It’s been 162 years since Newport native Commodore Matthew C. Perry, USN,  negotiated the nation’s first trade treaty with Japan, opening up the Pacific island nation to Western commerce and ushering in a new era of global trade.

On Thursday, July 14th, Mayor Jeanne-Marie Napolitano and the Newport City Council will join with dignitaries from Newport’s sister-city of Shimoda, Japan, for a public reception at the Gateway Center, at 23 America’s Cup Avenue from 5:30 until 6:30 p.m. Light refreshments will be served and all are welcome.

The celebration will serve as a kick off to the 33rd annual Black Ships Festival.

This year, the city will play host to a nine-member contingent from Shimoda, in addition to four students who will visit Newport as part of an ongoing student exchange program between the two seaside communities.

Representatives include Mr. Seiji Takeuchi, Shimoda City Assembly Vice Chair; Ms. Naoko Mochizuki, Shimoda City Assembly Staff member; Mr. and Mrs. Mitsuo Noda, former Chairman of the Shimoda Education Committee; Mr. and Mrs. Shigeki Shinji, Secretary for the Shimoda Newport Club; Mr. Tadashi Sugimora and Mr. Akira Fuji, members of the ShimodaNewport Club;  and Mr. Shota Funato, a teacher who will be escorting four, 9th grade students from Shimoda: Ms. KotoneIwamoto, Mr. Yuki Morita, Mr. Makishi Koizumi, and Ms. Ami Suzumoto.

Newport was twinned with Shimoda, Japan on May 17, 1958 when Mayor Henry C. Wilkinson and Mayor Sadao Suzuki were in office. It is one of the oldest sister city relationships in New England. Shimoda is a city and port located in Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan at the southern tip of the Izu peninsula about 60 miles southwest of Tokyo. Shimoda’s location, with the Amagi Mountains to the north, and the warm Kuroshio Current to the south give the city a humid, sub-tropical climate. Shimodacelebrated its 77th Black Ships Festival in May of this year.

While Commodore Perry was the person who successfully negotiated with Tokugawa Shogunate Government to sign the Treaty of Kanagawa (Japan-US Treaty of Peace and Amity) that allowed American’s to visit and land in the ports of Shimodaand Hakodate in 1854, the 13th Lord of Hikone was the one who agreed to sign the Treaty of Amity and Commerce in 1958 that allowed trade and commerce with the US.

The Sister City program was created by Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956. Sister City programs are established between cities that are similar in size, have common features (all of Newport’s Sister Cities are seaside towns) and an interest in developing cultural, historic and economic relationships. Sister Cities provide opportunities for citizens to learn about, experience and explore other cultures through long-term community partnerships. For centuries, cities throughout the world have established informal relationships based upon common cultural, economic or historic ties. The relationships provide a forum for the exchange of perspectives and ideas of culture, education, government and economic development.

Newport has five other sister cities – Imperia, Italy, Kinsale, Ireland, Ponta Delgada, the Azores, Skiathos, Greece and St. John, New Brunswick Canada.