|Commodore Matthew Perry|
Commodore Matthew Perry of the U.S. Navy was responsible for the opening to Japan. During the late 18th and 19th centuries, European and American commercial interests were directed to the Pacific as Asian countries offered large trading markets. Perry’s actions ended Japan’s policy of isolationism and exposed the inability of the Tokugawa military regime (bakufu) to defend Japan against foreign encroachments.
The United States was determined to open up Japan to American trade. In 1853 Matthew Perry arrived in Japan with four warships of the U.S. Navy. His orders were to persuade Japan to establish trading relations with the United States. Perry told the Japanese that he would return to Japan in 1854 to receive their answer.
He invited officials to board his warships where they were shown American products as well as the powerful weapons his naval vessels were armed with. The ultimatum from Perry created a debate among Japanese officials; some favored fighting the Americans while others favored compliance.
When Perry returned to Japan the following year with eight warships, the Japanese signed an agreement that complied and opened the ports of Hakodate and Shimoda to American trade, promised to treat sailors well, and allowed an American consul to take up residence in Shimoda.
The U.S. government followed up by sending Townsend Harris to negotiate trade treaties with the Japanese in August 1856. Harris demanded that Japan establish a fixed low tariff for U.S. imports and that U.S. citizens be granted extraterritorial rights in Japan.
These demands created another debate in Japanese political circles between members of the emperor’s court and the bakufu, which favored compliance because the French and British fleets had just defeated the Chinese in the Arrow War and were rumored to be traveling to Japan to force the Japanese to accede to their demands.
|Matthew Perry arrive in japan|
Thus they wished to placate the Western powers. A treaty was signed in 1858 that allowed Americans to trade at three more ports, with an additional two ports to be opened within a stipulated time. These privileges were soon extended to England, France, the Netherlands, and Russia in similar agreements.
The government was severely criticized for allowing Japan to be humiliated by the Western powers. Critics advocated a stronger leadership loyal to the emperor and committed to repel Western encroachments. A slogan, “Honor the emperor, expel the barbarian,” became a popular rallying cry.
Two feudal lords of Choshu and Satsuma especially denounced the Tokugawa Shogunate as too weak to handle the problems afflicting Japan and led the movement to change Japan. In 1868 these two regional lords, who had undertaken to modernize their armies, led a successful uprising that captured Edo, seat of the shogun. It ended the Tokugawa Shogunate and resulted in the Meiji Restoration.