The Ryosenji Treasure Museum and Kurofune Art Gallery in Shimoda on the Izu Peninsula is the main place in town dedicated to the historic landing of Commodore Perry's Black Ships (kurofune) in Shimoda back in the 1850s.
Located near to the main buildings and garden of Ryosenji Temple, the two storey museum has a video introduction to the momentous event of Perry's unannounced arrival in Japan, contemporary paintings and sketches by both Japanese and foreign eye-witnesses and numerous authentic objects from the period including weapons, uniforms and maps.
The museum also covers the story of Okichi, a local woman who was supposedly forced by the shogunate to become a maid servant to Townsend Harris, America's first consul in Japan.
Facts surrounding the story of Okichi, who later became a bitter alcoholic and committed suicide, are decidedly murky and often contradictory, but this poignant vignette in early US-Japan cross-cultural relations is a pantomime story readily propagated throughout Shimoda. Think Nottingham and Robin Hood for a comparison.
An excellent 12-page English introduction to the exhibits including the complete text of President Milliard Fillmore's open letter to the Emperor of Japan is available free of charge. Ask at the counter.
"I am desirous that our two countries should trade with each other, for the benefit both of Japan and the United States."
Ryosenji Treasure Museum
Tel: 0558 22 0657
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