Distant relative of Commodore Perry thanks Shikoku resident for creating replica U.S. flag

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Akira Kondo holds up a letter from a distant relative of Commodore Matthew Perry in Saijo, Ehime Prefecture.

SAIJO, Ehime — A man who made a replica of a 19th-century American flag that was destroyed during World War II has received a letter of thanks from a distant relative of Commodore Matthew Perry.

When Perry led his fleet to Japan in 1853 and 1854, he stopped at Chichijima island in the Ogasawara archipelago and left the flag with an American man on the island.

The man’s family passed the flag down from generation to generation, but during World War II, the family burned it out of fear of persecution.

Moved by the story, 83-year-old Akira Kondo, a watch store owner in Saijo, Ehime Prefecture, made a replica of the flag in June and sent it to a descendant of the family who still lives in the island.

Matthew Calbraith Perry, a descendant of Perry’s brother, sent the letter after learning about Kondo’s deed from a story published in the June 30 edition of The Japan News and other publications.

The letter was written in English and included a Japanese translation.

Perry, an 80-year-old biologist who lives in Maryland, wrote, “I express our [family’s] thanks and gratitude for your act of kindness.”

Although the original flag had been carefully passed down from generation to generation, descendants of the man who originally received it from Perry felt they had no choice but to burn it during the war because of the tough situation faced by people in Japan with American heritage at the time.

In the letter, Perry wrote: “It was a pleasant surprise to read the Japanese newspaper article …. These acts of kindness and respect are important in the current tensions around the world and are greatly needed for world peace … I hope someday in the future we can meet and share friendly relations between each other that in a small way will improve the good relations between our countries.”

“I had no idea that our thoughts would reach the United States,” Kondo said. “It was a moving letter in which Mr. Perry’s love of peace and big heart really came through.”