SOC 315: Cross-Cultural Perspectives
Doctor Randall Norris
January 18, 2009
The Japanese way of living changed in 1853 when Commodore Matthew C. Perry went to Japan with a letter from President Millard Fillmore to the emperor with an order to obtain a treaty (Roskin, 2009). The western show of power had been severely humiliating, but the Japanese realized that until Japan progressed with the west technologically, the disproportionate treaties and their own recognized inferior position would stay intact. Japan is one of the few countries to successfully initiate industrialization in the nineteenth century. Japan offers interesting confirmation that modernization can be completed on terms that were not established by the original modernizers.
Before the late 17th century Japan had virtually no contact with industrialized countries. They traded with China, Korea, and some Dutch traders from Indonesia, but otherwise Japan was shut off from the rest of the world. During this time period Japan was under the rule of Tokugawa shoguns, and they had a strictly ordered society. Shoguns distributed land to landlords. The peasants worked for these landlords and were protected by them and their samurai. Even though the Japanese society was very restrictive they were still prosperous and lived a peaceful life.
Similar to China in the early 19th centuries western countries were trying to convince Japan to open their ports and trade. Different from China, Japan completely refused to trade with anyone. However, in 1853 when Commodore Matthew Perry of the United States navy arrived at one of Japan’s harbors with four ships, the Japanese realized their methods of defense and samurai were not match for these visitors. Commodore Perry came to Japan to bring a letter from President Fillmore. The letter had politely asked Japan to begin trading with the United States. Perry advised that he would... [continues]
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