Travels with Ranald MacDonald Japanese Rokkaku Kite

This post is about the continuing travels of the Ranald MacDonald Japanese Rokkaku style kite. It made it’s aerial maiden voyage at Long Beach, Washington State during the One Sky One World International Kite Fly for Peace and was announced in conjunction with the Astoria Library’s 50th Anniversary in October 2017 (as reported in the earlier post). In the fall of 2017 we took the kite on travels to places where Ranald MacDonald lived or visited in the 1800s such as Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.

Fort Vancouver National Historic Site

Sankichi Japanese Castaways Monument at Fort Vancouver.

MacDonald attended the school at the fort until the spring of 1834 but soon after he left with his father for Canada three young castaways from Japan were brought to Fort Vancouver after shipwreck on the northwest Washington coast. The news of the Japanese arrival must have intrigued young Ranald at age 10 having just missed them at Fort Vancouver and as he reached age 20 he began planning a way to visit Japan himself. He set out by whaling ship for the far side of the world and arrived in Lahaina Maui Hawaii the whaling center of the Pacific resolved to find a way to go to Japan. MacDonald had heard a bit about Hawaii because there were Hawaiians at Fort Vancouver.

In November 2017, we took the Ranald MacDonald Rokkaku Kite to Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii where Ranald arrived by whaling ship in the mid-1840s and shipped out on the whaler Plymouth under Captain Edwards in 1847 for Japan. Today Lahaina has a historic trail that I highly recommend to anyone interested in the Ranald MacDonald story.  A map for the walking tour is available (at ) that will guide you around town past some historic structures that date to MacDonald’s visit and several museums that help tell the story of the whaling capital during those days.

The stops along the way include the Baldwin House and Master’s Reading Room on Front Street, the waterfront with Haula Stone, Old Lahaina Lighthouse, and the Pioneer Inn with famous Banyan Tree in back, then the must see Old Lahaina Courthouse that is now a museum with whaling artifacts that Ranald MacDonald would have seen in his whaling days, and just outside the remnants of the old fort made from coral blocks.

A bit further along the trail is the Wailoa Church that was the first stone church in Hawaii and built between 1828 and 1832 and rebuilt many times since. The historic Wainee Cemetery is next to the church. It may have been more likely that a sailor during the days of whaling in Lahaina was more likely to see the inside of the prison than set foot in the church so the Old Prison Museum is a must although it was newly built just after MacDonald’s time in Lahaina. However, there is a whaling boat in the prison yard to see there too. There are many other sites on the trail and some off the trail. We drove to Lahainaluna High School to see the Hale Pai Printing Museum and received a tour from Curator Chris Conley who showed us how the first Hawaiian language newspaper Ka Lama was printed. He also obtained an electronic copy on his computer of an 1848 issue of The Friend newspaper published in Honolulu by Rev. Samuel Damon that reported the adventure of Ranald MacDonald in Japan.

Hale Pai Printing Museum

Hale Pai Printing MuseumCurator Chris Conley with Jim

The Baldwin Home Museum

Theo Jim and Judy at Baldwin House Museum

Theo Morrison LRF Executive Director and Judy Kinser, Executive Assistant with Jim at Baldwin Home


In order to take a photo of the Ranald MacDonald Rokkaku Kite flying with Maui in the background we visited Molokai and found a beach at Pukuo’o on the southeast side of the island.

Look for updates in 2018 at kite flying and story telling continues…




About Jim Mockford

Author, historian with an interest in maritime history and Asia Pacific cultural exchange. Owner of Kumquat Kids Productions, LLC.
This entry was posted in Pacific Northwest. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Travels with Ranald MacDonald Japanese Rokkaku Kite

  1. David and Marieke says:

    Dear Jim,

    Is this a real address for you? Our party is 8/4. Hope you and Sheryl can come.. bring the fam.

    David Kemper

    • mockford says:

      Hi David and Marieke, Thanks for the invitation. We hope we can make it. Last year we had family weddings, and house guests and too much going on. I will put out word to the family. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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