The 14th Annual Honolulu Festival will be held on March 14-16, 2008. An ongoing tradition that has become a major part of the Festival is the U.S.-Japan Cultural Exchange Seminar. Each year the U.S.-Japan Cultural Exchange Seminar focuses on a specific cultural and historical relationship between the United States and Japan, past and present. This program will be held at the Hawaii Convention Center, Room 310, on March 15, Saturday morning from 10:30 and is complimentary. The guest speakers are an actual part of the theme, having lived it themselves or through their family.

Our theme for the 14th Annual Honolulu Festival is “The First Citizen: Joseph Heco and the Opening of U.S.-Japan Relations”. Joseph Heco, born Hikotaro in 1837 in Hyogo Prefecture, Japan, is the first U.S. citizen of Japanese descent. Shipwrecked in 1850 for 52 days due to a typhoon on his return trip from Tokyo to Osaka, Heco’s ship was rescued by an American ship “Auckland.” Arriving in San Francisco in 1851, this led to Heco being educated in Baltimore and San Francisco. Heco was baptized a Catholic in 1854 and became the first Japanese to be naturalized as a citizen of the United States in 1858. Returning to Japan in 1859 Heco was appointed to be the interpreter for the first American minister to Japan Townsend Harris. He was very influential in establishing relations between Japan and the United States. Heco was also a pioneer in establishing the first modern Japanese newspaper.

The seminar will focus on his impact on American and Japanese history and his ties with Hawaii. Panelists include descendants of those who were involved with Heco and his adventures.

The 5th US-Japan Cultural Exchange Seminar Program
theme:The First Citizen: Joseph Heco and the Opening of U.S.-Japan Relations
Mar 15th, 2008 10:30am -
Venue:Hawaii Convention Center Room 310
[English only]

Colonel (Dr.) George Mercer Brooke III
great-grandson of Lieutenant John Mercer Brooke, USN, who befriended Heco and brought him as far as Hawaii from San Francisco on Brooke’s surveying ship during Heco’s return to Japan in 1859.

Mr. Dwight Damon
great, great-grandson of Rev. Samuel Chenery Damon, Honolulu’s seamen’s chaplain from 1842 to 1885, who was directly involved in assisting shipwrecked sailors. Although he did not directly assist Heco, he did personally meet him and write about him in Damon’s newspaper “The Friend.”

Dr. Samuel N. Mukaida
President of the Joseph Heco Society of Hawaii, an organization dedicated to the study of Joseph Heco and his connection to Hawaii.

Dr. Gay Michiko Satsuma
Associate Director, Center for Japanese Studies at University of Hawaii at Manoa

This event is co-sponsored by the Honolulu Festival Foundation, Consulate General of Japan in Hawaii, Japan-America Society of Hawaii and Joseph Heco Society of Hawaii .