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Gyokusen-Ji Temple sign in 1946 and Today.

In 1855 President Franklin Pierce appointed Townsend Harris to be America's first consul to Japan. Harris had personally lobbied for the job, owing to his experience in the China trade, and his own great interest in Japan. In 1856 Harris arrived in Shimoda. There he began the long process of negotiating to establish trade relations. His first obstacle was obtaining permission to travel to Edo to deal directly with the Shogun and his advisors. He ended up spending his first fourteen months in Shimoda. That first year was sometimes difficult for Harris, he was occasionally ill, and except for the company of his interpreter Henry Heuksen, very isolated. They lived in the Gyokusenji temple, which was established as the first American consulate. When he wasn't busy in negotiations, Harris passed his time in Shimoda taking long walks through the countryside, planting potatoes, caring for his cherry trees, and raising poultry and pigs. He was very impressed by the Japanese he met, and he relished meeting people from all walks of life. Despite his disappointment at the long negotiations, he was remembered for keeping his cool, and for always keeping in mind that the officials with whom he was negotiating were themselves in a very difficult situation. Harris's writings indicate that he had great respect for the Japanese and their culture and that he genuinely enjoyed his time in Shimoda. He took his mission very seriously and he hoped that posterity - both American and Japanese - would remember his work well. When he raised the stars and stripes at Shimoda he said, "God grant that the future generations may not have cause to regret the hour I arrived."

 

 

Created by Ann Jamison in loving memory of Lt. Col. Anne Marie Doering.