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Do you imagine that a Japanese man met Catherine the Great in Saint Petersburg during the time of Japan’s national isolation? There is his memorial at Ekoin temple, Ryogoku in Tokyo. His name was Kodayu Daikoku who was a boatman of Kameyama, Ise (Now Suzuka city, Mie prefecture). In 1782, his ship had been driftting away from Edo (now Tokyo) to Near Alaska, Aleutian Islands, then he had met Russian and learned Russian.

Kodayu Daikokuya in film "Oroshiyakoku Suimut-tan"

Kodayu(right side) and his sailors from Japanese film “Oroshiyakou Suimu-tan” (1992), which movie was based on the same title’s novel by Yasushi Inoue.

In four years, he and his companions (plus a cat) had build a boat to escape an island to the Kamchatka peninsula(Полуостров Камчатка) in 1787, and they had reached at Yakutsk(Якутск), then finally arrived at Irkutsk(Иркутск) in 1789.

Kodayu Daikokuya made a boat to escape from North island

Kodayu Daikokuya made a boat to escape from North island. (From film)

Kodayu's long journey in the Siberia

Kodayu’s long journey in the freezing Siberia.

At Irkutsuk, he fortunately had met Erik Gustavovich Laxmann(Кири́лл Гу́ставович Ла́ксман), a Finnish-Swedish clergyman, explorer and natural scientist, who had been sorry for Kodayu’s destiny. In 1791, Laxmann had taken Kodayu to St. Petersburg for presentation with Catherine the Great in order to ask Kodayu’s returning his country.

Kodayu Daikokuya and Laxmann

Laxmann felt sympathy for Kodayu and thought him go back his home.

At last, Kodayu could met Catherine the Great(Екатерина II Алексеевна) at Tsarskoye Selo by Laxmann’s strong exertion in 1791. She commanded to return him to Japan.

Catherine the Great

Catherine the Great permitted Kodayu Daikokuya to go back Japan. from motion picture “Сны о России”. Marina Vlady(Марина Влади) acted Catherine.

There had been 17 castaways in the Kodayu’s ship, but one had been dead in the ship, 11 had died in islands or Russia. Syozo and Shinzo converted Orthodox church to decide to stay in Russia as Russian. Shinzo was married with Марианна Михаевна to got three children and became Japanese language teacher in Russia.

Syozo, one of sailars, beame to believe in orthodox church.

Syozo, one of sailors, became to believe in orthodox church.

Laxmann’s son Adam ordered to visit to Japan to deliver Kodayu and other two men by Catherine the Great. This trip was not only to take Kodayu to Japan but also to want to exchange for trade concessions from the Tokugawa shogunate. In 1792 they arrived at Nemuro in Hokkaido Japan, Tokugawa shogunate forgave Japanese to land, but Tokugawa shogunate officer refused to receive the letter for commerce. (Returning to Russia, Adam brought many Japanese valuable and treasure for Catherine II, then she made Adam to use the combined heraldic emblem of Double-headed eagle, Finland’s lion and Japanese three swords for his service.)

Motion picture "Oroshiyakoku Suimu-tan" ( The story of dream of Russia)

Motion picture “Oroshiyakoku Suimu-tan” ( The story of dream of Russia). Laxmann was played by Oleg Yankovsky(Олег Янковский).

After that, Kodayu was confined by Tokugawa shogunate because he knew about the outside world of Japan where was in the policy of seclusion. He was harm for Japanese government according to the novel and film of “Oroshiyakoku Suimu-tan”. In Kumi Morikawa’s comic “Sophia’s song” (based from novel by Hiroyuki Itsuki), Kodayu had fallen in love with Russian Sophia, and she made a sad song for sympathy of Kodayu’s nostalgia. After coming back Japan, he remembered his lover and felt regret for losing her eternally. After the research, they discoverd that Kodayu could met scholor and other people to talk about Russia, and could go back his hometown once. He was not confined but lived comparatively at will. I hope he spent happily life after his checked destiny, even though I recognized movie’s last scene was so dramatic.

It is interesting that he was the first Japanese to drink black tea in the official record when he met Catherine the Great. THen he lived at Koishikawa hearb garden.

Kodayu Daikokuya's memorial at Ekoin temple

Kodayu Daikokuya’s memorial at Ekoin temple. It was a figure of ship. That was made by his relative who didn’t know his living in Russia. His real bomb was missing now.