In 1853, when Japan still maintained a policy of self-isolation towards the rest of the world, Commodore Matthew C. Perry sailed to Japan in order to request the opening of Japanese ports to US ships. The following year Perry returned to Japan with a squadron of nine war ships, the so called black ships (黒船, kurofune), to force his request upon the Japanese. In the spring of 1854, the Shimoda Treaty was concluded which opened the ports of Shimoda and Hakodate to American ships.
Despite having been a humiliating event for Japan at the time, Perry's arrival has become Shimoda's major tourist attraction, and the commodore and his black ships are omnipresent sights around the city today. A monument commemorating Perry and the start of US-Japanese diplomatic relations stands in Shimoda Park.
Other Perry related attractions include Ryosenji Temple (了仙寺, Ryōsenji) where the Shimoda Treaty was signed in 1854. The temple's treasure house exhibits several Perry related articles. In addition, there is Perry Road (ペリーロード, Perī Rōdo), a picturesque street that connects Shimoda Park with Ryosenji Temple. It runs along a canal lined with cafes, boutiques and willow trees. The shops along Perry Road - and all across Shimoda - sell various Perry related souvenirs and foods.
Visitors can also join 20-minute sightseeing cruises around Shimoda Port in a ship designed to look like a black ship. The boarding point for the sightseeing cruise is a 15 minute walk from Izukyu-Shimoda Station (see map below). There is also the Kurofune Matsuri, an annual festival held in mid May, which commemorates the arrival of Perry with a parade and various other festive events.
The various sights related to Perry and his black ships are spread out around the city of Shimoda. Shimoda Park, Ryosenji Temple and Perry Road can be reached in a 10-15 minute walk south of Izukyu-Shimoda Station or in about five minutes by buses bound for the Shimoda Aquarium (海中水族館, Kaichū Suizokukan). Get off at the Ryosenji (了仙寺, Ryōsenji) bus stop (170 yen oen way, 2 buses/hour).