The temple served as the first U.S. Consulate in Japan marking the dawn of the Japan’s diplomacy
In 1639, the Tokugawa Shogunate, which was holding central authority in Japan at the time, enacted a policy to ban the entry of foreign ships into Japan in order to prevent the entry of "heathens." This policy remained in effect until 1854 when the Treaty of Peace and Amity between Japan and the United States was enacted. For over 200 years, Japan had almost no foreign relations and was in a state of “Sakoku (national isolation).”
Townsend Harris, a U.S. diplomat, came to Japan one year after the enactment of the Treaty of Peace and Amity between Japan and the United States. Harris had a deep interest in Eastern culture and became the first U.S. Consul General to Japan, a position he had actively desired. His mission was to have Japan open its doors to the outside world peacefully and to secure the U.S.'s trade interests in the East.
The Gyokusen-ji Temple officially became the U.S. Consulate building with permission obtained from the Japanese Shogunate when Harris came to Japan. It was the first foreign consulate in Japan.
Based at Gyokusen-ji, Harris worked enthusiastically to establish diplomatic relations with Japan. It was a very challenging mission to achieve, as there was a social movement to expel foreigners from Japan in those days. However, in 1858, the Treaty of Peace and Amity between Japan and the United States was finally established. It was the official dawn of Japan’s foreign diplomacy.
Today, Gyokusen-ji is designated as a national historic site because of its historical value in terms of diplomacy as the site of the first U.S. Consulate in Japan. The Townsend Harris Museum has been erected to commemorate the first U.S. Consul General, and his mementos and records from those days are displayed there.
Address: 31-6, Kakisaki, Shimoda-city, Shizuoka
Closed: Open throughout the year
From Tokyo:[Rail]About 50-min by JR Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to Atami Station, about 25-min by JR Ito Line from Atami Station to Ito Station, about 1 hour by Izu Kyuko Line from Ito Station to Izu-kyu Shimoda Station, about 25-min walk from Izu-kyu Shimoda Station