Samurai in New York

Year: 1860

“Samurai in New York” is a pamphlet that accompanied the 2010 exhibition of the same name at the Museum of the City of New York about the journey of the first-ever Japanese diplomatic delegation in America. A Japanese delegation of samurai diplomats (called the “Japanese Embassy” by many) sailed to the U.S. in 1860, just seven years after Commodore Matthew Perry of the U.S. Navy compelled Japan’s ports to open to U.S. ships. More than 170 Japanese left Edo (now Tokyo) from the Port of Yokohama on February 9, 1860, sailing to San Francisco. 76 samurai then traveled to Panama, crossed by train, and sailed to Washington DC. This group included barbers, doctors, interpreters, pike-bearers, armorers, servants, and cooks, as well as the principal ambassadors, a Special Censor, and 16 lesser officials. The delegation brought with it the Treaty of Amity and Commerce to the United States for ratification. After spending three weeks in Washington, DC meeting with Congress and President Buchanan, the delegation visited Baltimore, Philadelphia, and finally New York City. The delegation arrived at New York City’s Pier 1 on July 16. Dignitaries organized parades, balls, and tours for the Japanese guests, and New Yorkers flocked to the streets to see the samurai. The Grand Ball was held at the Metropolitan Hotel on Broadway and Prince Street, and the samurai were subjected to constant press coverage. Tateishi Onojiro (nicknamed “Tommy”), a young interpreter, proved to be the most popular member of the delegation. Commerce between the two countries was delayed during the Civil War and the Meiji Restoration, but ultimately, the delegation’s visit was a critical step in establishing a prosperous trade relationship between Japan and America. Exhibits in the pamphlet include: • Illustrations depicting Japanese samurai from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper • Journal entry of Vice-Ambassador Norimasa Muragaki regarding Commodore Perry’s visit to Japan • Photographs of U.S.S. Powhatan, the ship on which the delegation traveled from San Francisco to Panama, and the Kanrin Maru, which accompanied the U.S.S. Powhatan • Photographs of three principal ambassadors and Tateishi “Tommy” Onojiro • Drawing of the banquet hosted by President Buchanan for the Japanese delegation • Drawing of Mayor Wood’s reception of the delegation in New York • Excerpt from “The Errand-Bearers,” a poem by Walt Whitman • 1905 photograph of Japanese bankers in New York • Photograph of a Japanese ivory and silver jar on teakwood stand

Source: Museum of the City of New York
Added Date: 03/15/2021