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Gates Ajar — Fall 1998

Tuesday, October 6th, 1998

150th Anniversary of MacDonald’s Trip to Japan Celebrated in 1998 — FOM Members Tour Japan in September

1998 has been an active year for Friends of MacDonald and one that was full of events including Ranald MacDonald’s birthday luncheon held in Astoria on February 3rd., an educational outreach at the Japan-America Society of Oregon’s “Glimpse of Japan Workshop” in May, a sailing adventure and historical reenactment on board Lady Washington in June, and a members’ tour of Japan in September.

These highlights – among a calendar of conferences, lecture programs and book presentations – provide more news than can be fully told in this newsletter.  So we hope that readers will come to FOM events planned for 1999 and take part of the 150th Anniversary year of Ranald MacDonald’s stay in Japan.

In September a delegation of five FOM USA members set foot on Rishiri Island to view the place where Ranald MacDonald set foot in Japan as an intentional castaway in 1848.  The tour was organized by Mr. Ken Nakano who led the 1998 adventure from Hokkaido to Nagasaki in the footsteps of MacDonald.

Participants included: Atsumi Tsukimori of Spokane, Fred Schodt of San Francisco, Massie Tomita and May Namba of Seattle, and FOM tour adviser and tour leader Ken Nakano.  FOM is especially grateful to Ken for his efforts at organizing a most successful trip to Japan.

FOM is also deeply grateful for the warm welcome our members received from so many friends during their tour of Japan.  For a first-hand account of the trip see the story by Atsumi Tsukimori inside this newsletter.


MacDonald’s Castaway Arrival Reenacted on Board Lady Washington on 150th Anniversary

On June 27th, 1848, as the whaling ship Plymouth lay off the coast of Hokkaido, Japan, a young adventurer named Ranald MacDonald launched a small boat from the ship and sailed toward Japan.  He intended to arrive as a castaway in order to enter a feudal kingdom where no foreigners were allowed and foreign trade was outlawed by the Tokugawa Shogun.  But MacDonald was convinced that the Japanese people would welcome him and so he equipped his boat “Little Plymouth” with provisions for thirty days and carried books for purpose of teaching the Japanese about the world from which he came. . . 150 years later, on June 27, 1998, the scene was reenacted for members of FOM and passengers on the Lady Washington during the Saturday afternoon sail on Gray’s Harbor from Westport, Washington.  Young Ranald MacDonald was portrayed by Captain Les Bolton, Executive Director of Grays Harbor Historical Seaport.  Dressed in 19th century sea-faring attire, the bold adventurer climbed into the small boat “Little Plymouth” and rowed off for “Japan”.  Then he rocked his boat and took on water so as to appear as a castaway as MacDonald actually did 150 years ago.

Departing from historical accuracy at the end of the day, Captain Bolton rejoined the ship to greet guests such as Consul Rikio Minamiyama and family from the Consulate General of Japan Seattle Office, Mr. and Mrs. Bruce Berney from Astoria and Friends of MacDonald Chairman Jim Mockford with Cheryl and Jenny Mockford, too.  A full charter of ship passengers joined in on the fun.


JASO Glimpse of Japan Workshop

On May 1, 1998 the Japan America Society of Oregon (JASO) organized its Glimpse of Japan Workshop at the World Trade Center in Portland.  FOM Chairman Jim Mockford presented “The Adventures of Ranald MacDonald” as one of the many workshops that students and teachers attended during the day.  Because a large number of participants were Japanese language students, the presentation included an exploration of Ranald MacDonald’s study of Japanese.  FOM has a copy of Kenji Sonoda’s publication , “Ranald MacDonald’s Glossary of English and Japanese Words” which was utilized as a resource for the Glimpse of Japan Workshop.

The annual event is attended by hundreds of students in the Portland area.  Friends of MacDonald founder Mas Tomita enjoyed presenting the story of Ranald MacDonald at this event in 1994 and FOM was delighted to continue to participate in this informative and important educational program.


ASPAC Conference

“Bridges:  Early Ties Between Japan and the United States” was the title of a panel presentation by FOM members at the ASPAC ’98 Conference held at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington in June 1988.  ASPAC is the Asian Studies on the Pacific Coast chapter of the Association of Asian Studies and the FOM panel was chaired by Dr. Stephan Kohl, Professor of Japanese Literature at the University of Oregon.  FOM Chairman Jim Mockford discussed his paper, “Maritime Explorations of the Coast of Japan”, and was followed by Peter Morris who presented “MacDonald, The Intentional Castaway”.  Dr. Kohl described the story of Japanese castaways whose adventure took place in 1815.


NASOH Conference, Vancouver Heritage Lecture,

WSU-Nishinomiya Japanese Educators Program

The North American Society for Oceanic History (NASOH) invited FOM Chairman Jim Mockford to present his paper “Maritime Exploration of the Coast of Japan in the Late 18th Century” at the NASOH ’98 Conference held at the San Diego Maritime Museum in April.  Mockford’s lecture was adapted to include the story of Ranald MacDonald’s Adventure in Japan.  A presentation copy of Ranald MacDonald’s biography was presented to the Naval Historical Center.  In September Mockford gave a lecture to the Vancouver heritage Program at the historic Marshall House on Officer’s Row, Vancouver, Washington. MacDonald was one of the first six students at the Fort Vancouver school in 1834.

In October Washington State University-Vancouver Branch Campus hosted educators from Nishinomiya, Japan.  Mockford told Ranald MacDonald’s story in Japanese and accompanied the teachers to Fort Vancouver where they visited the Japanese castaway’s monument and toured the site where young Ranald MacDonald attended school.  Only two months after MacDonald left for Canada in the spring of 1834 the three Japanese castaways arrived at the fort and attended school.  It is said that their story influenced Ranald MacDonald to become a castaway in Japan.


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ATSUMI’S JAPAN TRIP REPORT~Participating in the Ranald MacDonald 150th Anniversary Tour

Ever since I read an article about “Explorer’s Smile Led to Japan Trade”  in the local newspapers about five years ago, I was charmed by Ranald MacDonald.  I visited Toroda, Washington right away (MacDonald’s grave site) and I have dreamed about a possible trip to see the historical sites which mark his legacy.  This September, the dream came true.

This September I was lucky enough to be included in the 150th Anniversary trip to Japan organized by Ken Nakano and completed the two-week visit with wonderful memories and great satisfaction.  Traveling from the northern tip of Hokkaido where Ranald MacDonald first landed to the southern tip of Kyushu where he spent most of his time teaching English was not an easy task.  There was one ferry boat ride, one local airplane flight, many bullet train rides, not to mention two underground tunnels.  It was a miracle to accomplish so much in so little time – despite the Northwest Airlines strike!  I want to thank Ken Nakano for organizing and working hard through the entire trip.

There were four heart-warming meetings with Japan’s MacDonald Society in Sapporo, Rishiri, Tokyo and Nagasaki, and three other just as wonderful meetings including one organized by the Japan-America Society of Hakodate, one in Matsumae with Matsumae towns people, and another in the town of Mihama, Aichi, where the Japanese castaway Otokichi is remembered today.  Our group of five, Ken Nakano and Massie Tomita, May Namba, Fred Schodt, and myself, felt as though we had known our Japanese hosts our whole lives.

We visited the actual landing site at Rishiri Island and then saw the town of Era in Matsumae where Ranald MacDonald spent 22 days before he was shipped to Nagasaki.  Then we went to Nagasaki to see the spot where he lived for seven months and taught English.  We also visited Ranald MacDonald’s original student Moriyama’s grave in Nagasaki.  There are two other of Moriyama’s graves in Tokyo – one is “owned” by Moriyama’s son from his second marriage and this one now keeps Moriyama’s bones; the other is “owned” by Moriyama’s daughter from his first marriage.  We visited all three and dedicated flowers.  In Tokyo we paid a courtesy visit to the American Ambassador to Japan, The Hon. Tom Foley, and the Canadian Embassy.  Then we attended a meeting with Tokyo Friends of MacDonald group including Torao Tomita and Akira Yoshimura.

In those two weeks in September  I went to so many places and met so many wonderful people.  O learned a lot about true friendship and I cried a lot when I departed from each place.  I thank all the people I met who also love Ranald MacDonald, and Ken Nakano who made this dream trip come true.  ~ Atsumi Tsukimori McCauley

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Gates Ajar – March 1998

Friday, March 20th, 1998


Friends of MacDonald in Japan are organizing to host an unforgettable tour of Japan to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Ranald’s arrival in 1848.  Unlike commercial travel packages, this event avoids luxury hotels and full-course dining.  We can only promise that you’ll see more than MacDonald did in his travels in Japan, and know that the friendly faces you meet will keep their heads.  FOM member Ken Nakano had built the following two-week itinerary which accommodates you if one week is all the time you can allow.

9/10     Leave Seattle on NWA.  Cross International Dateline.

9/11     Fly from Kansai Airport on ANA to Sapporo

9/12     Free day in Sapporo to pamper your jet lag.

9/13     Sapporo bus tour.  Party with local FOM members.  All night train ride (sleeper available at additional cost) to Wakkanai (NW tip of Hokkaido).

9/14     Boat trip from Wakkanai to Rishiri Island, where MacDonald first made contact with Japanese people.  Tour the island and party with local FOM group.

9/15     Return to Sapporo by boat and train.

9/16     1-week option travelers return to Seattle; 2-week travelers take train to Hakodate.

9/17     Ride bus or rental car for trip to Matsumae where MacDonald was kept for several weeks.  Return to Hakodate.

9/18     Take train to Tokyo.  Party with local FOM group.

9/19     Free morning.  See Moriyama’s gravestone.  If lucky, meet briefly with Ambassador Tom Foley.  Stay second night in Tokyo.

9/20     Short train trip to Mihama, home port of the three Kichi sailors who were rescued by Hudson’s Bay Company and learned English at Ft. Vancouver.  Spend night in Japanese style inn.

9/21     Take train to Nagasaki.  Party with local FOM group.

9/22     Tour Nagasaki and stay second night.

9/23     Take train to Kansai airport and return to Seattle.  Those who wish may stay in Japan longer and return by themselves.


~ Parties with local FOM groups.  If you’ve never been a VIP before, here’s your chance!

~ Sapporo is sister-city with Portland, OR.  It is Rishiri Island’s “county seat”.

~ Rishiri Island is a jewel.  Two fishing villages share their pride in MacDonald’s story.  You’ll see an impressive stone monument near Ranald’s landing place, and displays in the local museum, whose director, Eiji Nishiya, edits an FOM newsletter in Japan.

~ Matsumae;  another fishing village.  If you don’t see it now, chances are slim that you ever will, for, like Rishiri Island, it is off the beaten path.

~ Tokyo.  Seeing the gravestone of Ranald’s favorite student, Moriyama, is a thrill.  The hoped-for greetings from Ambassador Foley is an important symbolic event.  Thanks to our Spokane members for the idea!

~  Mihama is well-known to our tour-organizer, Ken Nakano.  He has worked closely with them in his projects of placing the monument to the three Kichi’s as Ft. Vancouver and establishing a relationship with the Washington cost Indians.

~ Nagasaki, where Ranald taught English, is well aware of his story.  The original documents are in the Prefectural Library.  The Nagasaki South Rotary Club recently erected a monument on the street in front of the house where Ranald’s hermitage was.  You will see it.

As for cost, Ken says this is a low-budget tour.  Round trip air to Japan is about $800.  Utilize Japanese rail pass.  Stay in business hotels near rail stations for $60 to $80 per day, avoid expensive Japanese meals.  It is too soon to know the fare for air travel within Japan because of fluctuating exchange rates.

At present we think the group will be an intimate seven to twelve people.  If you are the least bit interested in going, please contact Ken Nakano for more details.  He will tell you when and how to register.



Of authors who write historical fiction, James Michener may be the first to come to mind.  Ask a reader of Japanese, and Akira Yoshimura may be ichiban.  About a dozen years ago Yoshimura wrote a novel, Umi no Sairei (Festival of the Sea) based on the life of Ranald MacDonald.  It was in a magazine that FOM co-founder Mas Tomita read a serialized version which inspired Tomita’s interest in Ranald.  It refers to MacDonald’s birthplace correctly as Ft. George.  Mas Tomita had no idea that Ft. George was another name for Ft. Astoria until Bruce Berney asked the Japanese businessman’s organization, Shokookai of Portland, to pay half the cost of the birthplace monument.  not only did Tomita give support to the project, he telephoned Berney to say, “Let’s start a Friends of MacDonald organization.”

Now, you’ll be glad to learn that former FOM chairman, Dr. Stephen Kohl who teaches Japanese language and literature at the University of Oregon, has agreed with Yoshimura to translate Umi no Sairei.  Some of us non-kanji readers are very eager for its publication.

A letter from our Kyoto correspondent, Yuji Aisaka, reports that Yoshimura has an article on MacDonald in the February 1998 issue of Captain [ カペタン ].



Unpaid former members names have been purged from our database.  Instead of 150 members – which we once claimed – we now can boast of about forty [many include spouses].  From Oregon, there are about 20; Washington, 14; and one each from Canada, Japan, Michigan, Georgia, California, and Indiana.  Strangely, none are named MacDonald.

We need you, our members, to help recruit new members — others who are interested in Japanese friendship activities.  Please ask for new membership packets (pamphlet, return envelope, a newsletter back copy, and two post cards).  Write to Friends of MacDonald, c/o Clatsop County Historical Society, 1618 Exchange Street, Astoria, OR  97103.



Fifteen Clatsop County FOM members and friends met for lunch at Golden Star Chinese restaurant in Astoria on MacDonald’s birthday, February 3rd.  Sharing the Happy Birthday song with Ranald, Bruce Berney was served a ball of sticky rice topped with a birthday candle.  FOM secretary Mike Seaman spoke about his year as a student of Waseda University in the 1970’s and his former job of property manager for several Japanese corporations in Los Angeles.  He now is commercial properties specialist for AREA Properties real estate firm in Astoria.  Following lunch, they reconvened at the Birthplace Monument to leave floral offerings.



In September we received a letter from Washington Secretary of State Ralph Munro stating: “I do want you to know that we are actively pursuing the preservation of the cabin where Ranald MacDonald spent the closing days of his life.  As you may know, it is located across the valley from the grave site in Northeastern Washington State.  Our historic preservation people and our heritage resources people are now collaborating as to how we can best preserve this cabin.  Although the building is pretty far gone, I believe we will be able to put together a program that will gain the support of the legislature.”

We wrote a letter of support, but as yet have not heard of any outcome.  Washington members may wish to inquire.  Munro’s phone number is 360-902-4151; his address is PO Box 40220, Olympia, WA  98504-0220.



Such was the headline of the review of Jo Ann Roe’s new book about Ranald MacDonald as featured in North American Post, the Seattle Japanese/English newspaper.  its editor, Kamilla Kuroda McClellend attended the September FOM membership meeting at Portland where Jo Ann Roe was presented a framed copy of the cover of the book Ranald MacDonald: Pacific Rim Adventurer by Washington State University Press publicist Beth DeWeese.    Jo Ann Roe reports the book is selling well.  It is reviewed in the Fall 1997 issue of Oregon Historical Society Quarterly, pages 375-377.  It notes that the author is a member of Friends of MacDonald.  The book and the review together give our organization long-lasting, valuable publicity.



Clatsop County Historical Society presented a framed expression of esteem to Bruce Berney at its annual membership luncheon in January at Astoria Country Club.  The Daily Astorian reported that :  “Jeff Smith, executive director of the society said the award marked Berney’s work as a librarian, his efforts on historic preservation and his service on the society’s Friends of Ranald MacDonald committee, which promotes international understanding.”



Members attending the meeting in September selected Bruce Berney, chairman; Michael Seaman, secretary; and Barbara Peeples, publicist/recruitment.  Unfortunately, two months later Bruce suffered sudden hearing loss.  Unable to use the telephone, re resigned as chairman, but volunteered to continue being active as FOM archivist and membership clerk.  Jim Mockford has agreed to be chairman during this meaningful 150th anniversary year.  Formerly Japanese language teacher at Camas High School, he now is a Japanese affairs consultant working with high technology businesses.  He and Mas Tomita were good friends and worked closely on many projects.


>.>.>.>.>  CHAIRMAN’S CORNER <.<.<.<.<

It was on June 27, 1848, as the whaling ship PLYMOUTH lay off the coast of Hokkaido, about five miles away from the nearest island, that Captain Edwards received the request from Ranald MacDonald to leave the ship.  The had prepared for this adventure by rigging a small boat for sailing and stowing in it provisions for about thirty days:  a quadrant for observations, a box of books, stationary, and a few clothes.  Then into the launch stepped young Ranald, and while the crew shouted “God bless you Mac,” he dipped a small white flag in salute to the Stars and Stripes and parted ways from his friends for Japan.

This summer, on Saturday, June 27, exactly 150 years from the date that MacDonald’s adventure began, I would like to invite FOM members and friends to join in a reenactment of this historic passage on board the brig LADY WASHINGTON during its interbay sailing from Aberdeen to Westport, Washington.  As the new chairman of FOM and a member of the Advisory Council of Grays Harbor Historic Seaport, I propose a cooperative project between these two historical societies with important ties to maritime history and early US-Japan relations.  Further information will be forthcoming as we get closer to the date of our commemorative launching of MacDonald’s boat and salute to Ranald’s “Japan story of adventure!”  To make an early reservation on the passenger list for the June 27 sailing, contact the Gray’s Harbor Historic Seaport office at 1-800-532-LADY.

~~ Jim Mockford, FOM Chairman


Gates Ajar — Spring 1994

Sunday, April 10th, 1994
The text of this article is reprinted from the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, (Volume XII) 1891-1900, thanks to the great kindness of its author, David H. Wallace, and of the publisher, University of Toronto Press, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

MACDONALD, RANALD, adventurer, teacher, explorer, businessman, and author; b. 3 Feb. 1824 in Fort George (Astoria, Oreg.), eldest son of Archibald McDonald*, an HBC fur trader, and Chinook Indian princess Raven (Sunday), daughter of Chief Comcomly; d. unmarried 24 Aug. 1894 in Toroda, Wash.

Ranald MacDonald’s mother died shortly after his birth, and he was raised by his stepmother, Jane Klyne. After spending his early years at several Hudson’s Bay Company posts in the Columbia district, he was sent in 1834 to the Red River Academy at Fort Garry (Winnipeg) [see David Thomas Jones*]. Four years later he went to St Thomas, Upper Canada, to train in banking at a bank managed by one of his father’s friends, Edward Ermatinger*. He soon tired of this work, however, and early in 1841 he left surreptitiously to go to sea. Determined to visit the closed country of Japan, he shipped from Lahaina (Hawaii) in 1848 on the whaler Plymouth and arranged to be dropped off, appearing to be a shipwrecked sailor, near the west coast of Ezo (Hokkaido).

Taken by the Japanese authorities to Nagasaki, he made the best of his comfortable confinement in a temple room by becoming the first teacher of English in Japan, and it is as a teacher that he is best remembered there. One of his students, Enosuke Moriyama, later became a noted interpreter to the missions of Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry in 1853–54 and of Lord Elgin [Bruce*] in 1858–59.

At the end of April 1849 MacDonald was released to the American sloop of war Preble, which was visiting Nagasaki to pick up American sailors who had deserted from the whaler Lagoda. He traveled widely in Asia, Australia, and Europe before returning, shortly after his father’s death in 1853, to his family, then living in St Andrews (Saint-André-Est), Lower Canada. He remained there for about five years, during which time he became a Freemason.

In 1858 Ranald and his half-brother Allan returned to the Pacific coast, to the new colony of British Columbia. They set up a packing business between Port Douglas (Douglas), at the head of Little Harrison Lake and the Fraser River gold-mines, and ran a ferry across the Fraser at Lillooet. Their younger brother Benjamin later joined them. In 1861–62 Ranald MacDonald and Johnston George Hillbride Barnston, whose families were connected through marriage, set up the Bentinck Arm and Fraser River Road Company to service the new mines in the Caribou district. The route for this road was a pack-trail, running from the site of present-day Bella Coola to the Fraser River near Fort Alexandria (Alexandria, B.C.). The enterprise was not completed, however, because of financial difficulties. In 1864 MacDonald and Barnston’s younger brother Alexander joined the Vancouver Island Exploring Expedition [see Robert Brown]. On this expedition, which crossed the largely unexplored interior of Vancouver Island four times, MacDonald participated in the discovery of vast stands of prime timber, the Sooke gold-fields, and a large coalfield on Browns River near Comox. The next year he led a government-sponsored expedition to explore for minerals in the Horsefly area of the Caribou.

MacDonald spent the following decade in the Caribou district, exploring, and at his ranch on Hat Creek. He was also an employee of Barnard’s Express and Stage Line [see Francis Jones Barnard*] and later of Bonaparte House, the hotel run by Charles Augustus Semlin* and Philip Parke at Cache Creek. In 1875 he assisted his cousin Christina MacDonald in her trading operation at Kamloops. He finally retired to a log cabin close to the home of Christina’s brother Donald near Fort Colvile (near Colville, Wash.), where his own father had developed a large farm for the HBC during the 1830s.

While in retirement, MacDonald tried to find a publisher for his account of his visit to Japan. The manuscript was edited by Malcolm McLeod, who in 1872 had published Archibald McDonald’s Peace River journal, and several drafts were submitted to Canadian, American, and British publishers. A proposal for publication in Montreal under the title “A Canadian in Japan” fell through in 1892 because of a lack of subscriptions, but a revised version which McLeod prepared the following year finally appeared in 1923.


A portion of Ranald MacDonald’s original account of his visit to Japan is preserved in Malcolm McLeod’s papers at PABC, Add. mss 1249, along with one of the three manuscript copies of McLeod’s final 1893 edition, “Japan: story of adventure of Ranald MacDonald, first teacher of English in Japan, A.D. 1848–49.” The other surviving copy (the one McLeod returned to MacDonald) is held by the Eastern Wash. State Hist. Soc. (Spokane), which published it in 1923 as Ranald MacDonald: the narrative of his early life on the Columbia under the Hudsons Bay Companys regime; of his experiences in the Pacific whale fishery; and of his great adventure to Japan; with a sketch of his later life on the western frontier, 1824–1894, ed. W. S. Lewis and Naojiro Murakami. A Japanese translation of the Narrative prepared by Toruo Tomita, MakudonarudoNihon Kaisoki”, appeared in Tokyo in 1979.

MacDonald is also the author of Bentinck Arm and Fraser River Road Company, Limited, prospectus (Victoria, 1862), prepared in collaboration with his partner, Johnston George Hillbride Barnston.

Japan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Repository (Tokyo), Zoku Tsushin Zenran Ruishu (coil. of docs. from the time of the Tokugawa government), “Beikoku Hyomin no Geisen Nagasaki-ko ni Torai Ikken” (record of the visit to Nagasaki of the Preble, 1849) and “Kits Kaigan Hyochaku no Beikokujin Nagasaki Goso a Ikken, 1848–1849” (record of Ranald MacDonald and the Lagoda seamen). PABC, Add. mss 794, esp. Vancouver Island Exploring Expedition journals of Robert Brown and of Ranald MacDonald. [Robert Brown], Vancouver Island; exploration, 1864 (Victoria, [1865]). “An interesting visitor,” Ottawa Daily Citizen, 1 Sept. 1888; repr. in Daily NewsAdvertiser (Vancouver), 15 Sept. 1888. Frederick Whymper, Travel and adventure in the territory of Alaska, formerly Russian Americanow ceded to the United Statesand in various other parts of the north Pacific (London, 1868).

British Colonist (Victoria), 1858–60, continued as Daily British Colonist, 1860–64, and Daily Colonist, September 1894. Cariboo Sentinel (Barkerville, B.C.), 12 June 1865. China Mail (Hong Kong), 1 May 1849. Morning Oregonian (Portland), 12 Feb. 1891. SpokesmanReview (Spokane), 31 Aug. 1894. DAB. J. E. Ferris, “Ranald MacDonald, the sailor boy who visited Japan,” Pacific Northwest Quarterly (Seattle, Wash.), 48 (1957): 13–16; “Ranald MacDonald’s monument, Toroda Creek, state of Washington,” BCHQ, 15 (1951): 223–27. Province (Vancouver), 18 Nov. 1963. Shunzo Sakamaki, “Japan and the United States, 1790–1853,” Asiatic Soc. of Japan, Trans., 2nd ser., 18 (1939): 44–49. Vancouver Daily Province, 20 May 1928.

© 2000 University of Toronto/Université Laval
NOTE:  A second edition of Ranald’s Narrative was published in 1990 by the Oregon Historical Society Press with support from FOM and Epson Portland, Inc.  It is available from the OHS Press, 1200 S.W. Park Ave., Portland, OR  97205, at $30 plus shipping. [U.S. funds only.]
Chinook Tribe Seeks Information …
Edna Miller, secretary of the Chinook Indian Tribe, has asked that FOM share with the Tribe information about Ranald MacDonald, half-Scot, half-Indian, and grandson of legendary Chinook Chieftain Comcomly.  FOM Chairman Bruce Berney has offered copies of our publications and suggested a newsletter exchange.
Tour Highlights:
Dramatic Scenery, Historic Sites, Good Company, Great Fun …

The vastness of Eastern Washington is awe-inspiring.  The air is pungent with the scent of pine and sage, the land rolls with breathtaking skies.  Travelers will visit three unusual museums:  the Native Cultures Collection at Cheney Cowles Museum, Spokane; the architecturally exciting Yakima Nation Indian museum; and the charming Colville Museum, the heart of an historic complex.
We’ll learn more about Indian culture with an Indian feast — and see pictographs and petroglyphs painted and carved thousands of years ago.  We’ll see gigantic Grand Coulee Dam, a working gold mine, a winery …
We will visit, finally, the house in which Ranald MacDonald died and the lands he knew, pausing for a centennial tribute at his well-marked grave site near the Canadian border.
The tour is being organized in cooperation with the Oregon Historical Society , which will also invite its members to participate.  TO ASSURE YOUR PLACE on the tour, complete and mail the special FOM advance reservation form in this newsletter.
A Visit to Toroda
by Prof. Steve Kohl, Ph.D.
(FOM Vice Chair Steve Kohl, a member of the Department of Asian Languages and Literature at the University of Oregon, has long been interested in the Ranald MacDonald story.  Steve will lead our Tour to Toroda.  The following is his account of his visit there last summer …)

RANALD MacDONALD died at Toroda on the Canadian border of Washington.  Eva Emory Dye romantically and erroneously describes him passing away at his home at Fort Colville near Kettle Falls.  The actual circumstances of his death were more dramatically poignant than that.  Away from home, visiting his niece, Jennie Lynch, he died in her arms saying, “Sayonara, my dear, sayonara.”

Last August we drove through the Okanogan country, passing through Kettle Falls, crossing the Columbia, camping at Curlew Lake, and going on to Toroda to visit the site of MacDonald’s grave on a bluff high above Kettle River.  In many ways the area has greatly changed since MacDonald passed through here on his last journey, and in that process of change our sense of history has changed as some things are lost and other things gain heightened importance.

MacDonald spent his final years at Fort Colville where his father had been chief factor half a century earlier.  MacDonald evidently cared a great deal about preserving that legacy in his father’s memory.  He seems to have found contentment during those final years of his life.  He is quoted as saying, “I yearn for nothing more than to live according to the whims of my nature.  If I need meat for my dogs, in the foothills there is plenty of game.  If it is flour that I lack, there is a store at the nearest settlement.  My books furnish diversion, and in my solitude I am free to write and meditate.”  Today, neither fort nor homestead remain; all were flooded by the backwaters of Grand Coulee Dam.

As we crossed the 75 miles or so from Kettle Falls to Toroda, i could not help but wonder if these mountains and meadows are any different from what they were when Mac made his last journey in August of 1894.  He surely passed by Curlew Lake and perhaps camped there as we did, watching the sun set and twilight gather over the Okanogan.

When Lewis and Murakami were editing MacDonald’s Narrative in 1923, they described the site as a neglected Indian cemetery.  Today it is a neatly fenced plot which includes also the graves of Jennie Lynch, Nellie Stanton and other family members.  The mountains and rivers have not changed at all.  On a clear August morning the hills are green and dotted with pines and the river flows through the valley below, a remarkably lovely location.

Changes, of course, have been many.  MacDonald went to Japan hoping to open the doors of commerce with that country.  Today, as we see the vast amount of commerce – the wheat, cattle, timber, potatoes, fish and fruit of the Columbia River basin that goes to Japan, and when we see the Toyotas, televisions and computers that comes from Japan — we can appreciate the extent to which MacDonald’s dream of commerce and friendship between our two countries has been accomplished.  As we near the 100th anniversary of MacDonald’s death, it seems appropriate to honor this man of vision and humanity.


What FOM’s Been Doing …

AT FORT VANCOUVER Boy Scouts from Hyogo Prefecture in Japan joined Washington State representatives to rededicate the Friendship Monument erected in 1988 to honor three Japanese sailors – “shipwrecked” sea-drifters rescued and brought to the Fort in 1833 on orders of Dr. McLaughlin.  Chairman Mas Tomita represented FOM.

AT THE OREGON HISTORICAL SOCIETY FOM was represented at the August 6th opening of an OHS exhibit about the issei, Japanese pioneers who came to Oregon in the late 19th and early 10th centuries.  A special FOM flyer was developed for the opening.  FOM member George Azumano was among those instrumental in developing the popular exhibit, a joint effort of the japanese American National Museum, Oregon Japanese Americans and OHS.

IN PORTLAND FOM was host to a film crew from KTN-TV/Nagasaki, which created a special documentary about Ranald MacDonald as part of the stations 25th anniversary celebration.  Portland-area Friends met for dinner with the film crew.  FOM Vice Chairman Bruce Berney entertained the group in Astoria.  The film-makers also traveled to Vancouver and Victoria, B.C.; Winnipeg; Toronto; Washington, D.C.; Republic and Spokane, Washington, and Lahaina and Honolulu, Hawaii.  A copy of the Japanese-language production will be placed in FOM archives.

FOM/PORTLAND this month also greeted visitors from Japan led by FOM Vice Chair/Japan Masaki Takahashi.  The group was making an early centennial pilgrimage to Toroda.

IN JAPAN – Masaki Takahashi, who spearheaded development of the Rishiri monument memorializing Ranald MacDonald, is the new Vice Chairman/Japan for FOM.   He will serve as liaison between FOM/US and leaders of four Japanese chapters, who are Dr. Obama, Nagasaki; Mr. Nishiya, Rishiri; Mr. Aisaka, Kansai; and Mr. Kawasaki, Tokyo.  The Japanese groups have published a number of MacDonald studies.

AT THE BANK – Chairman Mas Tomita reported on FOM’s fiscal year-end status during the November meeting, noting a 12% increase in current paid membership.  income from memberships exceeded budget projects by $231; resale items were up $8, donations up $450, and luncheon receipts up $452, for a total increase in income of $1,181.  Expenses overall decreased, down from a budgeted $1800 to $1265, primarily because of reduced printing expenses.


Gates Ajar – Spring 1992

Monday, April 27th, 1992


Ranald MacDonald’s account of his stay in Japan was written from memory many years after the experience.  Many of his Japanese artifacts were lost; the one concrete thing brought back from Japan and appended to his account of his adventures is his glossary of Japanese words.

We are fortunate that Professor Kenji Sonoda has recently taken the trouble to reconstruct the list of words as MacDonald originally had them.  It is understandable and inevitable that misspellings slipped into the list after Malcolm McLeod worked it over twice.  One of the most difficult things in the world is to work with words in a language with which one is not familiar.  One would suppose that these discrepancies would have come to light in 1923 when Lewis and Marakami assembled the manuscript we have today.  Nevertheless, we now have Professor Sonoda’s reconstruction which will stand as a valuable linguistic tool.

We have relatively few sources available to tell us how Japanese words were actually pronounced in pre-modern times.  As Professor Sonoda points out, the major sources are Carl Peter Thunberg (1743 – 1828), Walter Henry Medhurst (1796-1857) and Ranald MacDonald.  There are important differences in these lists which are instructive.  Since Medhurst got his words from a dictionary, he provides us with official readings as opposed to the way people actually spoke the words.  Thunberg compiled his list on the basis of how he heard people say the words.  He traveled extensively in Japan, but from west to east, from Nagasaki to Edo and back.  Ranald MacDonald also compiled his list on the basis of what he heard, but he traveled the entire length of the country from the northernmost tip of Hokkaido to Nagasaki in the south.  Although much of his journey was by boat, they put to shore at regular intervals so that his vocabulary will surely show a variety of dialects not found in either Medhurst or Thunberg.

The important thing, of course, is having an accurate version of what Ranald MacDonald heard and recorded.  Professor Sonoda has given us that.

. . . . .

Gates Ajar – – – Summer 1991

Friday, July 26th, 1991


Friends of MacDonald returned to Astoria in May to celebrate re-publication of Ranald MacDonald’s book, participate in the excitement of Clatsop County Historical Society’s “Jane Barnes Day” and present books to civic dignitaries gathered at the Heritage Museum.

Bruce Hamilton, director of the Oregon Historical Society PRESS and principal speaker, outlined problems and pitfalls involved in re-printing a 1924 book and explained the compromises and capitulations involved.

“The MacDonald book,” he told seminar participants, “fits beautifully into our series of publications for the North Pacific Studies Center.”  Hamilton said financial help from FOM and Epson Portland Inc. also made it possible to stretch available funds.

Chairman Mas Tomita sees book publication as only the beginning:  “We have started an ambitious project to reach many people and institutions by presenting this book,” he said, reporting copies already distributed.  He reminded members that FOM was organized “to promote and preserve Ranald MacDonald’s wonderful story.”

“During our first three years,” Tomita said, “we have made progress toward that goal by maintaining a membership of 150 persons, publishing newsletters, organizing seminars, assisting in research and inquiries, developing pamphlets and a videotape, producing postcards, and creating and helping to fund the bilingual MacDonald monument on the site of old Fort Astoria.

Barbara C. Peeples, FOM Secretary, read a paper outlining Ranald MacDonald’s own futile and frequently desperate efforts, during the closing years of his adventurous life, to see his manuscripts published.

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FOM vice chairman Bruce Berney invites comment on proposals for tour to mark two major anniversaries in Ranald MacDonald’s life:

1 – 1994 will be the 100th anniversary of Ranald’s death, on August 5, 1894, near the tiny community of Toroda, Washington.

Bruce suggests that planning begin now for a tour which would include a visit to the grave site and monument in the Indian cemetery at Toroda, as well as to Spokane, Colvile and other Eastern Washington points where MacDonald-related memorabilia is on display.

2 – 1998 will be the 150th anniversary of Ranald’s history-making trip to Japan.  The question:  is there membership interest in an overseas tour which would include visits to Rishiri, Nagasaki and other areas of specific FOM interest?

Would the Japanese government issue a stamp marking either the 1848 voyage or 150 years of English-teaching in Japan?  Members interested in the possibility of either tour are invited to get in touch with Bruce.

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Gates Ajar ~ Spring 1991

Saturday, April 13th, 1991

After 68 years:  Second Edition of “Narrative” Printed by Oregon Historical Society Press


That jubilant message from Bruce Hamilton, director of the Oregon Historical Society Press, announced the arrival in Portland of the historic Second Edition of Ranald MacDonald: The Narrative of His Life, 1824-1894.

The Friends of MacDonald has been instrumental in making re-publication possible, thanks in large part to FOM Chairman Mas Tomita and Epson Portland Inc., of which Mas is president.

“Enclosed in the first copy of the special edition of Ranald MacDonald’s Narrative,” Hamilton wrote Tomita.  “All of us here at the Society, and the Press, but most especially for my part, wish to express our great and lasting gratitude for your support of this project.  Without your direct support we would not have these books in hand at this time, and we would not be able to provide to so many new persons the opportunity to become acquainted with Ranald MacDonald and his extraordinary life.”

Said Chairman Tomita:  “OHS delivered my copy just in time for Christmas.  It is one of the best Christmas gifts i can imagine.  Epson Portland inc. is glad to have been able to help with this publication, so that many more people can read this remarkable story.”


Ranald’s “Narrative” was first published in 1923, almost 50 years after his death, by the Eastern Washington Historical Society, in a limited edition of 1,000 copies.  The volume includes not only Ranald MacDonald’s adventures in Japan in 1848-49 but also an account of his life before and after his journey and a biographical sketch by the original editors:  Naojiro Murakami (1868-1966), a Commissioner of Historical Compilation for Japan, and William S. Lewis (1876-1941), of the Eastern Washington Historical Society.

The heart of the “Narrative” is Ranald’s memoir of his voyage to Japan in 1848.  Written some 40 years after the adventure, it recounts his successful efforts to enter forbidden territory, his imprisonment, his months  spent teaching English to Japanese scholars and his “rescue”.

(Ranald’s own heartbreaking attempt to publish his book during his lifetime will be among topics discussed during the 1991 FOM Spring Seminar in Astoria.)

Presentation copies of the book are being distributed by FOM and EPI to academic libraries, government leaders and interested groups in the USA, Canada, Japan and Scotland.  The new edition includes a forward by Donald J. Sterling, Jr., FOM member, former OHS president and Oregon Journal editor now with the Portland Oregonian; and an afterward by Jean Murray Cole, FOM member, Canadian writer and author of Exile in the Wilderness, a biography of Ranald’s father, Archibald McDonald.  Mrs. Cole presented a distinguished paper on the family during the 1898 FOM spring seminar.

The new edition was edited by Kim Carlson of the OHS staff.  Designer was George Resch of the OHS staff, and the new-to-all-of-us illustration on the jacket is by Lisa M. Chiba, who created a portrait of Ranald at age 24 from later photos.

Although editors sought to make the new book resemble the original edition as closely as possible, there is one notable graphic addition:  Japanese characters appear on the last page and embossed on the back cover of the new edition, the traditional locations of Japanese book title pages and front covers, respectively.  The characters repeat the book title.

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FUTURE PLANNING – which “road” does FOM take?

FOM member Don Sterling has written some thoughtful and provocative comments which suggest interesting paths for Friends of MacDonald to pursue.  Excerpts from his letter –

“Dear Friends,

. . . It seems to me there are two ways the Friends can go in honoring Ranald MacDonald.  One is to concentrate on his own life and adventures.  This would involve the study not only of his career but of the climate of his times — on the lower Columbia, at the Red River settlements, in Japan, and wherever his travels took him in his later life.  It would involve many interesting cultures and personalities, but in my opinion it is a more limited field than the Friends ought to occupy.

The other approach – which I think is preferable – is to regard MacDonald as the personification of the early contacts between the West and Japan in the mid-19th Century.  Without ever losing sight of MacDonald himself, the Friends gradually could assemble and disseminate information about a wide range of related subjects, such as:

* The Dutch merchants at Nagasaki;

* The visits to Japan of whaling crews and other Westerners;

* Travels abroad by Japanese when such trips were still officially forbidden;

* The interpreters MacDonald taught, and their later activities;

* Events surrounding the arrival of Commodore Perry’s “Black Ships” and the immediate consequences in Japan;

* Townsend Harris’s  experiences as the first American consul in Japan.

* The first visit of Japanese emissaries to the United States.

. . . Whichever course the Friends organization takes, there are a number of things it could do, such as:

* Compile and publish a bibliography of writings about MacDonald and related subjects. (Note: a preliminary draft has been distributed);

* Establish collections of the most important works in several key libraries, such as in Astoria and Portland and in a few of the most appropriate places in Japan;

* Promote communication among the Friends’ membership by publishing not only a newsletter but also a journal of articles on MacDonald-related subjects.  (Any publishing should appear in both English and Japanese);

* Hold occasional dinners and other gatherings where members of the Friends and others interested in MacDonald-related subjects can become acquainted with each other;

* Encourage original studies;

* Establish cooperative relationships with other organizations similarly interested in the period, such as the new North Pacific Studies Center of the Oregon Historical Society;

*Locate, map and mark important sites connected with MacDonald’s life and vision;

* Sponsor tours to relevant historical places in north America and Japan . . . “

~Don Sterling

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Gates Ajar – Vol.2 No.1 – FALL 1989

Tuesday, October 17th, 1989

RANALD MacDONALD: His Ancestry and Early Years

Jean Murray Cole of Ontario, Canada, an award-winning author, editor and historian, delivered a paper entitled “Ranald MacDonald: His Ancestry and Early Years”, during the 2nd annual Friends of MacDonald Seminar in Portland, Oregon on may 6, 1989.  Mrs. Cole, who is the great-great-granddaughter and biographer of Archibald McDonald, Ranald’s father, has generously presented a typescript of her presentation to Friends of MacDonald for the archives.  Her words paint a scholarly picture of a devoted, close-knit family, working hard to match “civilized” standards of education and religious training while stationed in the remote outposts of an uncivilized wilderness.  Excerpts follow:

RANALD MacDONALD was the product of two proud and powerful races, brought together by chance in this remote corner of the world.  His lineage was that of generations of free-spirited Scot Highlanders, joined with the blood of legendary Comcomly, Chief of the influential Chinook tribe who, in the early 1800s, held sway over all the natives around the Columbia River mouth (until  nearly 90 percent of them were carried off in the fever epidemic of 1830-31).  The sense of kinship was strong in both.  After infancy, surrounded by an ever-increasing number of half-brothers in a household that his father was determined should emulate as nearly as possible family life as he had known it in what he often referred to as the “civilized world.”

Archibald McDonald … was descended from the colorful Glencoe branch of the MacDonald Clan.  His grandfather, John, escaped as a child with his mother to the surrounding hills when King William’s troops carried out their infamous massacre of 38 MacDonalds in 1692.  Archy’s father, Angus, at the age of 15 served in the field at the Battle of Culloden in 1745 …

Although Ranald was in fact an “only child”, he grew up as part of a large, loving and happy family.  Later in life he said that he hadn’t realized, as a boy, that Jane Klyne was not his real mother, although this is difficult to reconcile with the fact that he also brings forth memories of his time spent in the lodge of his grandfather Comcomly.  He remembers that he was sometimes called “Comly” by his father’s fur trader friends, and “Qu`Ame” (grandson) or “Toll” (Chinook for “boy”) by Comcomly himself …

Ranald was born at the Hudson’s Bay Company Fort George, formerly (and later) Astoria, but when his mother, Princess Raven, died shortly after his birth he was taken to Comcomly’s lodge to be cared for by an aunt, his mother’s sister, Car-cum-cum.  There he remained until the following year when his father took another wife “in the custom of the country” – Jane Klyne.

[After Archy’s assignment to a new post, Fort Langley, near what is now Vancouver, Canada:] It was here that the little family began to grow up, and it was here that the father began what he referred to as his “thriving school” where he himself gave instruction to mother and sons alike.  McDonald firmly believed, as he said to friends, “There is nothing like early education,” and he was determined that his children would not suffer the fate of many of the offspring of fur traders who spent their childhood in the Indian country … [In late 1830] McDonald reported that his young wife had become “an excellent scholar” and that “Toll is a stout chap – reads his New Testament and began his copy the other day as he got out of his 7th year … ”

Much to his regret, that spring of 1833 McDonald was called back to Fort Vancouver … Ranald recalls this trip in his memoir, and at the age of nine he would no doubt have vivid memories.  I believe, though, that when he wrote of the Ft. Colville of his childhood, he was in fact recalling the years at Ft. Langley,  “Here, during three or four years, with younger half-brothers, under the tenderest and best, in every way, of parental care, I spent what I consider to have been the very happiest days of my life:  in a world of our own; little, singularly isolated from the haunts of men … ”  In fact the family was never all together at Ft. Colville.

There are many myths about Ranald, and there are many truths – it is not easy to sort them out.  It is documented, however, in contemporary records, that after those years at Langley the family was never all together again for any length of time.  Archibald McDonald was posted to Ft. Colville in the spring of 1833 … he decided to enroll Ranald in John Ball’s school at Fort Vancouver for the winter of 1833-34 … He had plans for the children: “It’s high time for me to … get my little boys to school …” [A journey east permitted him to see his family settled in Red River (now Winnipeg, Manitoba) while he was on furlough in Europe and to register the four older boys in the Red River school.]

Duncan Finlayson, who had charge of the Hudson’s Bay Company spring Express Party in 1834, brought Ranald with him from Ft. Vancouver to join his father at Colville before they moved on to the east together.  That brief time … was in fact the only period in Ranald’s childhood that he was there …

This myth about Ft. Colville brings up another confusing element … that [Ranald] was at Fort Vancouver when the three survivors of the shipwrecked Japanese ‘junk’ [Hojun-maru] were brought there [by Capt. McNeil on board the Llama] in the summer of 1834.  The truth is that Finlayson left Vancouver with Ranald in March of that year – they left Colville on April 18th, and arrived at the Committee’s Punch Bowl where Michael Klyne met them with horses to take them through the mountains to Jasper on May 2nd, and by June they were at Norway House at the Council Meeting.

[Ranald’s] knowledge of Japan and its people, I suspect, came more from his reading and his later travels with the whaling fleet in the south seas, although he may well have heard something of the three survivors of the shipwrecked ‘junk’ who arrived at Fort Vancouver shortly after his departure from there.  (Eva Emery Dye’s assertions in her 1907 version of the story that Ranald was “detailed” by McLaughlin to look after the three Japanese as they recovered in the Fort hospital is totally without substance, although one can believe, as she says, that “Ranald listened to theories of his elders as to the other wrecks.”)  That he identified with the Japanese people cannot be questioned … once he had conceived his plan to shipwreck himself on the Japanese coast, nothing could deter him … His purpose was firmly fixed:  “to learn of them; and, if occasion should offer, to instruct them of us.”

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IN RANALD’S WAKE:  Steve Kohl’s FOM Experience in Japan

Prof. STEPHEN KOHL, Ph.D., Friends of MacDonald vice chairman, returned to Oregon this fall after a year in Tokyo as director of the Oregon State System of Higher Education’s exchange program in Japan.  Dr. Kohl, who is professor of East Asian Languages and Literature at the University of Oregon, will discuss his participation in Japanese Friends activities during the FOM membership dinner meeting.

July 5:  Katie and I met Prof.  Jukichi Suzuki in Shinjuku and discussed wording for a new Ranald MacDonald monument to be erected on Rishiri Island on the beach where it is thought MacDonald came ashore.

July 13:  Dr. Takahashi and Mr. Ushio came to Sapporo, where we were staying with friends, to take us to a MacDonald seminar on Rishiri.  Weather problems disrupted our seagoing travel plans and we instead went by train to Otaru, where we boarded a beautifully sleek cruiser and headed out through the breakwater into the open Sea of Akhosk, taking photographs as we followed MacDonald’s trail.

As we reached the point judged by Professor Tomita to be the place where MacDonald actually left the Plymouth, it became hard to see why he made for distant Yagishiri rather than the mainland of Hokkaido, which is clearly visible to us.  In our discussion of this matter we came up with several reasons:

1) It was foggy, as we know from MacDonald’s journal, and perhaps he could not see the mainland to the east but could see Yagishiri to the north. 2) There is evidently a northward current in these waters which may have made it more practical for him to go north rather than east.  3) Because long stretches of the Hokkaido coast were uninhabited in those days, MacDonald may have decided to seek out a smaller island as an easier and more likely place to find human habitation.

My own conjecture is that MacDonald did not get off the Plymouth at the point Prof. Tomita indicates, but, rather got off further north within five miles of Yagishiri as he indicates in his journal …

Mr. Isono, a local innkeeper and a man who knows all the details of local history, was our guide on Yagishiri.  MacDonald is thought to have landed on a sandy beach on the south side of the island.  After lunch at Mr. Isono’s inn, we re-boarded our cruiser and headed north for Rishiri into a strong north wind and heavy waves.  It was quite moving to approach the towering peak of Mt. Rishiri and to think that this is the same sea MacDonald sailed and that we were seeing the same mountain and island he saw.  None of this has changed in the past 141 years.  What is different is that Ranald MacDonald was going into the unknown, dread Japan; we were accompanied by friends who would insure our good reception.  But this is only possible, of course, because MacDonald made that first trip.

July 14:  In the afternoon we went to Notsuka, which is where we believe MacDonald must have landed on Rishiri.  Our plan was to retrace MacDonald’s route from there to Motodomari on the other side of the island, which was Samurai headquarters in those days.  At Motodomari we visited a local Shinto shrine which was built about ten years before MacDonald’s arrival.  MacDonald visited the shrine and so did we . . .

July 15:  A day-long adventure climbing up steep, rocky trails, but we made it to the summit of Mt. Rishiri.  If you like mountain climbing it was glorious – high, alpine meadows filled with flowers, steep gorges, cliffs, and still some snow in the high meadows.

Over dinner that night we talked more about MacDonald and discussed a number of questions that had been raised by Prof. Aihara and some of the other 50 FOM members in Japan – questions that will be of interest to many of us here.

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