Many may walk run or drive by Long Wharf at Washington square and never notice there are two flag poles standing tall next to The Brick Market Building, but a few members of our audience do notice and have taken note of a peculiar flag flying high over the City over the last few months.
Owned by the City of Newport and managed by the Newport Historical Society, the Brick Market Building is home to the Museum of Newport History and the Museum Shop.
Since at least the beginning of July, the Japanese Flag has been flying high over the City next to the American Flag. It is customary to fly the flag of the city or state to the right of the American Flag.
While many (including myself) attributed its presence to the Black Ships Festival that took place July 15 – 17, many continued to wonder why it continued to fly on V-J Day (a.k.a Victory Over Japan Day and Victory Day – the day that marks the anniversary of Japan’s surrender to the allies during WWII) on August 8th and why it continue to fly in September.
” I just checked with our research librarian about your question, he thought that the Japanese flag is most likely leftover from the Black Ships Festival earlier this summer,” Elizabeth Sulock, Manager of Public Outreach & Living History for the Newport Historical Society, confirmed with us on Thursday, September 8th.
At time of publishing (11:55 a.m. on September 8th), the Japanese Flag continued to fly.
Newport Black Ships Festival
The Black Ships Festival commemorates the historic achievements of Commodore Matthew C. Perry, USN, of Newport, Rhode Island. The “Black Ships,” or “Kurofune,” refers to the Japanese term for foreign ships which, with one exception, were excluded from Japan for two hundred years until 1854. Commodore Perry negotiated the Treaty of Kanagawa in 1854, the first treaty between the United States and Japan, thus ending two centuries of Japanese isolationism. The Black Ships Festival celebrates the signing of the treaty, which brought the two countries together as trading partners.
The Black Ships Festival offers a variety of events that emphasize both Japanese art and culture. Events include a formal Gala, Japanese Arts & Crafts such as Origami and Ikebana; Martial Arts, and a Japanese Tea Ceremony. A highlight will be the Taiko Drums!
The Black Ships Festivals in Newport and in its Japanese Sister City Shimoda, commemorate this historic event with a celebration of friendship. This year is the 77th festival in Shimoda and also celebrates the 58th anniversary of the Sister City relationship between Newport and Shimoda, Japan. The Festival is presented by The Japan-America Society and Black Ships Festival of Rhode Island, Inc., a non-profit, non-partisan organization.