Mailing List Archive

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

[tlug] Kurihama - Shimoda, Black Ships, etc.

This is absolutely and totally off-topic, but I've been burning off 
hours reading about Perry and trying to figure out where exactly Shimoda 
comes in, as Perry seems to have first stopped in Uraga Bay (between 
Shimoda and Tokyo (Edo) and then sailed up into the mouth of Uraga 
Channel and anchored at Kurihama, where the present day ferry that goes 
to the Boso Peninsula leaves and there is a Perry Koren, Perry Dori, 
etc. I find one reference stating that the first agreement Perry 
obtained authorizing trading via Shimoda... is that all there is to 
Shimoda? Is the rest of it pure tourist hype and not based on factual 

Wait! I got it! Since I found my answer - all the initial contacts were 
at or near Kurihama and as a result of those contacts, Shimoda was 
designated as the port of trade (see Ref. 5 below), I no longer am in 
search of info, but I'll drop this into the wires just in case someone 
is interested in the Kurihama-Shimoda issue, and also in case someone 
wants to point me in the direction of further information.



[Ref. 1]

Russian encroachments from the north led the shogunate to extend direct 
rule to Hokkaido and Sakhalin in 1807 but the policy of exclusion 
continued. This isolation lasted for 200 years, until, on July 8, 1853, 
Commodore Matthew Perry of the U.S. Navy with four warships: the 
Mississippi, Plymouth, Saratoga, and Susquehanna, steamed into the bay 
at Edo (Tokyo) and displayed the threatening power of his ships' cannon. 
He demanded that Japan open to trade with the West. These ships became 
known as the kurofune, the Black Ships.

The following year, at the Convention of Kanagawa (March 31, 1854), 
Perry returned with seven ships and forced the Shogun to sign the 
"Treaty of Peace and Amity," establishing formal diplomatic relations 
between Japan and the United States. Within five years Japan had signed 
similar treaties with other western countries. The Harris Treaty was 
signed with the United States on July 29, 1858.

[Ref. 2]

First Visit, 1852-1853

In 1852, Perry embarked from Norfolk, Virginia for Japan, in command of 
a squadron in search of a Japanese trade treaty. Aboard a black-hulled 
steam frigate, he ported four ships at Uraga Harbor near Edo (modern 
Tokyo) on July 8, 1853, and was met by representatives of the Tokugawa 
Shogunate who told him to proceed to Nagasaki, where there was limited 
trade with the Netherlands and which was the only Japanese port open to 
foreigners at that time. Perry refused to leave and demanded permission 
to present a letter from President Millard Fillmore, threatening force 
if he was denied. Japan had been living reclusely apart from modern 
technology, and the Japanese military forces could not resist Perry's 
modern weaponry; the "black ships" would then become, in Japan, a symbol 
of threatening Western technology and colonialism.

The Japanese government, so as to avoid naval bombardment, had to accept 
Perry's coming ashore. Perry proceeded ashore at Kurihama (near present 
Yokosuka) on July 14, presented the letter to delegates present and left 
for the China coast, promising to return for a reply.

Second Visit, 1854

Perry returned in February, 1854 with twice as many ships, finding that 
the delegates had prepared a treaty embodying virtually all the demands 
in Fillmore's letter. Perry signed the document on March 31, 1854 and 
departed, mistakenly believing the agreement had been made with imperial 

[Ref. 3]

In 1853, U.S. Navy Commodore Matthew Perry arrived in Uraga Bay in 1853 
and pressed for the opening of several Japanese ports and the start of 
diplomatic intercourse with the Japanese.

[Ref. 4]

This major transformation came about as a result of the Japan-U.S. 
Treaty of Peace and Amity signed about 150 years ago on March 31, 1854. 
Under Article 2 of this treaty, Shimoda and Hakodate were to allow 
foreign ships to enter their harbors. Shimoda Port was to be opened 
immediately, followed by Hakodate Port in March 1855. So it was that our 
town Shimoda became the very first Japanese harbor to be opened to the 
world, even though its open port status lasted only for a short period 
of roughly five years and nine months, until December 31, 1859.

[Ref. 5]

During negotiations over the treaty that took place between Japan and 
the United States, U.S. Commodore Matthew C. Perry demanded the opening 
of five Japanese ports (in the end, this was reduced to two ports). 
Uraga was one of the ports originally included in Perry's demand. Uraga 
- today's Yokosuka City - was located at the mouth of Edo Bay - today's 
Tokyo Bay, and its name remains today in the Uraga Channel. From Uraga, 
Edo was within eyesight. Wary of foreign countries wielding military 
powers much greater than itself, there was no way Japan could agree to 
opening Edo Bay; it was far too close to Edo, home of the Shogun. As an 
alternative, Japan's Shogunate government recommended Shimoda Port as a 
location that was neither too close nor too far from Edo. Of course, 
consideration was also given to the important historic role Shimoda 
played earlier in the Edo Period.


 So it was that the Shogunate government recommended Shimoda instead of 
Uraga. Before signing the treaty, Perry dispatched two of his ships, 
Vandalia and Southampton, to Shimoda to evaluate its appropriateness as 
an open port. His men reported it was indeed a safe harbor fit for the 
entry and exit of ships. Satisfied, Perry accepted the recommendation, 
which led to the opening of Shimoda Port.

3. Perry's Fleet in Shimoda

Perry's fleet of seven ships carrying a total of 1,265 Americans entered 
Shimoda Port on April15, 1854, and left 74 days later, on June28. The 
period was marked with much incident, including the reestablishment of 
the Shimoda Bugyo Magistrate, the landing of the Americans, the aborted 
stowaway plan of Yoshida Shoin and Kaneko Jusuke, a preliminary survey 
of Hakodate Port by five U.S. ships including the Powhatan, the signing 
of the Shimoda Treaty (supplementary provisions to the Japan-U.S. Treaty 
of Peace and Amity), the offering of essential supplies to the Americans 
and de facto beginning of Japan-U.S. trade under its guise, among others.

(1) Seven Black Ships Enter Shimoda Bay

You may have heard of this kyoka (humorous poem) popular at the time: 
"Awoken form a peaceful slumber by the Joki-sen (a play on words that 
means both a strong blend of tea as well as foreign steamships). Only 
four glasses (ships), and your nights are sleepless." The poem was 
created by worried Edo townsfolk a year before the opening of Shimoda 
Port, when Perry entered Edo Bay with four ships. But when Shimoda Port 
was immediately opened up following the signing of the Japan-U.S. Treaty 
of Peace and Amity on March 31, 1854, not four but as many as seven U.S. 
ships appeared in its bay. Imagine the surprise of the people of 
Shimoda! Today, the incident could be compared to seven UFOs with 
varying shapes and sizes suddenly flying over Shimoda from a planet in a 
distant galaxy. The arrival of the foreign ships must have been such an 
incredible surprise that aroused both fear and curiosity.

Home | Main Index | Thread Index

Home Page Mailing List Linux and Japan TLUG Members Links