By Chief Mass Communication Specialist James E. Foehl, U.S. Naval War College Public Affairs
July 22, 2013
NEWPORT, R.I. - President, U.S. Naval War College (NWC), Rear Adm. Walter E. "Ted" Carter, Jr., joined with distinguished guests of the Japanese-American Society of R.I. to participate in the 30th Black Ships Festival opening ceremony, “A Celebration of Friendship,” at Touro Park in Newport, R.I., July 19.
The opening ceremony provided an opportunity for official representatives and guests of the 30 Black Ships Festival to honor and celebrate American and Japanese history, culture and friendship. A friendship formed as a result of Commodore Matthew C. Perry and his black ships expedition to the Far East in 1852.
The history of the Black Ships Festival originates with the Treaty of Kanagawa in 1854. Selected to lead an expedition to the Far East in 1852, Rhode Island’s Commodore Perry was bestowed full diplomatic powers in order to negotiate a treaty with Japan. The squadron of black-hulled ships and two steam ships, which bellowed “black” smoke, set anchor in what is now known as Tokyo Bay.
“Eighteen previous expeditions, including four from America, had failed to crack the Japanese wall of isolation,” said Carter. “Perry believed that the others' failures had resulted from an insufficient show of strength and ignorance of Japanese character. Two mistakes he would never make.”
Following Perry’s arrival, he remained out-of-sight and in his cabin for five days, stating he would only consult personally with the Emperor’s direct representatives.
“His strength and persistence eventually won out. On the 14th of July, the Emperor’s barge sailed down from Tokyo bearing two imperial princes. They were met by a military formation of 400 fully-armed Sailors and Marines in formal dress uniforms and spirited martial music played by the Navy band.
"Perry, attired in all his naval formality and finery, presented an imposing figure as he turned over letters to the princes for delivery to the Emperor. These letters, from President Fillmore and himself, were not treaties but promises of friendships, lists of advantages of trade with America and suggestion that a formal treaty be drafted.”
Perry promised to return the following year. When he returned, the Japanese were prepared to negotiate and the Treaty of Kanagawa was signed March 31, 1854. Under the terms of the agreement, American ships could now enter the ports of Hakodate and Shimoda to seek assistance and supplies. Additionally, American seaman would be protected in either port.
“It was these black ships, which added a significant page to the history of Japan,” read from the message sent by the Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Fumio Kishida. “Japan and the U.S. have become irreplaceable partners as allies in the Asia Pacific region. Today’s Black Ships Festival is one of the best
opportunities to remember the origin of Japan and U.S. relations.”
During the event, colors were paraded by the NWC color guard and U.S. and Japanese national anthems were played by Navy Band Northeast.
The event concluded with a ceremonial wreath laying at the base of Commodore Perry’s statue at Touro
Park from paired U.S. and Japanese representatives. The representatives then paid their respects with a
salute or bow, signifying the understanding, cooperation and respect between the citizens of the U.S.,
Japan and Commodore Perry’s historic expedition.