February 7, 2013
Assignment #4: Japan (Prompt/thesis)
Prompt: Discuss possible reasons why Japan was the only non-western state to nationalize and win recognition as an equal and how it managed to accomplish this in a mere half century. Thesis: Being aware of recent Western invasions in China, Japan had recognized the need to transform their institutions and its society, therefore, Japan embraced nationalism. By 1649, Japan had shut down contact with the European world with the exception of a Dutch outpost on Deshima Island in Nagaski harbor (this outpost however, was only allowed to receive one ship all year). The Japanese also allowed the Chinese to trade at Nagasaki (only under severe restrictions) and Korea could trade through the islands of Tusushima. Other than this however, Japan was isolated. In 1853, the U.S sent Commodore Matthew Perry (with 3 steam frigates) to force Japan into opening its ports to trade. Japan had lacked the technology to fight against the U.S and the European powers that soon followed. Slowly (while being under pressure however), Japan opened more ports granted extraterritorial rights and where able to determine Japan’s tariff polices. Like China, Japan seemed to be getting controlled by the European powers. However, young, vigorous leaders took control of the government of Japan forcing a dramatic reconstruction of the nations polices, administration, class structure, economy, technology and culture. These leaders tended to be young samurai warriors in the han (feudal estates) of Choshu and Satsuma. The samurai were able to employ some of the technological information introduced by the Dutch from their station in Nagasaki harbor (the shogunate had established an office for translating Dutch material in 1811) and by 1840, some of the Japanese were already casting Western guns and artillery. A new leader, Sakuma Zozan (one of the advocates of adopting Western military methods) believed that opening the country...