Treaty of Amity and Commerce between Japan and the United States.
This image shows two ships with the Japanese delegates on board leaving Yokohama in January 1860 bound for the United States. Their mission was to exchange the instruments of ratification for the Treaty of Amity and Commerce between Japan and the United States concluded in June 1858. The Japanese delegates traveled to Washington DC via San Francisco.
The text on this kawaraban tells us that over 1500 representatives of the Edo Government were on board the two ships with the Commissioner of Foreign Affairs Shinmi Masaoki. They traveled on two ships: an American steamship (USS Powhatan) and a Japanese ship, Taigen-maru (actually the Kanrin-maru).
The text also mentions the interpreter, Nakahama Manjiro (1827-98). Manjiro was a fisherman from Tosa, and in 1841 (this text says "1846") when fishing off the coast, a storm wrecked his boat and he became a castaway. He was rescued by the American whaler ship and lived in America until 1851 when he came back to Japan. With his skill in English, he made an important contribution to the treaty.
The inset at the upper left corner is a list of the delegate officials.
Japanese newspapers began in the 17th century as yomiuri (読売、literally "to read and sell") or kawaraban (瓦版, literally "tile-block printing" referring to the use of clay printing blocks), which were printed handbills sold in major cities to commemorate major social gatherings or events. These sheets were often printed anonymously.
The kawaraban publishers served as a crucial vector for the transmission of information about Commodore Mathew Perry's opening of Japan. During the Edo Period, the arriving European vessels were called kurofune (Black Ships). That time was characterized by great social upheaval, and intense public interest in the agents of the outside world arriving in Japan.
Anna Wada, in "About Kawaraban", Perry in Japan A Visual History, gives background on the kawaraban:
The kawaraban took up a range of topics, including natural disasters, superstitious happenings, murders, and less commonly, political satire. Printers chose topics more to entertain and satisfy the readers’ curiosity than to educate them. Visual components such as illustrations, diagrams, and maps attracted the people to the print and helped them to understand the text, as well as sometimes offering additional information.
Throughout the Edo period the shogunate repeatedly restricted printing for a mass audience, particularly seeking to avoid rumors and political commentary. By the time the Black Ships [i.e., Perry’s fleet] arrived at the end of the Edo period, however, the system of censorship could not keep up with the number of prints in circulation. The increase in publications coincided with the spread of literacy in both urban and rural areas.