On the eve of Newport’s annual Black Ships Festival, Mayor Henry F. Winthrop and the Newport City Council are inviting the public to join them at a reception on Thursday, July 13th from 5:30 to 6:30 pm in lobby of the Gateway Center at 23 America’s Cup Avenue to welcome members of a delegation visiting from Newport’s Sister City, Shimoda, Japan.
In true Newport fashion, the Japanese delegation will be met with bagpipers from the Ancient Order of Hibernians and a traditional Irish step dancing performance. Light refreshments will be served and all are welcome to attend.
It was 1853 when Newport’s native son, Commodore Matthew Perry, anchored his four so-called “black ships” just off the coast of Shimoda in an effort to establish trading ties between Japan and the United States.
Today, he is revered as much in his native country as he is in Japan, where in Shimoda, representations of Perry and his ships can be found throughout the city; shaped into monuments, emblazoned on street names and etched on manhole covers.
This year, the city will be welcoming an eight-member delegation from Shimoda, along with four high school students who will be staying with local host families in Newport and Middletown in conjunction with Newport’s 34th Annual Black Ships Festival.
Representatives traveling from Japan include Mr. Yusuke Fukui, Mayor of Shimoda City, and his wife Ms. Yuki Fukui; Mr. Toyohito Sasaki, Shimoda City Office staff; Mr. Shigeki Shinji, Shimoda Newport Club Executive Secretary and his wife Ms. Taeko Shinji; Mr. Sadashi Ishii, teacher at Shimoda Junior High School; Ms. Moeka Tsuchiya, 9th grade student at Inazusa Junior High School; Mr. Daito Suzuki, 9th grade student at Inouzawa Junior High School; Ms. Akari Tanaka, 9th grade student at Shimoda East Junior High School; Mr. Ryusei Tsuchiya, 9th grade student at Shimoda Junior High School; Mr. Hidetsugu Uehara､ a tour conductor of TOP Tour Company; and Ms. Hiroko Yamaguchi (Holly), a liaison for Shimoda Newport cultural exchange.
Located in Shizuoka Prefecture, at the southern tip of the Izu peninsula about 60 miles southwest of Tokyo, Shimoda – like Newport – features a scenic harbor, historic streetscape, and strong Naval presence.
Shimoda celebrated its own Black Ships Festival in May of this year, welcoming Mayor Winthrop as well as several members of the public and two Rogers High School students as part of a long-standing good will exchange.
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.
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.