In the early 17th century Japan shut itself from most contact with other nations. Under the rule of the Tokugawa shoguns the Japanese society was very reserved and was in very tight order. The shoguns gave out land to the lords and daimyo. The peasant worked for and lived under the protection of their daimyo. The daimyo had a small army of samurais. The rigid system was to keep the country free of civil war and to keep peace for Japan. This lasted for about two centuries. Japan during those two centuries had mostly no contact with the industrialized world but they were trading with China and Dutch merchants from Indonesia. They also had contact with Korea. Japan started to realize how trade was becoming important for both inside and outside Japan.
In the beginning of the 19th century Japan the West tried to convince the Japanese to trade. Japan continued to refuse to trade, like China. In 1853 the U.S. Commodore Mathew Perry took four ships into a Japanese harbor and this astounded the Japanese because these ships were big and steam powered. The ship’s cannons also shocked them. The shogun came to the realization that he had to receive the letter Perry brought from the president. President Fillmore’s letter asked the shogun to allow free trade between the United States and Japan. Perry would come back with a bigger fleet in a year to see what Japan would reply. This scared Japan and they made a treaty, Treaty of Kanagawa of 1845. In that treaty Japan agreed to open two ports where U.S. ships could take supplies. Once the U.S. was able to get in the Western powers followed. By 1860 Japan like China allowed foreigners to trade at several ports and also allowed others nations to trade with them.
The Japanese were angry that the shogun allowed trade and started to look up to Mutsuhito. The shogun then stepped down along with his dictatorship. Mutsuhito took control and named his reign Meiji. The emperor realized that the best way to counter Western influence...
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