Japan History – The Opening of the Country

Japan History - The Opening of the Country

On July 8, 1853, according to Themotorcyclers, a team of 4 American ships under the command of Commodore M. Calbraith Perry dropped anchor off Uraga, a small port at the entrance to Tōkyō Bay. Overcoming, with his firmness, the obstacles opposed by the indigenous cunning, Perry delivered to the representatives of the shōgun a message from President M. Fillimore asking for the opening of the country, giving the imperial government a year to decide. Many reasons had led the United States to take that step: first of all, the growing trade between China, open to foreign relations after the opium war (1840-42), and California, which became a region of prosperous traffics after the discovery of gold (1848), trafficking which required a refueling post halfway through the route.

Troubled by the responsibility so suddenly imposed on him and lacking the guidance of a sure knowledge of the conditions of other nations, the shōgun (Tokugawa Iesada, 1853-58) questioned the various daimyō, some of whom declared themselves for resistance, others for the acceptance of foreign proposal. The second visit of the American team (February 12, 1854) still found them undecided, but the apparatus of force that Perry unfolded in front of the astonished gazes of a people two centuries backward on the path of progress, had its effect, and after laborious negotiations, on March 31 the first treaty with foreign countries was signed, under which the ports of Shimoda and Hakodate were opened, with a residence permit in Shimoda of a plenipotentiary minister.

Meanwhile, the storm was gathering over the Tokugawa. The treaties had excited outrage throughout the Empire. The shōgun was accused of having, by signing the treaties, arrogated to himself a right belonging to the sovereign, of which he was only the executive arm: the treaties had, therefore, to be considered illegal. Two parties were immediately formed: that of the J ō – i (expulsion of the barbarians), made up of the enemies of the shōgun, supporters of the emperor, and that of the Kaikoku (opening of the country), formed by elements loyal to the Tokugawa. Meanwhile, T. Harris, the US minister in Japan, was lobbying for further concessions. Despite the strong opposition of the court, the prime minister of the shōgun, Ii Kamon-no-kami, a man of great energy and intuition, signed (29 July 1858) a new treaty with the United States and shortly thereafter with France and England.. The excitement aroused in the country by his act forced him to take severe repressive measures, especially in the xenophobic environment of Yedo and Kyōto, which he paid for with his life (March 24, 1860). His loss deprived the shōgunate of an exceptional man. In 1863, the shōgun Iemochi (1858-66) was called to Kyōto for an examination of the situation and received from the emperor Kāmei (1847-67) the order to expel foreigners, an order that will never be carried out, also because, in the general crisis, private initiative complicates things and hostile acts against foreign legations and subjects provoke the energetic intervention of the offended powers. The same year Admiral AL Kuper bombed Kagoshima to avenge the killing of the British subject Richardson and the following year the American, Dutch and French guns punished Shimonoseki the insult made by Chōshū’s daimyō, Mōri Motonori, who had opened the fire on the ships of the powers. The energy explained by the foreigners had its effect: the war against them was postponed (an imperial decree ratified, on October 23, 1863, all the foreign treaties concluded by the shōgun) and Iemochi was immediately ordered to punish Motonori. The punitive campaign ended with the defeat of the Shōgunal troops. It was the coup de grace. Iemochi died shortly after and Keiki, his successor, on October 14, 1867, put his office and power back in the hands of the emperor Mutsuhito (1868-1912), a fifteen-year-old success in Kōmei. On January 4, 1868, the abolition of the shōgunate was promulgated, while its last supporters were defeated by the imperial troops in Fushimi (January 17, 1868), in Ueno, in the city of Yedo (July 4), in the prov. of Aizu (November 6), and finally to Hakodate (June 27, 1869). abolition of the shōgunate, while its last supporters were defeated by the imperial troops in Fushimi (January 17, 1868), in Ueno, in the city of Yedo (July 4), in the prov. of Aizu (November 6), and finally to Hakodate (June 27, 1869). abolition of the shōgunate, while its last supporters were defeated by the imperial troops in Fushimi (January 17, 1868), in Ueno, in the city of Yedo (July 4), in the prov. of Aizu (November 6), and finally to Hakodate (June 27, 1869).

In October 1868 the victorious sovereign entered Yedo, which was made the capital with the new name of Tōkyō; in it he was transferred to the court, as he proclaimed began, with the January 1868, the new Meiji era, the dawn of the “Imperial Restoration” (Go Isshin).

Japan History - The Opening of the Country