National Geographic : 1968 Jul
inhabited, has been an outpost of New England for nearly 140 years. Many of the 202 islanders, legally Japanese citizens, trace their ancestry to Yankee sailors. Nathaniel Savory, of Essex County, Massa chusetts, arrived with the first settlers in 1830 and founded a dynasty that still produces island leaders. Uncle Charlie is the son of a Negro cabin boy who jumped an American whaling ship here in 1843. Photographer Joe Munroe and I were the first journalists permitted by the United States Navy to study the Bonins intensively since World War II. We found a happy handful of people with a whole group of islands to themselves. Their goats scrambled freely over the hills; they fished off the islets in outriggers. Before the war, nearly 6,400 Japanese colonists had dominated the Bonins, but Japanese and "Yan kees" alike were evacuated at the height of the Pacific campaign. The United States allowed the descendants of the original settlers-135 in all-to return in 1946. Joe and I soon saw that two decades of American rule had reinforced the islanders' origi nal heritage. We attended a meeting of the island council, whose five elected members represent the Savorys, Gilleys, Robinsons, Webbs, and other Chichi families. It reminded us of any small-town council in the States. Return of Japanese Stirs Hope and Fear Yet we also saw a happy union of East and West in our weeks of wandering on Chichi Jima. Where else, I mused, could Kayu Yashiro marry George Washington and settle down in a frame bungalow built by the United States Navy and fitted with a Japanese bath? The Yankees who grew up on Chichi before the war attended Japanese schools, but learned English in their homes. "I had to speak English to my father or he would beat me," recalled Nat Savory, a great grandson of the original Nathaniel. Nat's features, like those of most middle-aged and older people on Chichi, strongly suggest Western origin. The younger inhabitants reflect increasing intermarriage with Japanese. Some of the girls are classic Eurasian beauties; many of the boys look Japanese. The shy island children wear clothes ordered from mail-order catalogues and listen to American country-and-western records. Nineteen-year-old Irene Savory summed it up poignantly: "We are children of two worlds." In the twilight of Western ascendancy, I found Chichi Jima awaiting the return of the Japanese with an uneasy mixture of hope and apprehension. The Japanese claim to the Bonins goes back to 1593, when, they say, Ogasawara Sadayori, a war rior prince, landed on the chain. Subsequent expe ditions confirmed that the islands were munin or bunin, "empty of men"-hence the name "Bonin." 130 Trained by the Navy, 24-year-old Jimpei Komata mans an air hammer on a public works project. His face reflects English, Polynesian, and Japanese ancestry. KODACHROMES © N.G.S. Western features of Jesse Webb recall his English grandfather, who came from Surrey in 1847. Jesse, a cousin of Jimpei, has long worked for the Navy as a painter.