The year 2003 marked the 150th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the United States and Japan. Until 1853 Japan and the United States, located on opposite shores of the vast Pacific Ocean, had almost no contact. By choice, Japan had maintained itself as a nation with closed borders for more than two hundred years before this time, restricting foreign contact to relations with Dutch and Chinese traders, who were allowed access only to Nagasaki on the island of Kyushu. In contrast, the United States, faced with fierce international competition in the Pacific, aggressively sought new markets in East Asia. Thus, the establishment of relations with Japan became a popular topic for discussion in U.S. political circles.