Chronology of Japanese
American History
With contributions by Sidney C. Li
1543 Japanese encounter Europeans for the first time when some
Portuguese land on a small island off the southern tip of
Kyushu Island in southwestern Japan.
1549 Jesuit Francis Xavier starts Christian proselytizing in Japan.
The Catholic missionaries convert about 300,000 Japanese by
the end of the 16th century.
1560 Oda Nobunaga (1534–1582) begins the unification drive of
Japan, ending Ahikaga rule in 1573.
1592–1598 Japan invades Korea with the ultimate goal of conquering
China. This military aggression ends with the death of the
powerful warrior Toyotomi Hideyoshi, leaving Korea in ruins.
1638 Japan begins a period of seclusion, triggered by a rebellion
involving about 20,000 Japanese Christians in 1637 and 1638.
1790 The first U.S. Naturalization Act allows only “free White
persons” to become U.S. citizens.
1806 Eight Japanese sailors on board an American ship arrive in
Hawai‘i. They are the first recorded Japanese who land on the
Hawai‘ian Islands.
1841 While commanding a whaling ship, the John Howland in the
Pacific, Capt. William Whitfield rescues five shipwrecked
Japanese sailors. In November 1841, four of the rescued
Japanese sailors disembark at the port of Oahu. Manjiro
Nakahama stays on board and goes with Whitfield to
Fairhaven, Massachusetts. On May 6, 1843, the John Howland
sails into New Bedford harbor. Manjiro Nakahama attends
school in New England and adopts a Western name: John
Manjiro. Later on, John Manjiro will serve as an interpreter for
Commodore Matthew Perry. John Manjiro indirectly influenced
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