Join Japan-America Society of Washington DC for a discussion with Kristi Jamrisko Gross, focusing on her research into the Japanese delegation of 1860 through the lens of a diary of watercolor sketches, Meriken kōkai nikki ryakuzu 米利堅航海日記略圖 (Journal and Sketches from the Voyage to America), from the collection of the Library of Congress. JASWDC Trustee and former cultural attaché of the U.S. Embassy Tokyo Robin Berrington will moderate the interactive session.

A paper based on Ms. Gross’s research is available here.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020


JAS Members: FREE
Non-Member: $5


*You will receive a link to the event upon registration. 

In 1858, five years after Commodore Matthew Perry’s “Black Ships” appeared on Japan’s shores and marked an end to Japan’s two centuries of seclusion, Consul-General Townsend Harris succeeded in negotiating The Treaty of Amity and Commerce with the Tokugawa Shogunate.  Among the stipulations of the agreement was for a Japanese delegation to travel to Washington, DC to present the treaty to President James Buchanan for ratification.

On January 22, 1860, an embassy of seventy-seven men, sailing aboard the USS Powhatan and escorted by the Japanese warship Kanrin Maru, left Yokohama for the United States. The delegation would return to Japan nine months later, but not before leaving a deep and lasting impact on U.S.–Japan relations.  The voyage’s legacy includes a number of living descendants as well as first-hand accounts that provide a unique lens into 1860’s America.  These primary sources hint at the personality, wonder, and humor of the delegation members, and contain observations that resonate with the modern traveler between Japan and the United States.

Speaker Bios

Kristi Jamrisko Gross is a museum guide and group tour coordinator at Woodlawn & Frank Lloyd Wright’s Pope-Leighey House, where she developed a special tour about Japanese influences on Wright’s architecture.  She has also worked as an educator at Riversdale House Museum and Tudor Place, and as a docent at Anderson House. From 2006 to 2012, Kristi was science and nuclear policy analyst at the Embassy of Japan in Washington, DC. During this time she also served as a JET Program recruiter and interview assistant, and volunteered at the Children’s Corner at JASW’s Sakura Matsuri. She holds a B.A. in Government and French from the College of William and Mary and an M.A. in Art History from the University of Maryland, where she wrote her Master’s thesis on Dutch–Japanese material culture exchange during the Edo period.

Kristi developed a deep affinity for Japan during her time as an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) at two junior high schools in the mountains of Fukui prefecture from 2002 to 2005. She is thrilled for the opportunity to share her research on the fascinating but understudied 1860 Japanese diplomatic delegation to the U.S., a project that was inspired by her 2015 encounter with a charming sketchbook currently housed in the Library of Congress’s Asian Division.

Kristi lives in Alexandria, VA with her husband Tom, who was also a JET; their six-year old son; and their ten-month old daughter.


Robin Berrington retired from the U.S. Foreign Service in 1999 after a 32-year career, with five assignments to Japan where he received the U.S. government’s superior honor award for his work as cultural attaché, 1989 to 1993, and meritorious honor award as Tokyo American Center Director, 1981 to 1986.  His final position before retiring in 1999 was American cultural attaché to the Court of St. James in London, 1995 to 1999.

Mr. Berrington was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and received a B.A. from Wesleyan University and an M.A. in Japanese Studies from Harvard University.  He studied Japanese for one year at the Kokusai Gakuyukai (国際学友会) in Tokyo in 1961 and 1962.  From 1963 to 1965 he was a Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand.

He has been a docent of the Freer/Sackler Gallery (F/SG) for many years.  He  is also on the board of the Contemporary American Theater Festival in Shepherdstown, Maryland and the International Student Conference in Washington.  He formerly was a member of the executive committee of the annual nation-wide Japan Bowl competition for American high school students of Japanese language and culture.  He currently resides in Washington, DC.