Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry's Japan Expedition (1853 - 1854) not only began a tradition of “gunboat diplomacy” so often associated with mid-nineteenth century American expansionism, it also initiated a new collection of “artifacts of diplomacy”—historical, scientific, and ethnological materials that would become the first acquisition of Japanese artifacts by the former United States National Museum, now the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution.
Commodore Perry practiced traditional diplomatic gift exchanges. The ethnological artifacts described in this catalog are, in the main, the reciprocal gifts to the United States government, President Franklin Pierce, the Commodore himself, and other members of the expedition party by Japanese government commissioners and by officials of the Kingdom of Ryukyu. They were received prior to and following the signing of The Treaty of Kanagawa on 31 March 1854. Also included are artifacts purchased at bazaars in Hakodate and Shimoda by some members of the expedition party for the specific purpose of expanding the collections of the United States National Museum. Descriptions of all known materials collected by individual expedition members as well as expedition-related graphics now in the Smithsonian Institution collections also have been included here.
My dear friends,
Official relations between the United States of America and Japan date from March 31, 1854, when the Treaty of Peace and Amity was signed in Kanagawa, south of what would later be known as Tokyo . It was a mere year after Commodore Matthew Perry and his flotilla of warships, known as the Kurofune (Black Ships), steamed into Uraga at the mouth of Tokyo Bay, waking Japan from a 250-year slumber of isolation. The shock of the Black Ships would usher in adoption of the so-called Meiji Restoration as Japan discarded feudalism on its way to evolving toward a modern society.
One hundred and fifty years hence, despite serious times of discord such as the Pacific War, Japan and the U.S. have gone on to create a sturdy alliance and close partnership which plays a central role in the quest for global peace and stability.
Let us not forget that this important relationship exists not only through the efforts of our governments, but owes as much to the dedication and commitment of private organizations and individuals over many years on both sides of the Pacific.
At this historic juncture, the centennial-and-a-half of bilateral relations, the U.S.-Japan 150 Years Committee was founded by companies and run by volunteers, to recall our shared history as well as enhance bilateral ties, all the more critical at a time of global instability. We seek to promote cultural exchange on the private level and ensure that future generations learn the lessons of our vital partnership. Organizations across Japan have been asked to join in supporting this important commemoration.
The centerpiece of our commemorative year of events will be an official ceremony and symposium, "Toward a Better Future - the U.S. and Japan ," set for April 3, 2004. It will be held in the city of Yokohama , where the Kanagawa Treaty was signed.
Please join us, as we celebrate a remarkable and enduring partnership.
Ok, I admit it, I snickered a bit at the mentions of "one hundred fifty years of amity" prior to the performance last night. One person did mention, as a footnote/parenthetical, that little unpleasantness back in the 40s.
Best not to dwell on it, I suppose.
Then again, motherfuckers here still say, "Remember the Alamo."
Got a flyer for an upcoming -- as in, Sunday, March 21st at 1 -- performance of English-Rakugo at the Japan Information Center:
Rakugo: Japanese Sit-Down Comedy
Rakugo can be best described as Japanese sit-down comedy of comic story telling. Just as there is stand-up comedy in the western countries, there is sit-down comedy in Japan. Most obviously, the difference is that the performer sits on his knees when he performs. It requires some training to sit like that for a long time without letting the legs fall in sleep. The performer wears traditional formal Japanese clothes (Kimono) and sometimes wears a pair of long wide pants (Hakama) and/or a formal jacket (Haori).
The performer is usually equipped with a fan (Sensu) and hand towel (Tenugui). These items help the performer express and act out the story. For example, the fan can be chopsticks, scissors, cigarettes, pipe, or pen. The towel could be a book, bills, or an actual towel. The performer sits on a small mattress, dressed in his Kimono and acts out the whole story by himself.
Mieko Miyazaki started off performing in a kimono last night, but during the intermission transformed into Neo from Matrix Reloaded/Revolutions. Which I hadn't meant to say anything about, but since Dozan said the same thing (albeit in Japanese), there ya go.
Anyone up for some Japanese sit-down comedy stylings this Sunday?