Commodore Matthew Perry: American Black Ships in the Land of the Samurai
One hundred and fifty years ago, an American commodore was assigned by the American President to go to “the barbarian land.” The commodore’s name was Matthew Perry and the land was Japan (Walworth 18). He was curious enough to become interested in the mission, even though it was said that “the Japanese were the least interesting people in the world” at that time (Graff 63).
Japan had been closed to the outside world for 250 years. When foreign people entered Japanese waters, even if they were shipwrecked by accident, they were interned in jails and some of them were killed (Lubor 33). The reasons for the Japanese isolationistic policies were the military threats of Western countries and the invasive influence of Western people who brought Christianity and cultures different from the Japanese. Also the Japanese knew how Western military had dominated many countries, including the gigantic China so easily (Duus 56-57).
At that time, the United States saw that Japan might be ideally situated to serve as a coaling station for the new steam-powered ships of the U.S. Navy as well as a new opportunity for trading. Actually, during the Japanese isolation, many American ships hunting whales off the coast of Japan needed a port for supplies; however, Japan was cruel to sailors shipwrecked on its shores and not interested in any trade with foreigners (Lubor 33). That is why, Perry prepared for this expedition for a long time by gathering information and collecting the gifts for the Japanese to impress them (Walworth 23).
When Perry arrived at Uraga in Japan with five black ships in 1853, the Japanese did not welcome him and tried to force him to return (Fallow 21). However, he did not give up trying to change the Japanese mind by convincing them to open up their country. He successfully used convincing presentation skills, held an industrial exposition with the latest in technology and implied the use of his military power, which the Japanese did not have. According to Friedrich, Perry offered a letter from the White House that stated the U.S. wanted “1) a fueling station for its merchant ships, 2) a commercial treaty permitting free trade, and 3) friendship.” If the Japanese did not accept these offers, Perry would oblige them to do so by the military power of the United States (1). In 1854, finally, the Japanese government accepted Perry’s demands and made a treaty with the United States (Walworth 158). Perry achieved great change in the Japanese government by opening the country after a long isolation.
After the Japanese government decided to close its country in 1639, many countries tried to open up Japan to the outside world. At that time, such countries as England, France, Holland, Spain and Portugal successfully dominated many Asian countries from the seventeenth to eighteenth centuries. However, Western countries had a difficult time...