US Navy Commodore Matthew Perry first arrived off Japan with a fleet of ships at Uraga, the entrance to what is now Tokyo Bay, on July 8, 1853. On his second uninvited visit, the ships dropped anchors on February 13, 1854, near the villages of Yokohama and Koshiba (both locations are in the modern city of Yokohama). Negotiations between the two sides began in Yokohama on March 8, and the Japan-US Treaty of Peace and Amity was signed on March 31.
Perry’s fleet left Tokyo Bay on April 14, moving on to the newly opened port of Shimoda in modern-day Shizuoka Prefecture, meaning that the people of the area had a total of around two months to see the “black ships” up close. There were nine vessels with more than 2,000 crew members, who frequently came ashore and astonished the local residents with their Western goods.
When the fleet first anchored at Uraga, it triggered a boom in black ships sightseeing, drawing large crowds. Among the records of visitors, one observer who made a living in shipping wrote that it was “like looking at castles floating in the ocean,” and left detailed notes in a diary about the vessels’ paddle wheels and onboard cannons.