OUT TO SEA: HOW A JAPANESE PEASANT BOY BECAME AN ENGLISH GENTLEMAN
A young Japanese castaway loses everything: his homeland, his family, and his identity.
OUT TO SEA: HOW A YOUNG JAPANESE PEASANT BECAME AN ENGLISH GENTLEMAN, set in a tumultuous time in Japan’s history at the end of its 200 years of isolation, is a true historical narrative of loss and discovery.
In 1832, 13-year-old Otokichi works as a sailor and leaves port for his inaugural trip to the capital city of Edo. A powerful storm, however, sends his ship into the Pacific Ocean, where he and his shipmates will spend 14 months struggling between life and death.
So begins Otokichi’s harrowing adventures as he becomes enslaved by the Makah tribe of the northwest coast and experiences life with the burly fur traders of the Hudson’s Bay Company.
He is sent to the heart of the British Empire in London, and later learns to survive on his own in the thriving colonial port cities of Macao and Singapore. Along the way, he helps translate the first ever Japanese Bible. He interprets for the British during the Opium Wars. And just when he is about to return to Japan after a four-year absence, his own countrymen reject him, forcing him to become a permanent exile for the rest of his life. He will finally face off with the Shogun from the opposite sides of the negotiation table and prove to be a driving force for modernization in Japan about to face the “western barbarians” at their borders.
OUT TO SEA is the story of how life can change in an instant and how hope can be found in the most desperate of times. It is a universal story of adventure and survival that encompasses three continents in an age of exploration and new beginnings.
Gentlemen at Shanghai Foreign Settlement, 1860s (Essex Museum)
Source: Shin Muramatsu, 1998, Illustrated Shanghai: 150 Years of Modern City, p. 31, Kawade Shobo.