Historical Timeline

View how the events of the musical Pacific Overtures match up against the historical timeline.

Pacific Overtures Timeline

Historical Timeline


Japan expels the Portuguese, and officially cuts off all foreign trade with the exception of China, Korea, and The Netherlands.

June 24, 1841

Manjiro, along with four other teens, are rescued at sea by the USS John Howland, led by Captain William Whitfield.


Manjiro is rescued at sea by Americans and taken to Massachusetts where he learns American customs and English.

February 2, 1851

Manjiro returns to Japan, landing in Okinawa.

November 3, 1852

Emperor Meiji is born.

July 3, 1853

“The Advantages of Floating…”; Pacific Overtures begins; Manjiro lands in Japan from the US, and is taken into custody, reporting seeing four black ships in Okinawa.

July 8, 1853

Kayama is promoted to Prefect of Police of Uraga and brings the news to Tamate; “There is No Other Way;” “Four Black Dragons”; Commodore Perry leads four American ships to Edo Bay (now called Tokyo Bay). Kayama and Manjiro begin negotiating with intermediaries from Commodore Perry.

July 8, 1853

Commodore Perry leads four American ships to Edo Bay (now called Tokyo Bay); Kayama begins negotiating through intermediaries from Commodore Perry.

July 9 – 12, 1853

“Chrysanthemum Tea”; Shogun and his advisors debate over actions to take next regarding the Americans; Shogun dies on the 12th.

July 13, 1853

Kayama informs Lord Abe that Americans will be permitted to give President Fillmore’s letter; Kayama convinces Lord Abe to let Manjiro work for him instead; “Poems”; Tamate dies by suicide; “Welcome to Kanagawa.”

July 14, 1853

Commodore Perry arrives in Kanagawa, beginning negotiations with Lord Abe, Kayama, and Manjiro in the Treaty House and delivering President Fillmore’s letter; “Someone in a Tree”; Americans depart Japan; “Lion Dance”

July 14, 1853

Commodore Perry and four US ships arrive on Kurihama Beach, begins negotiations with Toda Izu-no-Kami and Ido Iwami-no-Kami in a hut on the beach, and gives them President Fillmore’s letter.

July 16, 1853

Perry requests provisions for his crew and other goods; in exchange he gives the Japanese goods such as wine, cotton, and a portrait of himself.

July 17, 1853

Perry and Americans depart from Edo Bay.

July 27, 1853

Shogun Tokugawa Ieyoshi dies of possible heart failure.

Late 1853

Kayama is promoted to Governor of Uraga; Lord Abe revokes Manjiro’s death sentence and promotes him to samurai.

February 18, 1854

Perry sends a small party to inspect Uraga’s facilities first, where they meet the recently named chief negotiator for the Japanese delegation, Hayashi Daigaku-no-Kami.

March 1854

“Please Hello” The US returns to Japan, with England, Russia, France, and the Netherlands following.

March 8, 1854

Commodore Perry and US marines land once again in Japan, at Kanagawa.

March 31, 1854

Hayashi and Perry sign the Treaty of Kanagawa, which opens Shimoda for trade and Hakodate a year later, protects shipwrecked sailors, designates Japanese officials to provide supplies, allows an American consul to reside in Shimoda, and establishes a favored nations clause.


“A Bowler Hat”; Kayama reports to Lord Abe that 200 Westerners live in Japan now.

August 6, 1857

Lord Abe dies, possibly due to cancer.


“A Bowler Hat”; foreigners still demand better housing, Western merchants import/export irresponsibly, noodle makers threaten to set fire to western warehouses.


“A Bowler Hat”; Kayama requires samurai to remove swords when entering the city.


“A Bowler Hat”; Westerners build a gentlemen’s club.


“Pretty Lady”; a samurai kills four English sailors.


Two powerful anti-Tokugawa clans, the Choshu and Satsuma, combine forces to topple the shogunate, and the following year declared an “imperial restoration” in the name of the 14-year-old Emperor Meiji.

February 1867

An assassin kills Lord Abe; bodyguard kills assassin; Manjiro kills Kayama; Emperor Meiji’s reign begins, bringing Japan into the modern era; “Next” begins.

January 3, 1868

Meiji Restoration begins, formally restoring authority to the emperor, and starting the modern era of Japan.


Japan wins first Sino-Japanese War, regional dominance in East Asia shifted from China to Japan. Korea became a vassal state of Japan.


Japan and the US agree to a treaty enabling Japanese to immigrate to the US.

1904 – 1905

Japanese-Russo War.


Japan sends 3000 cherry trees to USA; Emperor Meiji dies.

December 1937

Second Sino-Japanese War starts, Nanjing Massacre.

December 1941

Pearl Harbor bombing.

1942 – 1946

Japanese internment in the US.

August 1945

The US drops nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.


The US occupation of Japan ends.


Japan hosts the Olympics (the first time the Olympics is in Asia).


Japan becomes the biggest car producer in the world.


Japanese investors buy the Empire State Building.


Kyoto Protocol to cap greenhouse gasses is adopted.


Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.


Barack Obama is the first American President to visit Hiroshima.

July 2022

Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is assassinated by a gunman in Nara.