NEWPORT, R.I. -- Capt. Stephen Senteio, Director of Naval Command College, honored Japanese-American relations by attending the opening ceremonies last Friday of Newport’s 28th annual Black Ships festival, a tribute to a voyage more than 150 years ago that opened Japan to the world.
The festival commemorates the landing of a fleet of black-hulled ships commanded by Newport’s native son, Navy Commodore Matthew C. Perry, in Shimoda in 1853. It was the first step in opening Japanese ports to American ships, establishing policy for treatment of shipwrecked sailors, and forming subsequent commerce and cultural bonds. The festival celebrates those ties after the Treaty of Kanagawa was signed in 1854.
The Japan-America Society of Rhode Island’s goal is to promote cultural exchange and friendship between Rhode Island and Japan. This year also celebrated the 53rd anniversary of the sister city relationship between Newport and Shimoda.
“Sadly, this historic year will also forever represent the tragedy in Japan caused by the earthquake and tsunami last March,” festival spokesman Jessica Castiglia said. “This year’s proceeds will help raise funds for Japan relief efforts.”
At the ceremony in Touro Park at Perry’s statue, Senteio welcomes the Japanese contingent and said the U.S. fully supports the recovery in Japan after the tsunami.
“Our sympathies go out to the affected families in northern Japan,” he said.
He emphasized the importance of Commodore Perry’s efforts, and the close relationship the U.S. has with Japan.
Senteio and Captain Yoshiyasu Ishimaki of the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force, jointly laid a wreath at the base of Perry’s monument. Several other wreaths were placed by Newport city officials and Japanese dignitaries.
Retired Senior Chief Musician Don Chilton opened the event, playing the trumpet.
The weekend featured numerous cultural events, including a Japanese Taiko Drum performance last Sunday, with a special appearance by sumo wrestlers, at Cardines Field; a Japanese-American Cultural Center featuring music and food preparation demonstrations, martial arts, and arts and crafts at Touro Park, Saturday and Sunday; and a formal Black Ships Festival gala at Rosecliff on Bellevue Avenue on Saturday night.
The Navy provided a color guard from Naval Health Clinic New England, and Navy Band Northeast’s bugler Musician 3rd Class Richard LeCompte played at closing ceremonies at the tomb of Commodore Perry un Island Cemetery last Sunday.
Chaplain Lt. j.g. Jonathan Henderson, NAVSTA command staff chaplain, gave the benediction.
Written by Richard Alexander, Navalog editor
Posted by Brie Lyons