Kurofune (the Black Ships) (黒船)

Kurofune is a term used to refer to large, Western-style sea vessels, used before the Edo Period until the modern age. The term is presently used to refer to ships that came to Japan during the late Edo Period. The term is mostly associated with the fleet of United States Navy ships, led by Matthew PERRY, that arrived off the coast of Uraga in 1853.

Perry's squadron

Western ships of that day were called "black ships" because of the tar that was applied to the body of the ship. Because Perry's squadron included a steamship, many associate the term "black ships" with steamships, but it also refers to the sail ships.

Today, the term is used at times to symbolize external pressure on Japan, such as by capitalist powers, or entry of foreign capital in the country that can destroy existing conventions.

Films featuring the Black Ships

"Kurofune" is the Japanese title of a 1958 film by John Houston (Original title: "The Barbarian and the Geisha"). The film portrayed the US-Japan trade negotiations that took place at the end of the Edo Period. John Wayne played the leading role. It was filmed on location in Kyoto and Nara.


The term "Kuro-bune (black ship)" is also used for people who come from abroad and create news and/or start a new fad (such as sumo wrestler KONISHIKI, professional baseball player Bob HORNER, centerfold model Leah DIZON, and enka singer JERO), a foreign business that makes a break in the Japanese business market, new products that are brought to Japan from other countries (such as the iPhone), or anything that takes a stable market by storm, bring irreversible changes to a particular market and that at times may receive strong oppositiion from within Japan.

[Original Japanese]