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  • Japanese: 下田 (Shimoda)

Shimoda is a port city on the Izu peninsula in Shizuoka prefecture. It is known as one of the first treaty ports to be opened in Japan, along with Hakodate, in 1854. Shimoda was closed to American activity in 1857, but was subsequently reopened along with the broader "opening" of the country following the Meiji Restoration.[1]

Despite the prominence of its Bakumatsu history, however, Shimoda was already a prominent location since even prior to the Edo period. A siege of Shimoda took place in connection with the siege of Odawara in 1590, and as early as 1616, the Tokugawa shogunate assigned a separate official, the Shimoda bugyô, to oversee the port.

As late as 1852, the shogunate was actively rejecting foreign landings or interactions at Shimoda. When the Russian ship Mentchikof came to Shimoda that year and attempted to repatriate Japanese castaways, they were told by Nirayama daikan Egawa Tarôzaemon (the official overseeing the entire Izu region) to do so at Nagasaki instead; rather than do so, the Mentchikof simply left the castaways elsewhere in Izu and moved on. In stark contrast, when Yevfimy Vasilyevich Putyatin arrived in Japan for his second or third time in late 1854, he was in fact directed to go to Shimoda.

Negotiations between the Tokugawa shogunate and Commodore Perry of the United States held in Yokohama in 1854 resulted in the Convention of Kanagawa, signed that same year, which opened the ports of Shimoda and Hakodate to American ships. Further negotiations, held at the Buddhist temple Ryôsen-ji in Shimoda, resulted in the designation of an area seven ri square within which Americans could enjoy free movement, the establishment of checkpoints controlling movement out of the port city, and a number of other provisions.

The privileges granted to the Americans and British in these 1854 agreements were extended to the Russians in the Treaty of Shimoda, signed on 1854/12/21 (on the Japanese calendar) at Chôraku-ji in Shimoda and ratified nearly two years later in St. Petersburg. This treaty is also notable for being the first to officially set agreed-upon national borders between Japan and Russia in regards to the Kuril Islands, and indeed the first to set modern national borders for Japan at all.[2] These privileges were further extended to the Dutch in an 1856 Dutch-Japanese Treaty of Peace and Amity.[3]

Townsend Harris, the first American consul to be resident in Japan, took up that post at Shimoda in 1856, though Shimoda was closed to American activity and the American Legation moved to Edo the following year.[4]

Notable Sites in Shimoda

  • Chôraku-ji - Buddhist temple where the Treaty of Shimoda (1855) with Russia was negotiated and signed.
  • Fukusen-ji - Buddhist temple where shogunate officials met with Putyatin in 1854.
  • Gyokusen-ji - Buddhist temple where a number of members of Commodore Perry's crew, as well as other Bakumatsu era foreigners, are buried. One of two temples, along with Ryôsen-ji, officially designated following 1854 negotiations to be made available as "rest areas" for Americans.
  • Hôfuku-ji - Buddhist temple which served for a time as residence and administrative office for the Shimoda bugyô. Site of a notable meeting between Katsu Kaishû and Yamauchi Yôdô, and site of the grave of Okichi.[5]
  • Ryôsen-ji - Buddhist temple which served on several occasions as the site for negotiations between Commodore Perry and shogunate officials including Hayashi Fukusai.


  1. Robert Hellyer, Defining Engagement, Harvard University Press (2009), 176.; Mitani Hiroshi, David Noble (trans.), Escape from Impasse, International House of Japan (2006), 273-283.
  2. Mitani, 247-250, 292.
  3. Mitani, 260-262.
  4. Hesselink, Reinier. "The Assassination of Henry Heusken," Monumenta Nipponica, vol. 49, no. 3. Autumn, 1994
  5. Ishin Shiryô Kôyô 維新史料綱要, vol 1 (1937), 600.; Plaques on-site at Hôfuku-ji.