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June 26, 2008


NEW YORK, June 26, 2008 – Hon. Naoki Ishii, Mayor of Shimoda, Japan, will lead a 21-member delegation on a pilgrimage to The City College of New York (CCNY) July 16 to honor CCNY’s founder Townsend Harris, who opened the first U.S. consulate in Japan.

The party will be the 22nd delegation from Shimoda to visit CCNY to pay homage to Harris, who founded the College as The Free Academy in 1847.  The visit coincides with the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Amity and Commerce in 1858, which formalized relations between the United States and Japan.

Mr. Harris, a prominent New York merchant who became Consul General to Japan in 1856, negotiated that treaty and is credited as the diplomat who opened the Japanese Empire to foreign trade and culture.  Owing to his goodwill, openness and honesty, Harris quickly gained the respect and affection of the Japanese people, and is revered there to this day.

The Shimoda visitations to CCNY date to 1986.  That year, officials of that city and CCNY held a ceremony in Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery, where Mr. Harris is buried, to dedicate a refurbished gravesite that was a gift from the Japanese people.

The delegation, which includes civic officials and citizens of Shimoda, will tour the CCNY campus at 138th Street and Convent Avenue in Manhattan and meet Dr. Richard Rush, Townsend Harris’ great grand-nephew.  The visit will include a stop in the Cohen Library Archives, located in the North Academic Center building, to examine its collection of Townsend Harris memorabilia, and a luncheon with students from the Macaulay Honors College. 

Among the items on display in the archives are the American flag that Harris flew in Japan, his diplomatic pouch, a volume from his journals and his diplomatic passport.  CCNY Archivist Sydney Van Nort will deliver a presentation on the life and career of Mr. Harris which will conclude the delegation’s visit to CCNY.

From CCNY, the delegation will travel to Newport, R.I., to attend the Black Ship festival.  The festival is named for the kurofune, or black ships, that Commodore Matthew C. Perry anchored in Yedo Bay (now Tokyo Bay) in July 1853.

Commodore Perry’s fleet went to Japan to press a U.S. demand that Japan end its two centuries of self-imposed isolation and open its ports to trade.  When the United States was granted the right to open a consulate at what was then the remote outpost of Shimoda, President Franklin Pierce named Mr. Harris Consul General to the Empire of Japan.

For more information on the visit to The City College by Mayor Ishii, please call the CCNY Archives at (212) 650-7609.

About The City College of New York

For more than 160 years, The City College of New York has provided low-cost, high-quality education for New Yorkers in a wide variety of disciplines. Over 14,000 students pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; The School of Architecture, Urban Design and Landscape Architecture (SAUDLA); The School of Education; The Grove School of Engineering, and The Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education. For additional information, visit www1.ccny.cuny.edu.