Gokusenji - First US Consulate in JApan
Category: Japanese History
The first Westerner to visit Izu was most likely Englishman William Adams, known in Japan as Miura Anjin. Adams had shipwrecked near Nagasaki, in western Japan, years earlier, and had eventually gained favor with the great Shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa. Having been appointed to a rank of Samurai, Adams was given the task of building Japan’s first western style ship in Ito, on Izu’s east coast.
Some 250 years later, after signing the Convention of Kanagawa at Yokohama in 1854, US Admiral Matthew Perry and his fleet landed at Shimoda, southern Izu, to survey a site for America’s first diplomatic consulate. Pictured here is the gravestone of crew member James Hamilton. One of five crew from that historic expedition resting peacefully above the bay at Shimoda.
The first US consulate to Japan was established in the summer of 1855 at Gyokusenji, a Buddhist temple in the hills above Shimoda Bay. US President Franklin Pierce appointed Townsend Harris as America’s first Consul General in Japan.
While in Shimoda, Harris slowly negotiated a formal treaty with the Shogunate in Edo (Tokyo). The US government had many believers in Manifest Destiny, and Harris leveraged America’s military superiority to create difficult terms for the Japanese.
In 1858, the Treaty of Amity and Commerce between Japan and the United States was signed, and formal diplomatic relations began.