Japan was an isolated country for over two hundred years. This led the United States to send Commodore Matthew Perry overseas in hopes to convince Japan to be more accessible. Commodore Matthew Perry knew that his task would be challenging because of Japan’s reluctance to interact with other countries and its belief that it was the greatest country of all. As a result of Perry’s mission, Japan changed politically, socially, and economically.
Commodore Perry and his squadron of ships arrived in Japan’s waters on July 8, 1853. He was eager to deliver a letter from President Millard Fillmore, seeking friendship and a trade agreement. After seeing Perry’s ships, however, the Japanese went into a state of panic. As Blumberg notes, “General alarms were sounded. Temple bells rang, and messengers raced throughout Japan to warn everyone that enemy aliens were approaching by ship.” It was clear that the Japanese were convinced that “barbarians were about to punish them for their sins.”
The Japanese had lived in isolation for over two hundred years. They had prevented any foreigners from entering or any ships to land at Japanese ports. “In 1850 they had no steam engine, no factory, or no modern firearms. And, amazing to relate, the ladies and gentlemen of Japan adopted no new fashions in wearing apparel!”
At first, small boats attempted to convince Perry and his men to leave the area. Then a Japanese aide to the governor, Kayama, offered to deliver the President’s letter. Perry was growing more impatient. Morrison explains, “Perry sent word that he would wait but three or four days before putting his dread alternative of landing an armed force and delivering the letter in person at Edo Castle.”
After days of little communication, Perry was not amused and replied, “He has a letter from the President of the United States to deliver to the Emperor of Japan, or to his secretary of foreign affairs, and he will deliver the original to none other.” If it “is not received and duly replied to, he will consider his country insulted, and will not hold himself accountable for the consequences. He expects a reply of some sort in a few days, and he will receive such reply nowhere but in this neighborhood.”6 The following day, July 13, Kayama retuned with a letter of his own from “His Highness Today, Prince of Izu, first counselor of the Empire,” giving him the authority to receive the President’s letter.7
On July 14, 1853, Commodore Perry and his officers came ashore to deliver the letter from President Fillmore. They were most surprised to see that the Japanese had created a very formal setting with thousands of soldiers. The people of the village were eager to get a look at Perry and his men since they had never seen men this large or with these colors of hair. The President’s letter was encased in a beautiful rosewood box with locks and hinges made of gold.8
Perry then received an unexpected written reply that noted that the letter...