows, doors and gates closed and virtually locked tight against the influences of the outside world. But by the time he left 10 months later there was a small breach in Japan’s armor, and the gates had been left open just a bit … ajar.

The third issue of the FOM newsletter, dated Fall 1989, introduced its distinctive title of “Gates Ajar”. There really is no mystery: the phrase comes from page 98 of MacDonald’s own autobiography where he wrote: “… I came thus to play my humble part in the drama of ‘Gates Ajar’, of west and east, in the world of the Pacific.”

Editorial: Astoria has a long memory

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

Friends of MacDonald tend the flame of a great 19th century adventurer

Posted: Tuesday, May 14, 2013 9:11 a, Daily Astorian

In the pantheon of 19th century adventurers, Ranald MacDonald’s story is one of the more astounding. Born at Fort Astoria in 1824, MacDonald was the child of a Scotsman and a Chinook Indian princess, daughter of Chief Comcomly. He went to sea on a whaling vessel, with the intention to be shipwrecked in Japan, which had excluded foreigners for some 200 years. MacDonald’s plan worked, and he brought the English language to Japan.

Writing in Eminent Astorians, Frederik L. Schodt says MacDonald: “ … is a classic example of an individual who, overcoming great odds, did something heroic then fell through the cracks of history.”

Over lunch last Saturday at the Bridgewater Bistro, the Friends of MacDonald held its 25th annual meeting. The Friends group had its genesis following the 1988 placement of a memorial stone at Fort Astoria park. On that marker, MacDonald’s story is told in English and Japanese. Local leadership from then-Astoria librarian Bruce Berney and Japanese money were the winning combination.

The Japanese make a bigger deal of MacDonald than we Americans. A woman from Kyoto traveled to the Friends of MacDonald lunch, as did the Japanese Consul from Portland.

It is said that through biography we give life to the dead. Reminding Astorians that a story of global accomplishment began here is important. The Friends’ gathering reminds us that the Columbia-Pacific region has long been a cultural crossroads.

Cities are living things. They are in a constant cycle of deterioration, death and renewal. And they have memories.

MacDonald Scholarship Established on Rishiri

Sunday, February 10th, 2013

The “Daily Souya” newspaper, dated Dec. 11, 2012, reports that a scholarship fund named “MacDonald’s Encouragement  Study Fund” has been established on Rishiri Island.  A committee to support and manage the Fund has also been formed with Mr. Kyoji Furukawa as its first President.  Since the beginning of 2012 the leaders of Rishiri Island held a series of meetings intended to get the ground work done for devising a scholarship fund which would benefit the students of the only public high school on the island and in particular to encourage them to study English.  One or two top students will be chosen from the  English-language class and will be sent to America – to Oregon and/or Washington – to experience American life and to further encourage their English language skills.  The program hopes to nurture the type of “internationally-minded person” who will become a human asset to Rishiri Island and will help to sustain the prosperous and happy life-style of Rishiri Island.  Committee members hope that this program will encourage more students to attend Rishiri Public High School [whose student body is in decline].  We at Friends of MacDonald happily and enthusiastically go “on record” in fully supporting the “MacDonald’s Encouragement Study Fund” and it’s exchange program.

For those of you who are interested in assisting this fledgling program by either donating funds or hosting a student from Rishiri – or both – please contact Friends of MacDonald at amm@friendsofmacdonald.com .

“Nanakorobi Yaoki” ~~ “七転八起” ダルマ精神

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013


“Nanakorobi Yaoki” is translated to mean “seven times down, eight times up” –  another way to say “never give up hope”.

The Daruma is a traditional Japanese doll modeled after Bodhi Dharma, the founder of the Zen sect of Buddhism.  Daruma has a design that is rich in symbolism and is regarded as a talisman of good luck to the Japanese. These ‘dolls’ are seen as a symbol of perseverance and good luck, making them a popular gift of encouragement.  They are usually made of papier-mâché, have a round shape, are hollow, and weighted at the bottom in a way that each doll will always return to an upright position when tipped over. This characteristic has come to symbolize the ability to have success, overcome adversity, and recover from misfortune.  Due to this, Daruma is often illustrated alongside the phrase “Nanakorobi Yaoki”, translated to mean “seven times down, eight times up”, another way to say “never give up hope”. The eyes of Daruma are often blank when sold. The recipient of the doll fills in one eye upon setting the goal, then the other upon fulfilling it. In this way, every time they see the one-eyed Daruma, they recall the goal.

Knowing what we do about Ranald and his seemingly boundless desire and energy to explore and participate in his world, I can easily imagine that he would have been delighted to have had a Daruma – with all of the projects he managed to document, it’s likely he would have used up several of them in his lifetime.  If there is anyone we can think of that epitomized the notion of “try, try again” it definitely was our friend Ranald MacDonald.

New park: ‘It’s a miracle that it’s happening’

Friday, August 24th, 2012

Middle Village and Station Camp open house ceremony attracts crowd


 Reprinted with permission from The Daily Astorian of Astoria, Oregon

McGOWAN, Wash. — Middle Village and Station Camp Park held its grand opening Saturday after more than a decade of planning and collaboration.

The park is part of the National Park Service’s Washington expansion of the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park. Located between the north end of the Astoria Bridge and Chinook, Wash., along U.S. Highway 101, the park has been in the works since 2002, during the preparation of the Lewis and Clark Expedition’s Bicentennial.

“For some of us, it’s a miracle that it’s happening,” said Jim Sayce, the Middle Village and Station Camp project liaison with the Washington State Historical Society. “To build a park in the middle of a recession is just amazing. It just tells you that there are things worth doing. This is for the future. This has incredible worth across cultural lines.”

The project is the result of a partnership between the Chinook Indian Nation, the Washington State Historical Society, the McGowan–Garvin family, the National Park Service, the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission and the Washington State Department of Transportation.

“We all had to stick together and get to know each other really well to get here. It’s so satisfying when you cross the line hand-in-hand with a bunch of other people,” David Szymanski, superintendent of Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, said of the partnership.

The park and its dedication

Saturday’s dedication began with a traditional Chinookan blessing given by Sam Robinson, vice chairman of the Chinook Nation. Numerous dignitaries and project partners gave short speeches in honor of the opening.

The 280-acre park features several lookout points to view the Columbia River, 2,400 feet of walking paths, three concrete canoe sculptures for children to play in, an unfinished traditional Chinook Indian plank house and numerous exhibits. Plans include connecting the trails to Fort Columbia and installing traditional Chinookan artwork.

“To me the Middle Village/Station Camp project represents the best of two worlds,” said Jennifer Kilmer, director of the Washington State Historical Society. “Through interpretive panels and exhibit-like structures we have the educational aspects of a great museum. Through its sweeping views of the Columbia River, walking paths and recreated beaches, we have the elements of a beautiful recreational experience. The combined experience is truly special.”

The Washington State Historical Society awarded Ray Gardner, chairman of the Chinook Nation, its Peace and Friendship Award during the ceremony.

The dedication ended with the cutting of an elk-hide leather rope to declare the park officially open. Afterward, the Pacific County Friends of Lewis and Clark hosted a reception in the Chinook School gymnasium.

Other attendees of Saturday’s dedication included David Nicandri, past director of the Washington State Historical Society; Karen Snyder, chairwoman of the Pacific County Friends of Lewis and Clark; Carolyn Glenn, the co-chairwoman of the Pacific County Friends of Lewis and Clark; Brian Baird, the former U.S. representative who represented the 3rd District; state Rep. Dean Takko, who represents the 19th district; state Sen. Brian Hatfield, who represents the 19th district; Sid Snyder, the former state senator who represented the 19th District; Bob Andrew, mayor of the city of Long Beach; Dale Jacobson, former mayor of the city of Long Beach; Schuyler Hoss, a representative from Gov. Christine Gregoire’s office; David Hodges, a representative from U.S. Sen. Patty Murray’s office; Kimberly Pincheira, a representative from U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell’s office; Chip Jenkins, the superintendent for North Cascades National Park who was at Fort Clatsop during the bicentennial; Christine Lehnertz, the pacific west regional director of the National Park Service; other National Park Service staff; other members of the Chinook Nation; members of the McGowan-Garvin family; and representatives from the Washington State Department of Transportation..

The history of the site

“This is a place that has many stories, many meanings, and is important to many people for many different reasons,” Gardner said.

The Chinook people occupied the site for thousands of years.

“Our people, the Chinook people, were here to meet every new person who came into the area,” Gardner said.

When Capt. Robert Gray successfully entered the Columbia River in 1792, he traded with the Chinook. In the next 13 years almost 90 ships from Europe and America crossed the Columbia River Bar to trade.

The Lewis and Clark Expedition spent 10 days at Middle Village in November 1805. The Chinook had moved to their winter village, so the site was unoccupied. The short visit is where the term “Station Camp” comes from: William Clark used it as a survey station to create a map of the mouth of the Columbia River, the most detailed and accurate map produced during the expedition. The Corps of Discovery voted on Nov. 24, 1805 to find a winter camp on the south side of the river – a vote that included the Lemhi Shoshone woman Sacajawea and the African-American York.

The site continued to play an important role in trade in the lower Columbia Region until 1820.

“I don’t think there’s any site more significant than this one,” Szymanski said. “It’s a place where the world changed over 30 years; it changed dramatically.

“Archaeology and history tell us that we had one of the most sophisticated pre-contact cultures in North America here along this river. That’s gone. And we want people to know it was here.”

In 1848 a Catholic Mission was built at the site and later abandoned.

Oregon pioneer Patrick J. McGowan purchased the mission grant and 320 acres of land in 1853. He established a cannery and a small community. In 1904, McGowan donated land for St. Mary’s Catholic Church, which was built on the station camp site and now lies within the park.

“This place forces you to think about the past,” Bill Garvin, a descendent of McGowan, said at the ceremony Saturday. “What happened here was both uplifting and catastrophic. It’s one of those rare intersections where cultures collided.”

Only two families have owned the Middle Village and Station Camp Park site: the Chinook people and the McGowan-Garvin family.

“There have been visitors,” Gardner said. “There are people that have come and been here for a few days, and they’ve moved on. But the constant has always been those two families.

“I think all of us, no matter who we descended from, we all need to work to honor our ancestors because without them none of us would be here,” Gardner said. “I think we’ve got a place that’s a good beginning. There are more stories to be told here and they will as time goes on.”

Spring Wildflowers of Rishiri Island

Thursday, May 31st, 2012
2012-05-06-kijimushirophotos by Eiji Nishiya

‘ kijimushiro ‘

Potentilla fragarioides is a member of the Rosaceae family that is native to China, Japan, Korea, Mongolia, and Russia.  The stem is boiled for use as a hemostatic in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).  D-Catechin has been isolated as the agent of action, being used to stem bleeding after childbirth.


‘ ezo-engosaku ‘  

Corydalis ambigua This plant is a perennial herb from the poppy family that grows in the deciduous broad-leaved forest. It blooms from April to May before other taller plants and trees start to bud. An array of colored flowers cover the forest floor in blue, purple, maroon and white. The flowers can be seen from the Maruyama Path leading towards Sapporo city mountain-climbing area, Asahikawa City, Niseko Town, Rishiri Town and many other places in Hokkaido. Chemicals present in Corydalis ambigua have been studied as potential ways to increase pain tolerance and for treating drug addiction.  It is one of the 50 traditional herbs used in Chinese medicine.


‘ hime-ichige ‘

Anemone debilis or Anemonoides debilis, sometimes called the European Thimbleweed, probably due to the shape of the seed cluster.  These flowers can be really small:

2012-05-06-himeichige-2this is tiny!