The BLACK SHIPS (in Japanese : 黒船, KUROFUNE,
Edo Period term) was
the name given to Western vessels arriving in
Japan in the 16th and
In 1543 Portuguese initiated the first contacts, establishing a trade
Nagasaki . The large carracks engaged in this
trade had the hull painted black with pitch , and the term came to
represent all western vessels. In 1639, after suppressing a rebellion
blamed on the Christian influence , the ruling Tokugawa shogunate
retreated into an isolationist policy, the
Sakoku . During this
"locked state", contact with
Japan by Westerners was restricted to
Dejima island at
William II of the Netherlands urged
Japan to open, but was
rejected. On July 8, 1853, the
U.S. Navy steamed four warships into
the bay at
Edo and threatened to attack if
Japan did not begin trade
with the West. Their arrival marked the reopening of the country to
political dialogue after more than two hundred years of self-imposed
Trade with Western nations would not come until the Treaty
of Amity and Commerce more than five years later.
In particular, kurofune refers to Mississippi , Plymouth , Saratoga ,
and Susquehanna of the Perry Expedition for the opening of Japan,
1852–1854 , that arrived on July 14, 1853 at
Uraga Harbor (part of
present-day Yokosuka ) in
Kanagawa Prefecture ,
Japan under the
United States Commodore Matthew Perry. Black refers to the
black color of the older sailing vessels, and the black smoke from the
coal -fired steam engines of the American ships. In this sense, the
kurofune became a symbol of the ending of isolation. Brooklyn
Museum – Commodore Matthew Perry's "Black Ship"
* 1 First kurofune ships: nau do trato
* 3 In popular culture
* 4 See also
* 5 Notes
* 6 References
* 7 External links
FIRST KUROFUNE SHIPS: NAU DO TRATO
Portuguese black carrack in
Nagasaki , in the early 17th
In 1543 Portuguese traders arrived in
Japan initiating the first
contacts with the West. Soon they established a trade route linking
their headquarters in
Goa , via Malacca to
Nagasaki . Large carracks
engaged in the flourishing "
Nanban trade ", introducing modern
inventions from the European traders, such as refined sugar, optics,
and firearms; it was the firearms, arquebuses , which became a major
innovation of the
Sengoku period — a time of intense internal
warfare — when the matchlocks were replicated. Later, they engaged
in triangular trade , exchanging silver from
Japan with silk from
China via Macau .
Carracks of 1200 to 1600 tons, named nau do trato ("treaty ship") or
China by the Portuguese, engaged in this trade had the hull
painted black with pitch , and the term came to apply for all western
vessels. The name was inscribed in the
Nippo Jisho , the first western
Japanese dictionary compiled in 1603.
In 1549 Spanish missionary
Francis Xavier started a
Jesuit mission in
Japan. Christianity spread, mingled with the new trade, making 300,000
converts among peasants and some daimyō (warlords). In 1637 the
Shimabara Rebellion blamed on the Christian influence was suppressed.
Portuguese traders and
Jesuit missionaries faced progressively tighter
restrictions, and were confined to the island of
Dejima before being
expelled in 1639.
Tokugawa shogunate retreated back into a policy of isolationism
Sakoku (鎖国, "locked country"), forbidding contact
with most outside countries. Only a limited-scale trade and diplomatic
Korea , the Ryukyu Islands , and the
Netherlands was maintained. The
Sakoku policy remained in effect
until 1853 with the arrival of Commodore Matthew Perry and the opening
Commodore Perry's superior military force was the principal factor in
negotiating a treaty allowing American trade with Japan, thus
effectively ending the
Sakoku (鎖国) period of more than 200 years
in which trading with
Japan had been permitted to the Dutch and
The sight of the four ships entering
Edo Bay , roaring black smoke
into the air and capable of moving under their own power, deeply
frightened the Japanese. Perry ignored the requests arriving from the
shore that he should move to Nagasaki—the official port for trade
with the outside—and threatened in turn to take his ships directly
Edo , and burn the city to the ground if he was not allowed to
land. It was eventually agreed upon that he should land nearby at
Kurihama , whereupon he delivered his letter and left.
The following year, at the
Convention of Kanagawa
Convention of Kanagawa , Perry returned
with a fleet of eight of the fearsome Black Ships, to demonstrate the
power of the
United States navy, and to lend weight to his
announcement that he would not leave again, until he had a treaty. In
the interim following his previous visit, the
Tokugawa shogunate had
learned about the staggering destruction of the Chinese fleet by a
handful of British warships in 1841 during the
First Opium War
First Opium War , and
about China's subsequent loss of Hong Kong to British sovereignty.
The shogunate realized that—if they wished for their country to
avoid a similar fate—they would need to make peace with the west.
After a roughly a month of negotiations, the Shogun\'s officials
presented Perry with the
Treaty of Peace and Amity . Perry refused
certain conditions of the treaty but agreed to defer their resolution
to a later time, and finally establishing formal diplomatic relations
Japan and the United States. The eight ships departed, leaving
behind a consul at Shimoda to negotiate a more permanent agreement.
The Harris Treaty was signed with the
United States on July 29, 1858,
and within five years of the signing of the Treaty of Peace and Amity,
Japan had moved to sign treaties with other western countries.
The surprise and fear inspired by the first visit of the Black Ships
are described in this famous kyōka (a humorous poem in 31-syllable
waka form): Commodore Perry's fleet for his second visit to Japan
Nemuri o samasu
Tatta shihai de
Yoru mo nemurezu
This poem is a complex set of puns (in Japanese, kakekotoba or "pivot
words"). Taihei (泰平) means "tranquil"; Jōkisen (上喜撰) is the
name of a costly brand of green tea containing large amounts of
caffeine ; and shihai (四杯) means "four cups", so a literal
translation of the poem is:
Awoken from sleep
of a peaceful quiet world
by Jokisen tea;
with only four cups of it
one can't sleep even at night.
There is an alternative translation, based on the pivot words. Taihei
can refer to the "
Pacific Ocean " (太平); jōkisen also means
"steam-powered ships " (蒸気船); and shihai also means "four
vessels". The poem, therefore, has a hidden meaning:
The steam-powered ships
break the halcyon slumber
of the Pacific;
a mere four boats are enough
to make us lose sleep at night.
Kurofune ("The Black Ships") is also the title of the first Japanese
opera, composed by
Kosaku Yamada , "based on the story of Tojin
Okichi, a geisha caught up in the turmoil that swept
Japan in the
waning years of the Tokugawa shogunate", which premiered in 1940.
IN POPULAR CULTURE
A TV miniseries starring
Richard Chamberlain entitled Shōgun (1980),
based on a novel of the same name by
James Clavell , described the
fictional experiences of an English sea pilot named
John Blackthorne ,
Japan around 1600. Blackthorne makes frequent mention
of wanting to attack the Black Ship, with his own ship, the Erasmus.
Another film concerning Perry's arrival in
Japan was The Bushido
Blade (1981) starring
Richard Boone as Commodore Perry.
Capcom made arcade action RPG beat 'em up hybrid video game
Warzard , the character Kenji has his quest begin when flying
technologically advanced black ships proceed to invade and decimate
his home country of Zipang, and is sent on a mission to discover and
annihilate the origins of the invaders of his nation.
The Japanese anime series Hetalia: World Series dedicated two
episodes from its fourth season on the topic of the Black Ships.
The Japanese anime series Dream Festival features a duo idol unit
(Yuto Kuroishi and Keigo Kazama) named Kurofune. Likely Yuto Kuroishi
and Keigo Kazama produced this name by taking the Kuro (黒) meaning
"black" from "Kuroishi" and combining it with Fune (船) which
contains the Kanji radical Kaza or Fu (風) from Kazama. So their unit
name is their names combined.
Creative Assembly computer game Total War:
Shogun 2 , a
Portuguese sailing vessel called the Black Ship can be captured and is
the single most powerful naval unit in the game.
Black Ships play an important part of the Japanese miniseries Yae
no Sakura , about the life of
Niijima Yae .
Black Ships appear in the historical novel The Thousand Autumns
of Jacob de Zoet (2010) by the British author David Mitchell .
Treaty of Shimoda
Treaty of Shimoda
* French Military Mission to
* Dutch missions to
Korean Expedition of 1871
Madama Butterfly , a representation of the roughly the same times
in a European perspective
* ^ "Perry Ceremony Today; Japanese and U. S. Officials to Mark
100th Anniversary". New York Times. July 8, 1953.
* ^ Charles Ralph Boxer (1951). The Christian Century in Japan:
1549–1650. University of California Press. p. 91. GGKEY:BPN6N93KBJ7.
Retrieved 23 July 23, 2013. Check date values in: access-date= (help
* ^ Subrahmanyam, Sanjay (1993). The Portuguese empire in Asia,
1500–1700: a political and economic history. University of Michigan:
Longman. p. 138. ISBN 0-582-05069-3 .
* ^ Rodrigues, Helena. "Nau do trato". Cham. Cham. Retrieved 5 June
* ^ M. D. D. Newitt (1 January 2005). A History of Portuguese
Overseas Expansion: 1400 – 1668. New York: Routledge. p. 13. ISBN
978-0-415-23980-6 . Retrieved July 23, 2013.
* ^ Ronald P. Toby, State and Diplomacy in Early Modern Japan: Asia
in the Development of the Tokugawa Bakufu, Stanford, Calif.: Stanford
University Press, (1984) 1991.
* ^ A B Nishiyama, Kazuo (2000-01-01). Doing Business With Japan:
Successful Strategies for Intercultural Communication. University of
Hawaii Press. pp. 2–3. ISBN 9780824821272 .
* ^ A B Beasley, William G (1972). The Meiji Restoration. Stamford
University Press. p. 89. ISBN 0804708150 .
* ^ "\'Black Ships\' opera". New National Theatre Tokyo.
* ^ "Simon Holledge\'s interview with Hiroshi Oga citing the
premiere of the \'Black Ships\' opera". Archived from the original on
* ^ "How David Mitchell Brings Historical Fiction To Life",
Weekend Edition Saturday, August 21, 2010
* Arnold, Bruce Makoto (2005). Diplomacy Far Removed: A
Reinterpretation of the U.S. Decision to Open Diplomatic Relations
Japan (Thesis). University of Arizona.
* Perry, Matthew Calbraith (1856). Narrative of the expedition of an
American Squadron to the
China Seas and Japan, 1856. New York: D.
Appleton and Company.
* Taylor, Bayard (1855). A visit to India, China, and
Japan in the
year 1853. New York: G.P. Putnam's sons.
* Black Ship Festival celebrating the arrival of the Blackships and
the opening of
Japan to the