SHIMODA, Japan - Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) departed Shimoda Harbor, May 19 after the completion of a port visit for the 74th annual Black Ship Festival.
The officers and crew of Fitzgerald spent three days celebrating with the local citizens of the city of Shimoda, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Forces (JMSDF) and hundreds of visitors from around Japan and U.S.
"I couldn't be more proud of my Sailors for what they have accomplished here in Shimoda," said Cmdr. Jonathan Schmitz, Fitzgerald's commanding officer. "It was an absolute pleasure to be able to take part in this festival, and the people of Shimoda were very gracious hosts."
The festival commemorates the arrival of Commodore Matthew Perry to Shimoda, and the establishment of the first U.S. Consulate in Japan. It was here in 1854 that the two countries worked out the Treaty of Peace and Amity that led to ending the centuries-old Sakoku, Japan's self-imposed isolationist policy.
"It is my great honor, privilege and pleasure to be here again to commemorate the conclusion of the first treaty of peace and amity between Japan and the United States," said Rear Adm. Mark Montgomery, commander, Battle Force 7th Fleet, during opening remarks at the festival's commencement ceremony. "That document, signed one hundred fifty-nine years ago, was the beginning of what has grown to be a priceless relationship between our two nations and people, a relationship that I believe is stronger and more significant than any of the original negotiators could have ever imagined."
That longstanding relationship was evident at a variety of events that brought the two nations closer together through friendly sporting competitions, tours and a parade featuring Sailors from Fitzgerald, JMSDF destroyer JDS Murasame (DD 101), 7th Fleet Band and performances from a collection of local artists and Fleet Activities Yokosuka's Nile C. Kinnick High School students.
The three-day festival offered Sailors the chance to interact with and gain a better understanding of Japanese nationals.
"It was an outstanding experience, and I'm glad we had a chance to come to Shimoda for the Black Ship Festival," said Cryptologic Technician (Collection) 1st Class Tiffany Ulrich. "Just being able to hang out and walk around mingling with the local citizens was a lot of fun too."
Additionally, Fitzgerald Sailors donated their time at six local elementary schools for community service projects. For one Sailor, it was the highlight of the festival.
"It means the world to me to come to events like these, because I really enjoy sharing in different cultures," said Fire Controlman 1st Class Robert Carter, "especially ones where we get to interact with the students. You can see the true culture of a country through the children, and because Japan is going to be my home for a short time, I want to get the most out of it."
All of the participants in the festival shared the common bond of longstanding mutual respect.
"From the most humble and modest beginnings, we have developed an alliance that has expanded to include the most important matters of defense and national security; investment and commerce; cultural and intellectual exchanges; and most importantly, a powerful and lasting friendship," said Montgomery.
Fitzgerald is one of seven Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers assigned to Destroyer Squadron 15, forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan, to support security and stability of the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.