USS Curtis Wilbur sailors celebrate US-Japan treaty at ‘Black Ship’ festival
By CAITLIN DOORNBOS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 18, 2018
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — The USS Curtis Wilbur arrived in the beach-resort town of Shimoda Friday to help celebrate the 164th anniversary of the signing of a treaty that opened trade relations between Japan and the United States.
The annual Shimoda Black Ship Festival, which was scheduled to run through Sunday, commemorates the 1854 Japan-American Treaty of Trade and Amity that followed Navy Commodore Matthew Perry and his squadron’s arrival in the southeastern Shizuoka prefecture city the year before.
This is the 79th year the people of Shimoda have hosted the Black Ship Festival, named after the term the Japanese gave to Western boats that began arriving in Japan as early as the 16th century, the Navy said.
This is the Curtis Wilbur’s fourth visit to the city, and the second for the guided-missile destroyer’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Simon McKeon.
“I’m very excited,” he said. “The people of Shimoda were very nice and welcoming on the first visit, and we look forward to continuing the relations we’ve established in the past.”
The goal of the festival is to “promote peaceful relations between the Japanese and American people,” and tourists from throughout Japan flock to Shimoda each May to participate, the Navy said in a statement.
Curtis Wilbur sailors will engage with the community, visiting local elementary schools and participating in beach volleyball and a tug-of-war contest, the Navy said. They also will take part in a parade and a memorial ceremony honoring five sailors killed during the Navy’s first visit to the city.
The festival will include several other events, including fireworks and a historical re-enactment with performers dressed as Perry and Japanese shogunate officials, according to festival leaders.
The Curtis Wilbur left Yokosuka for Shimoda on Thursday. It is unclear when it will return. The Navy said the ship is “on a regularly scheduled deployment” in the 7th Fleet area “in support of security and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.”