Shimoda - Window to the world and Tojin-Okichi

Shimoda is the southernmost port city of the Izu Peninsula. When Shogun government was forced to conclude the Treaty for Amity and Friendship with the US in 1854, it opened Shimoda and Hakodate to foreign ships. In the following years, Shimoda came into the limelight in the Japanese external relations. Shimoda was the Japanese window to the world and numerous official and private dramas unfolded here.

While the American Commodore Perry anchored his fleet at Shimoda after the conclusion of the Treaty, Shoin Yoshida, an ideological leader of the anti-shogunate movements, tried to board a ship to go to the US. However, Perry refused his request and Shoin was arrested and put into jail because he broke the law and tried to leave Japan.

Graves of Russian sailors in the Gyokusenji Temple

The Russian Rear Admiral Yevfimy Putjatin came to Shimoda on his Diana in 1854, only four months later than Perry's departure. Unfortunately, because of the heavy earthquake and tsunami which happened in late autumn, Diana was seriously damaged (See the article on Heda).

The main building of Gyokusenji Temple

Monument of the first cow milk drinking in February 1858. The inscription says that the house maid Okichi - Okichi still took care of Harris - bought 9.8 gou (about 18 litter) milk at 1.3 ryo (about 700 $) for the consumption of fifteen days by Harris.
A photo of 19 years old Kichi
In accordance with the Treaty, the first American Consul General Taunsend Harris opened the American consulate at Gyokusenji Temple in August 1856. As Harris was the first foreigner who lived on the Japanese soil, the introduction of diverse Western lifestyles is attributed to him. For example, there is a big monument in front of the main building of the Temple commemorating the beginning of cow milk drinking in Japan. A citrus tree is said to have been the tree to which a cow was tied and slaughtered for the first time in Japan to serve meat to Consul General Harris and his interpreter Heusken.

Harris stayed here till May 1859 when the US opened the legation in Azabu in accordance with the newly concluded Treaty of Amity and Commerce and Harris moved there from Shimoda.

While Harris stayed in Gyokusenji Temple, a seventeen years young girl Okichi was sent to the Consul to serve him. Though Okichi's story is historically less important, her name remains in the mind of the Japanese people as a victim of the early period of Japan's encounter with the Western world.

Nowadays, it appears true that Harris needed a nurse to serve him, as he suffered from poor health. On the other hand, the local office of the Shogun government understood that Harris needed a mistress and picked up a popular geisha Okichi and sent her to Harris. It is not sure how long she served Harris. A source indicates that she served only three days in May 1857. - Contradictory to the explanation on the milk monument However, there are people who believe that she served till the closure of the American consulate as local mistress. Another people believe that she was sent to Harris by the Shogunate as a spy.

This red wine glass, now kept in Hofukuji, is said to have been used by Harris and Okichi.
She was not allowed to tell the truth and secluded from the society as "Toujin" (mistress of a foreigner), though she was not a mistress like "Chocho-san".

Anyhow, becoming a mistress of Western men was regarded as shame and Kichi was despised as "Toujin". The disdain and prejudice of the society disturbed her seriously and she gradually indulged in alcohol. She could not live a peaceful family life with her beloved Tsurumatsu. She ruined a restaurant presented by a sympathetic patron and could not run a hair salon in Shimoda due to the disdain of local people. In her 40s, Kichi became homeless and killed herself by jumping into the Inouzawa River.

Toujin Okichi became a heroin of popular novels and her stories were staged many times. Though the truth still remains a mystery, her story was interpreted in various ways and exploited as a tourist attraction.

The graves of Kichi (right) and Tsurumatsu (left) are in the courtyard of the Hofukuji Temple. The priest of Hofukuji accepted Kichi and made a grave for her when Kichi was found dead. The Kichi's photo on top of this page is acknowledged by Hofukuji Temple as Kichi's young portrait. But, its authenticity is doubted.

Inouzawa River where Kichi killed herself.