United States of North America: Perry Arrives in Uraga, Soshu Province


Commodore Matthew C. Perry (1794–1858) of the United States Navy entered the port of Yokohama in 1853 with an intimidating fleet of steam warships, in order to force Japan to open up after nearly two centuries of restricted foreign contact. The “black ships” that he came with became a common subject for popular prints. The Japanese people were increasingly exposed to Western culture as new trade agreements prompted cross-cultural interaction, and a mixture of curiosity, awe, and anxiety at the influx of unfamiliar technology and customs can be seen in their artwork. This diptych, from the second half of the 19th century, illustrates the arrival of American ships into the port of Uraga in Soshū Province, on July 8, 1853. Perry’s steamship is shown in the bottom right panel. It is accompanied by an inset image of a “typical” American. The left panel contains a map of the coast of Soshū. On the upper half of both panels are the coats of arms of significant Japanese feudal lords, listed along with their names.

Last updated: October 19, 2015