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About the Festival

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The 40th Black Ships Festival was held August 11th – 13th, 2023 in Bristol and Newport, Rhode Island

Everyone had a blast at the 40th family-friendly Black Ships Festival in Bristol and Newport, RI this summer. It was a weekend with a series of joyful community events where immersive cultural attractions and art experiences were enjoyed by folks who are just like you… curious about Asian cultures!

We celebrated Asian Culture at the Black Ships Festival - Cultural Marketplace Fair!

2023's Black Ships Festival was bigger and better than ever, with a full day of activities and entertainment for the whole family. Visitors immersed themselves in Asian culture with traditional drumming, origami folding, and a chance to meet your favorite superheroes and princesses including the first 17 and Under Cosplay costume contest!

Events included:

  • Traditional Drumming: Performances of outstanding Taiko Drumming.

  • Origami Folding: Visitors learned how to fold your own origami paper cranes, flowers, and more.

  • Martial Arts Demonstrations: Participants learned about the ways of the mind, body and spirit through many unique forms of multi-disciplinary martial arts from area schools, clubs and dojos.

  • Tea Ceremony: The traditional ceremony, or sadō (茶道), is a centuries-old ritual that is meant to be a peaceful and meditative experience.

  • Demonstrations of "Ikebana" and "Kokedama" by the Bristol Garden Club: the Japanese art of flower arranging and Kokedama involves growing plants in balls of moss. 

  • 17 and Under Cosplay Costume Contest:  Cosplay is a popular hobby in Japan

  • Join in the Kendama Competition: 

Kendama is a traditional Japanese skill toy consisting of a handle and a ball connected together by a string. The goal is to perform these tricks as skillfully and as creatively as possible.​ 

  • And much more! There were food trucks, games, and activities that everyone  enjoyed.

The Black Ships Festival events are a great opportunity to learn about Asian culture and have some fun with your family. So come on down and join us!

The festival shortens the distance between the Islands of Japan and the Ocean State!

Family-friendly events that bring communities together are more important than ever. From the local masters of traditional arts and crafts to the edgiest new innovators, JASRI’s Black Ships Festival has created a powerful platform for engaging with Japan’s creative expressions. The artwork and events are for people to connect, share stories, and collaborate with other makers and businesses inspiring others to share their passions with the local community. Handicap accessible.

As the festival, events, and educational outreach programs grow in popularity JASRI will continue transitioning from being confined to the Southern Rhode Island areas of Newport and Bristol to spreading out to neighboring communities throughout the state and Southern New England.

Where Families Celebrated Japan in Rhode Island in the Summer of 2023!


2023 Black Ships Festival Highlights

-Monday, August 7, 2023-


Japanese Craft

6:00 PM - 7:30 PM

Rogers Free Library Herreshoff Community Room; Bristol, RI, RI

Craft: Japanese Paper Fans

Use origami, cutout art, calligraphy, or flower paper to make your beautiful paper fan! Bring your fans to Saturday's Cultural Festival and celebrate with the Japan-America Society of Rhode Island. This craft is geared towards Teens and Adults, but all ages are welcome. To register:  

-Tuesday, August 8th, 2023-


Children's Craft

11:00 AM - 12:00 PM

Rogers Free Library Children's Room; Bristol, RI

This week's Children's Craft will feature Japanese paper fans! The craft will be presented by the Japan-America Society and Black Ships Festival. Children are encouraged to bring their fans to the Cultural Fair on Saturday! No sign ups needed.

What are the “Black Ships”?

6:00 PM - 7:00 PM

Rogers Free Library Herreshoff Community Room; Bristol, RI

Dr. Matthew C. Perry of Bristol will speak about his ancestor Commodore Matthew C. Perry. Commodore Perry established friendly relations with Japan in 1854 after abruptly entering restricted waters in Japan with his steam-powered "black ships." Commodore Perry was born in Newport and his brother Raymond married the daughter of James DeWolf, developing a strong connection with the Perry family and Bristol. Learn more about the historic event that ended 200 years of Japanese isolation, by re-establishing trade and discourse between Japan and the Western world.


-Thursday, August 10th, 2023-


"I Live in Tokyo" Story

6:00 PM - 6:20 PM

Rogers Free Library Children's Room; Bristol, RI

Stick around after Mrs. Katz's Storytime to read from Mari Takabayashi's I Live in Tokyo with Miss Sarah! There will be take-home crafts (fish kites) after this story time. Bring them to the parade on Saturday August 12th at Independence Park. Best for ages 2-8.

- Friday, August 11th 2023 -

Opening Ceremony
Rockwell Park, Bristol RI


Sushi Sake Sail I
Canceled due to unavailability of the
Goat Island, Newport RI

Free Taiko Drum Concert
Rockwell Park, Bristol RI

- Saturday, August 12th 2023 -

Cultural Marketplace Fair
Independence Park, Bristol RI - 11:00am-3:30pm

Click here to see full schedule

Black Ships Gala at Ochre Court
Newport RI

Ticket sales have closed for this year

- Sunday, August 13th 2023 -
Memorial Ceremony
Island Cemetery- Newport RI

Sushi Sake Sail II
Canceled due to unavailability of the ship
Goat Island, Newport RI

Volunteers Are Always Welcome - Help Us At Future Black Ships Festival Events

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