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July 9, 2010

Mayor Of Japanese City Leads Pilgrimage To CCNY

Members of the 2008 delegation from Shimoda, Japan, listen to Professor Sydney Van Nort's presentation on the life and career of Townsend Harris.

Delegation from Shimoda to Honor Townsend Harris July 14

Hon. Naoki Ishii, Mayor of Shimoda, Japan, will lead a 14-member delegation on a pilgrimage to The City College of New York (CCNY) July 14 to honor CCNY’s founder Townsend Harris, who opened the first U.S. consulate in Japan.

The party will be the 24th delegation from Shimoda to visit CCNY to pay homage to Mr. Harris, who founded the College as The Free Academy in 1847.  The visit coincides with the 150th anniversary of the visit of the first Japanese Ambassador to New York prior to opening the first Japanese embassy in Washington.  

Mr. Harris, a prominent New York merchant who became Consul General to Japan in 1856, Harris negotiated the Treaty of Amity and Commerce, which formalized relations between the United States and Japan.  He 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. 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 following the luncheon.

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 City College Archives at (212) 650-7609.