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Gates Ajar — January 1997

Sunday, January 5th, 1997


*****     THE PASSING OF A GREAT FRIEND     *****

Masakatsu TomitMas Tomita circa 1990a Remembered

Friends of MacDonald lost their best friend in July of 1996 when Masakatsu Tomita, Chairman of the Friends of MacDonald, died of lymphoma while still in his mid-forties.

Mas was a remarkable, complex individual; a far-sighted visionary with great intellect, an effective business executive, and also a man of uncommon sensitivity to people and place.

The enthusiasm which Mas devoted to Friends of MacDonald (he once said he intended to make the study of Ranald MacDonald his “life work”) led this tiny organization to accomplish a great deal within a few years.

Mas’s admiration for MacDonald, the thoughtful adventurer, seemed boundless; philosophically they were probably much akin.  Mas first read of Ranald in a Japanese magazine article.  References in it to “Ft. George” misled Mas, who did not realize that Astoria was once called Fort George.  Some months later, a request for funds for a MacDonald monument in Astoria was discussed in a Japanese group to which Mas belonged.

Mas was swift to become involved in the project.  He soon was named chairman of FOM and turned his tremendous energy to it.

(Meanwhile, Mas was also providing vigorous leadership to building Epson Portland Inc., the printer and computer plant which he brought to Oregon.  It was Seiko Epson’s first such plant in the Americas.  Mas fell in love with Oregon at first site – but he said later that it took him “two and a half years, seven trips to Portland” before ground was finally broken in the Sunset Corridor in 1985.  Mas’s death came a decade to the day after the first printer rolled off Epson assembly lines in July, 1986.)

During his tenure as FOM chairman, FOM’s program included building an archive of MacDonald-related documents in English and Japanese; developing a bibliography of materials related to MacDonald and his era; participating in the erection of monuments in the U.S. and Japan; sponsoring seminars featuring notable speakers; providing support (which included a sizable donation from EPI) for the reprinting of Ranald’s Narrative by the Oregon historical Society; publishing a scholarly translation of MacDonald’s Glossary; producing a taped history; sponsoring an anniversary trip to Toroda, Washington, where Ranald died; newsletters, member events …

Mas paid frequent tribute to help from people at EPI and in FOM who worked with him to reach goals.  Yet most of the goals were Mas’s dreams — and many of us who did work with him can only recall, with awe and admiration, the power of his intellect, of his inspiration and of his vision.  FOM’s sympathies go to his family, friends and colleagues.

Sayonara, Mas … Sayonara.

~~ Barbara Peeples


My Turn by Bruce Berney

The Ranald MacDonald birthplace monument continues to be an important surprise to people visiting Fort Astoria on the corner of 15th and Exchange Streets in Astoria, OR.  The City’s new cruise boat industry had brought hundreds of people on walking tours of downtown Astoria, and most of them find MacDonald’s adventure to be an interesting fact on which to reflect.

Ours is not the only MacDonald monument in the world.  The first was the handsome gravestone erected at the cemetery at Toroda, near Republic, Washington.  Next, Rishiri Island established an attractive wooden sign at the site of MacDonald’s first landing on an inhabited Japanese island.  Lat year, the Rotary Club of Nagasaki erected a stone monument at the site where MacDonald taught.  Later, a typhoon destroyed the Rishiri sign, so on October 23, 1996, a handsome stone monument was installed by the Rotary Club of Rishiri.  Dedication ceremonies at monuments are always elaborate events with visiting historians, government dignitaries  and Friends of MacDonald members and media coverage.

We extend our congratulations to Jo Ann Roe, a charter member of FOM, whose book Ranald MacDonald:  Pacific Rim Adventurer, will be published in April or May by Washington State University Press.  The book features an index, notes, bibliography and illustrations.  The paperback edition will sell for $18.95, and the hardcover, $35.00.  A major contribution to knowledge about MacDonald’s life, the recounting of his importance to British Columbia history is very rewarding.  If you find it more convenient than a local bookstore, add $5.00 shipping/handling and order it from Clatsop County Historical Society gift shop.

Two years ago, we started as annual tradition of meeting at the birthplace monument on February 3rd at 11:30 a.m., then reconvening at a local restaurant for an informal FOM lunch.  If you can’t come this year, put it on your calendar for next year.  If you are coming from a distance any other tine, ask CCHS to line me up to be on hand to greet you.  I always enjoy meeting other Friends of MacDonald!


Many have given to the Friends of MacDonald, care of CCHS, in memory of “Mas”:

Mr. & Mrs. George I. Azumano

Ms. Eloise J. Barry

Mr. Bruce R. Berney

Mr. Hidekazu Fujimori

Mr. & Mrs. A. Funaki

Mr. Toru Hashinoguchi

Mr. Yuji Hirabayashi

Mr. Takanobu Ibori

Mr. Takayoshi Ito

Mr. Edward Y. Kawasaki

Mr. Steve Klein

Mr. Hiroki Komatsu

Mr. Allen R. Mann

Mr. Kenichi Minatoya

Mr. Akio Mitsuishi

Ms. Barbara C. Peeples

Mr. & Mrs. Haruhiko Takada

Ms. Genevieve Walker

Mr. & Mrs. Masashi Yabana

Mr. & Mrs. Masaru Yatabe

Mr. C. N. Winningstad

Mr. & Mrs. Michitaka Okamoto

Mr. & Mrs. Homer Yasui

Mr. M. Isono

Mr. & Mrs. Nobuaki Ishikawa

Mr. Stephen S. McConnel

Mr. Haruhiko Gyoda

Mr. Tsuyoshi Nagano

Mr. Tetsuhiro Yoshimoto

Mr. Manabu Yoshikawa

Mrs. Mas (Machiko) Tomita

Epson Corp.

Shokookai of Portland


Gates Ajar ~~ Volume 1 Number 1 – Summer 1988

Saturday, June 11th, 1988

We Are Organized!

“Friends of MacDonald” has been organized as a Clatsop County Historical Society chartered committee.  It honors Ranald MacDonald, a native Astorian who, in 1848, risked his life on a mission of friendship to forbidden Japanese shores.

The Charter was presented May 20 by Heather Reynolds, president of the Historical Society.

The organization will seek to find and preserve MacDonald memorabilia, to promote publication of newsletters, books, articles and other materials about MacDonald, to hold seminars and other educational programs, and to encourage museum exhibits and visits.

WEST OF THE SUN ~ A Tokyo Branch of Friends of MacDonald has been organized with Hiromichi Shibata as Manager.  Extensive press coverage in Japanese language publications includes Oregon Trail Magazine, The North American Post, Kaigai Chuzai, Japan Economic Journal and others.

Charter members of Friends of MacDonald include Hugh Ackroyd, Aihara Agency Inc., Yuji Aisaka, Clifford B. Alterman, Wayne Atteberry, Mr. & Mrs. George Azumano, Frank Bauman, Borden Beck, Jr., Floyd Bennett, Bruce Berney, J.E. “Bud” Clark, Joan Choi, Marilyn Cochrane Davis, Brian Doherty, Epson America Inc., Ted & Carrie Etzel, Nancie Fadeley, Bill Feuchtwanger, Michael Foster, Vera Gault; Evelyn Hankel, Edith Henningsgaard, Gene Hogan, Itogumi USA Corp., Japan-American Society of Oregon, Toshiyuki Kasai, Eizo Kaneyasu, Shigeru Kimura, Isamu Kobayashi, Stephen Kohl, Kiyoshi Komatsu, Hiroyuki Kurumizawa, Lahaina Restoration Foundation, Betty Leu, Allan Mann, Stephen McConnel, Randal & Ross McEvers, Jerry McMurry, Barbara Minard, Shirley Minard, Hope Moberg, Jim Mockford, Dr. & Mrs. R.P. Moore, Kenneth Munford, Eiji Nishiya, Hiroaki Nishitani, Ryuji Noda, Mamoru Ofuku, Pacific Power & Light Co., Peat Marwick Mann & Co., Barbara C. Peeples, Phyllis Reuter, Yasuo Skaniwa, Shoichi Sakanushi;  Herbert & Barbara Schwab, Arnold Seeborg, Hiroaki Sekizawa, Katsuhiko Shimodaira, Shokookai of Portland, Standard Insurance Co., Richard & Helen Slagle, Donald Sterling, Hisao Sugi, Sam & Kitzie Stern, Yuji Takahashi abd the Rishiri Rotary Club, Isaac Tevet, Mr. & Mrs. Dick Thompson, Masakatsu Tomita, Frank Tomori, Morio Toyoshima, Paul Van der Veldt, Susanna Von Reibold, Ronald L. Walquist, Akira Watanabe, Betty Williams, William Winn, Katsu Yamazaki, Ichiro Yokoyama.

OFFICERS ELECTED – Mas Tomita, president of Epson Portland, Inc., chairman; Bruce Berney, City of Astoria librarian; and Stephen Kohl, PhD. of the University of Oregon, both vice chairmen; and Barbara Peeples, Portland public relations counselor, secretary; Hiromichi Shibata, Tokyo Branch Manager.

* * * * *

Monument Dedicated to Honor Astorian Ranald MacDonald,

Japan’s First Teacher of English

ASTORIA, May 21 ~~ A monument of American granite was dedicated this day on the site of the old Fort Astoria [Ft. George] in honor of Ranald MacDonald, born here in 1824 to a father descended from Highland Scots and his wife, a Chinook princess.

The jubilant cry of bagpipes recalled the Scottish heritage as dignitaries representing four nations joined 200 other guests for an outdoor ceremony beneath clear, blue skies and a hot sun.  Ranald MacDonald, dead for almost a century, was being honored by his hometown.

The ceremony recognized MacDonald’s 1848 visit to Japan, during the period in which Japan shut its doors to foreigners and threatened Christian intruders with death.  MacDonald, carrying a bible and armed only with native ingenuity and goodwill, made a plan which landed him on Japan’s Rishiri island and permitted him, even though imprisoned, to learn Japanese and to become Japan’s first teacher of English.

Today, MacDonald is widely known in Japan as a pioneer ambassador of international friendship.  A monument on Rishiri tells of his arrival; books and magazine articles have been published, including a Japanese translation of his own story.  Guests at the dedication included a crew from Hokkaido Broadcasting Film Company, which has produced a documentary about his life.  Speakers during the monument dedication included Akira Watanabe, Consul-General of Japan; Andrew Hay, British Consul; State Senator Joan Dukes; Oregon Clan Donald Commissioner Marilyn Davis; Astoria Mayor Edith Henningsgaard; descendants of Chinook Chief Com’Comly, MacDonald’s maternal grandfather, and of Archibald McDonald, his father.

Bruce Berney, who is vice president of the Clatsop County Historical Society, was master of ceremonies.  Dr. Stephen Kohl presented an historical vignette; John Cooper, CCHS executive director, unveiled the monument and Kenichi Tomita, 10, son of Mas Tomita, chairman of Friends of MacDonald, read the Japanese text.

Ranald's English Students

Moriyama and Tokojiro, two of MacDonald’s students,became chief interpreters to Commodore Perry

* * * * *


HOKKAIDO, JAPAN ” …  We are deeply impressed that the starting point of relations [between Oregonians and Hokkaido-ans to further mutual friendships] was marked before the Civil War or the opening of Japan’s ports with the visit of an American named Ranald MacDonald.  Mr. MacDonald knocked on Japan’s stubbornly closed doors and taught his native tongue to the Samurai.  Indeed, his visit of some 140 years ago was an historic scheme of grandeur … We hope that the dedication of the MacDonald Monument will serve to remind us of this brave man who cut a road of friendship based upon trust and understanding … ”  ~ Takahiro Yokomichi, Governor of Hokkaido

” … MR. EINOSUKE MORIYAMA, who was taught by Mr. MacDonald, had contributed to the civilization and enlightenment of Yokohama City in Kanagawa Prefecture.  I sincerely expect that Friends of MacDonald will also carry out brilliant achievements for friendly relations between the United States and Japan …” ~ Kazuji Nagasu, Governor of Kanagawa Prefecture

” … HE IS UNDOUBTEDLY of special interest to us because of his presence in Lahaina at the height of the whaling period and his unique tie to Japan … We look forward to being a member of the Friends of MacDonald.” ~ Lynn McCrory, Lahaina Restoration Foundation, Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii

” … I REGRET THAT I cannot come to Astoria to take part in the ceremony.  On the same day I have a prior commitment to give a lecture about Ranald MacDonald to a group of high school English teachers in Toyohashi City.  Ranald MacDonald deserves special recognition as a memorable contributor to Japanese history.” ~ Akira Yoshimura, author of Festival of the Sea, a book about MacDonald and E. Moriyama

” … HE GREATLY IMPRESSED the Japanese with his intelligence, politeness and integrity and succeeded in communicating friendship and trust … Such a wonderful story should be handed down to Japanese generations to come.  I believe that this monument will … promote the friendship that he began between Japan and the United States.” ~ Masaki Takahashi, of the Rishiri island Rotary Club, which last year erected a monument at the place where Ranald landed in 1848.

” … EVEN AFTER 140 YEARS MacDonald’s great courage and action have left a deep impression to not only Rishiri Citizens but also to all of the Japanese … Although Rishiri, Nagasaki and Astoria are a great distance apart, they share the same spirit of friendship which crosses the Pacific Ocean.” ~ Toshi Adachi, Town Mayor of Higashi Rishiri

* * * * *


Ranald MacDonald, a descendant of Ranald MacDonald’s father (Archibald McDonald) was a guest at the first MacDonald seminar May 20.  Young Ranald is a student at Montana State University in Bozeman, where he is studying political science and public administration.  he and his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Ranald McDonald* of Niarada, MT, made the long trip here to participate.

Other special guests at the ceremony included descendants of Chief Com’Comly and the Stanton families, who are descendants of Jenny Lynch, MacDonald’s niece.  It was at Mrs. Lynch’s home that Ranald MacDonald died in 1894 whispering the Japanese words of farewell:  “Sayonara, sayonara.”

[* Ranald MacDonald, who restored the “a” in MacDonald that his father and some other relatives abandoned, never married.  There are many collateral descendants, related through his step-brothers and sister, Com’Comly’s cousins and his parents’ siblings.]

* * * * *


MACDONALD SEMINAR – Prof. Torao Tomita of Rikkyo University, Tokyo, a leading Japanese authority on American Indians and also the Japanese translator of Ranald MacDonald’s memoir, was a key speaker on May 20 when Friends of MacDonald sponsored a seminar about MacDonald in Astoria.  More than 100 guests attended.

Dr. Tomita suggested two reasons for MacDonald’s decision to visit Japan:  one, he said, was the prejudice he faced because of his Indian heritage; the other, his theory about the ancestral kinship of the Indian and Japanese people.

Prof. Stephen Kohl of the Department of Asian Languages and Literature at the University of Oregon, and long a student of MacDonald, spoke of the peril MacDonald risked by visiting Japan.  Kohl credited MacDonald’s “enduring belief in human nature – if you act like a human being, people will treat you like one” – for his success.

* * * * *


A concise story of Ranald MacDonald’s adventure, taken from the book Five Foreigners in Japan by Herbert H, Gowen, has been re-printed by Friends of MacDonald.  Publication was made possible through a grant from Epson Portland Inc. and with the permission of Fleming H. Revell Co.  The booklet includes photos of MacDonald, members of his family and  Japanese students and a map of his voyage from Rishiri to Matsumae.  It is available for $2.50 plus 50 cents postage from the Clatsop County Historical Society.

* * * * *

THANK YOU, CLAN DONALD:  Marilyn David, Oregon commissioner of Scottish Clan Donald, to which Ranald MacDonald belonged, presented a clan memento to Bruce Berney of the Friends of MacDonald during her talk at monument dedication ceremonies.  MacDonald was proud of his Scottish ancestors, who came from Glencoe in the Scottish highlands.  Oregon members of Clan Donald have themselves dedicated a monument, at the Old Scotch Church in North Plains, Oregon, in memory of the Massacre of Glencoe.

* * * * *

MACDONALD EXHIBIT ON DISPLAY AT CCHS:  A Ranald MacDonald exhibit is now on display as the Heritage Museum of the Clatsop County historical Society, located at 1618 Exchange St., just a block east of the MacDonald monument.  Visitors will find maps, books and photographs about Ranald MacDonald and his voyage across what he called “this placid sea”.

* * * * *

LIBRARIAN WITH A CAUSE REALIZES A DREAM:  Ranald MacDonald’s rebirth in Astoria, Oregon can be traced back to 1972.  Bruce Berney, director of the Astoria Public Library, was culling seldom-read books from library shelves.  One of those books was Ranald MacDonald’s story of his visit to Japan in 1848 and his experience as Japan’s first teacher of English.  Berney’s interest was piqued; the librarian had been an English teacher in Japan in 1961-63.  Berney set the book aside for his own reading and this met Ranald.

On February 3, 1974, the 150th anniversary of MacDonald’s birth (also Berney’s birthday, coincidentally) Astoria Friends of the Library celebrated.  Slowly, interest in the incredible story grew.  Dr. Torao Tomita came to Astoria to learn more about MacDonald, and eventually translated his book into Japanese.

Berney wanted a MacDonald monument erected.  He felt it would interest Japanese seamen visiting Astoria and other tourists, but money was needed.  The State’s growing Japanese business community was approached.  A talk to the Board of Shokookai of Portland stimulated the interest of Board Member Mas Tomita, president of Epson Portland, inc., who had read the MacDonald story in a Japanese magazine but had not realized that “Fort George” was better known as Fort Astoria.

Steve Kohl of the University of Oregon and other became involved.  The result:  our international organization, FRIENDS of MACDONALD, is in existence because Bruce Berney found a book no one had read for five years.

Berney told guests at the dedication ceremony:  “My dream has been realized.”

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