The Black Ship Festival (2013)

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The Black Ship Festival (2013)

It's been 160 years now since Commodore Perry and his infamous 'black ships' (known as kurofune in Japanese) anchored in Uraga Harbor, kickstarting the process that would end Japan's official policy of seclusion – and, ultimately, lead to the 1868 Meiji Restoration. The Izu town of Shimoda – which was opened to American trade the year after Perry's arrival – commemorates this momentous occasion with an annual festival, held on the third weekend of May. This being an anniversary year, you can expect a larger turnout than usual, in a weekend that winds the clock back to the mid-19th century, with parades of people in traditional garb, military brass bands, market stalls and fireworks. See the English-language website for a complete timetable of events.