Ranald MacDonald, a solitary venturer, entered secretive Japan in 1848, risking certain imprisonment, if not death, in the closed kingdom. Born at Astoria on the banks of the Columbia River, MacDonald (1824-94) was the son of a high-ranking Chinook woman and a Hudson's Bay Company official. He became fascinated with stories about the little-known Japanese while a youngster at the HBC's Ft. Vancouver and Red River schools. In 1848, 24-year-old MacDonald arranged with the captain of an American whaling ship to be cast off in a rowboat on the cold, northern Japanese coast. Interned but escaping execution, MacDonald was sent by high-ranking Japanese officials to more populous parts of the country and ordered to teach English to Japanese translators. After nearly a year in captivity, he was released along with a small group of other American sailors stranded on the forbidden coast. In the 1850s, several of MacDonald's Japanese interpreters served in key roles when Commodore Perry of the U.S. Navy forced a not entirely unwilling Japan to open its doors to the outside world. MacDonald's wandering spirit led him throughout Asia, Australia, Europe, and eastern Canada, before returning to the Pacific Northwest in 1858, where he lived for the rest of his life, but not without further adventures. He joined a difficult exploration of Vancouver Island, and, for many years, participated in the gold excitement of Canada's Fraser and Cariboo districts.