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The End Of Isolation

What Factors Motivated Japan to End Their Isolation Policy?

What Influences a Country to Change?

Imagine another country approached the Canadian government and demanded
massive changes in the way Canada interacts with the world?
How would Canadians feel?
Could Canada be pressured into giving in?
How would this affect our national identity and worldview?
Commodore Perrys 1853 arrival in Japan was different than visits from other foreign
countries of the past. This time japan would lose its battle to remain a closed
society. When a country endures a change this drastic, it is usually due to building
pressures from inside as well as outside the country.

U.S Commodore Matthew Perry Unlocks Japan

On July 12, 1853, Perry sailed into Uraga Harbor with 2 steamships, 2 sailing
vessels, 977 men, and 66 guns, which were larger than any the Japanese had
seen before.

He presented a letter from U.S President Filmore. The president wanted to

trade with Japan. He also asked for protection for shipwrecked American sailors
and the right to buy coal for U.S ships. Perry said he would return for their

In 1854, Perry returned with 8 black ships and even more troops. This time,
Perry and the shogunate signed the Treaty of Kanagawa.

Opened 2 Japanese ports to American ships

Established an American consulate in Japan
Provided protection to shipwrecked sailors
Provided the right for the U.S to buy coal from Japan

In 1858, another commercial treaty with the U.S was signed giving them more
trading rights. Japan also signed similar treaties with England, France, the
Dutch, and Russia.

Many Japanese were unhappy with these unequal treaties, which were
forced on them. They had lost control over their trade.

The Japanese Response to Perry

Japan had held out against opening up trade with
foreigners for hundreds of years. So why did they cave
when Perry visited?
1. One reason is that Perrys show of military strength worked; the
Japanese recognized that the Americans had weapons that were
more advanced than their own. If Japan fought they would lose.
2. Another reason is that Japan used their knowledge of what had
happened to between European powers and China to help them
make their decision.
A few years earlier, there had been a war between China and
Britain. The Opium War had come about as a result of trade
between the two countries. To balance trade with China, Britain
began supporting the smuggling of opium (highly addictive drug)
from their colonies into China. When the Chinese tried to stop the
sale of opium, Britain sent warships and troops to attack Chinese
ports. The British won the war and forced China into signing a
series of unequal treaties with European countries. China was
carved up like a melon.

Pressures From Within-

The situation in Japan was tense

due to a loss of respect for the shogunate. The unequal treaties
made the situation even worse.
1. Honor the emperor; expel
the barbarians

2. Eastern ethics and Western


3. No Motto

1. Japan is the divine land;
the Japanese are superior
to westerners
2. Adopt western technology,
particularly military
equipment, but keep
Japanese values and morals
3. Oversea trade is necessary
to increase the wealth of
Japan; change is enevitable

1. War against Westerners;
Continued isolation

2. Adopt some elements of

western civilization

3. Welcome the Americans

and Europeans and trade
with them

Disorder and Civil War

Many people saw the treaties as proof that the shogun was
weak. The cracks in the foundation of Japanese society had
turned into major fault lines. It was as if Japan were
experiencing an earthquake or tidal wave within their

Groups that disagreed with the shogun or with each other

took to rioting in the streets and other acts of violence.
Daimyo who opposed the shogun were retired or put
under arrest. Their samurai were imprisoned, exiled, or
Attacks on foreigners increased and at times, foreign
gunboats bombarded the Japanese shore in response.
Finally in 1868, the shogun resigned, and he formally
petitioned the emperor to take over power. Civil war broke
out between those who wanted to restore the shogunate and
those who favored the emperor. The country was divided. In
the end the group in favor of the emperor won and a new
era in Japanese history was begun.