Sent by the Tokugawa Shogunate to exchange instruments of ratification of the Treaty of Amity and Commerce, the group of approximately eighty samurai diplomats arrived in San Francisco on March 29, stopped in Washington DC on May 14 via Panama, then went on to Baltimore, Philadelphia, and, finally, to New York. Largely forgotten today, the Japanese mission of 1860 was the first face-to-face cultural exchange between Japanese and everyday Americans and was one of the biggest spectacles of its time.

In Manhattan, hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers packed the streets to watch the sword-toting samurai parade on Broadway during its two-week's stay in New York. The great Walt Whitman was on hand and composed a poem in their honor. The city hosted a grand civic ball for 10,000, and members of New York society vied to entertain the visiting Japanese. New Yorkers and the popular press were overcome with Japan mania, especially for the youngest member of the group, seventeen-year-old translator Tateishi Onojiro, or "Tommy." With the appearance of the popular song, the "Tommy Polka," the "Tommy" boom outlasted the departure of the delegation itself. For their part, the Japanese delegation studied American industry and technology, learned about its government and customs, and brought back ideas that would help fuel Japan's emergence on the world stage.

Not only the first direct encounter between Americans and Japanese (except for accidental arrivals such as the shipwrecked John Manjiro), it was also Japan's first real contact with foreign culture and civilization after almost 250 years of isolation under the Sakoku, or "closed country" policy. 150 years later, Japan and the United States share a bilateral alliance that is the cornerstone of our ties and a relationship between our peoples that enriches both sides of the Pacific and the entire globe. This special anniversary is a wonderful opportunity to explore the roots of our history together, the origins of our close cooperation and the strong friendship we enjoy today.

Various commemorative events are planned for the New York area. Chief among them will be the exhibition Samurai in New York: The First Japanese Delegation, 1860, on view at the Museum of the City of New York from June 25 through November 7, 2010. Presenting rare photographs, historical newspaper accounts, works of art, and objects on loan, including from collections in Japan, this comprehensive show will bring to life the early days of mutual discovery between New Yorkers and Japanese. An accompanying special public events program will feature lectures, discussions and performances for all ages. Additionally, at the annual Japan Day @ Central Park, New York's largest Japanese summer festival, the Japanese community will mark the 150th anniversary with special celebrations. For updated information about these and other anniversary related events, please click on the "Events" link.

 For more information about how you can join the celebrations, please contact:
Japan-NYC 150th Anniversary Organizing Committee
Japan Information Center (JIC)
18th Floor 299 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10171
(bet. 48th St. & 49th St.)
Telephone:212-371-8222, Fax:212-371-1294