Samurai 150

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Samurai Week in Washington, D.C.

The 150th Anniversary of the First Japanese Diplomatic Mission to the U.S.

150 years ago, the world had yet to discover Japan, and the people of Japan had never seen America…
The landing of the Japanese Embassy of Japan, with the treat in a box, at the Navy Yard, Washington.
Printed in Harper’s Weekly May 26, 1860. Library of Congress.

In the years before the American Civil War, 77 samurai crossed the sea as Japan’s first diplomatic mission to the U.S., captivating the American people and the press. Everywhere they went, large crowds turned out to see them, fascinated by their traditional clothing, top-knot hairstyle, and prominent samurai swords. Bearing the honor and responsibility of ushering Japan into the modern era, the mission was officially charged with the ratification of the Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation. But they accomplished so much more, laying the foundations of the rich relationship Japan and the U.S. share today and setting the stage for the next 150 years of cultural exchange.

In commemoration of the 150th anniversary of their historic visit, a number of special events will take place as part of Samurai Week in Washington, D.C. Please join us in appreciating the origins of the rich relationship Japan and the U.S. share today!

Commemorative Lecture:
Samurai 150!
The First Japanese Diplomatic Mission to the U.S. in 1860
May 24th from 5:30-7:00 pm, FREE
Followed by a light reception
Library of Congress, James Madison Building, Mumford Room, 6th Floor
101 Independence Avenue, S.E.
(Image: Samurai diplomats at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. )

With a greeting by Japanese Ambassador to the U.S. Ichiro Fujisaki, this lecture will feature keynote speakers Akira Iriye, Charles Warren Professor of American History at Harvard University, and Ronald P. Toby, Professor of East Asian Language and Culture at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Historical items drawn from the library’s collection will be on display in the Mumford Room an hour before the lecture, beginning at 4:30 pm. The lecture will be followed by a light reception. Reservations required by May 14. Contact Maryssa Miller at, (202) 238-6766.

*From May 25-28, the historical items will be on display in the Asian Reading Room (Jefferson Building). *

Samurai Tea
May 22-23 from 2:00-5:00 pm
The Willard Hotel’s Peacock Alley
1401 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Sip authentic Japanese tea to the sounds of the koto harp and savor Japanese treats while performers dressed as Victorian ladies and Edo samurai recreate the atmosphere that filled the Willard during the mission’s stay 150 years ago. Call (202) 637-7350 for more information. (Willard InterContinental, D.C.)
An Evening with Samurai
May 25 at 6:30 pm, FREE
Japan Information & Culture Center, Embassy of Japan
1155 21st Street NW, Lafayette Centre III (Lower Level)

Imbuing traditional Japanese swordplay with a contemporary edge, this samurai troupe’s mission is to spread Bushi-Do, The Way of Samurai, through a mix of beautifully choreographed sword fighting, comedy and drama. Reservations accepted at a later date, TBA. (Photo by Moto Ishibashi)

Samurai Film Fest
May 26-28 at 6:30 pm, FREE
Japan Information & Culture Center, Embassy of Japan
1155 21st Street NW, Lafayette Centre III (Lower Level)

Japanese with English subtitles.
Reservations required. Call (202) 238-6949
or email

May 26: Yojimbo
Directed by Akira Kurosawa. 75 min, 1961.
Image courtesy of Toho Co., Ltd.

May 27: The Hidden Blade
Directed by Yoji Yamada. Rated R.132 min, 2004. ©Tartan Films 2005

May 28: Samurai X: The Motion Picture
Directed by Hatsuki Tsuji. i90 min, 1997.
© 1997 N. Watsuki / Shueisha・Fuji-TV・Aniplex Inc.

Japan Information & Culture Center, Embassy of Japan
Lafayette Centre III (Mall Level), 1155 21st NW, Washington, D.C. 20036

Presented by the Embassy of Japan, Japan-American Society of Washington, D.C., Japan Commerce Association of Washington,
Library of Congress, Willard InterContinental,