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Unformatted text preview: an be seen in the dispatch in 1871 of a
mission to visit the United States and Europe headed by a distinguished
court noble, Iwakura Tomomi (1825–83), and including a number of
other leaders of the new Meiji regime. So cherished was the opportunity
to journey to the West at this time that one young boy who accompanied
the Iwakura Mission in order to study in the United States wrote (years
later) that he and his fellow students all fervently believed that one could
not become a real human being without going abroad.
Actually, missions abroad to the West were by this time nothing new.
The Tokugawa shogunate had send one to the United States in 1860,
just two years after ratification of the Harris treaty with Japan. Thereafter,
until its overthrow in 1868, the shogunate dispatched missions yearly to
both the United States and Europe. In total, more than three hundred
Japanese visited the West during the last eight years of Tokugawa rule.3
The remarkable thing about the Iwakura Mission was the presence on
it of so many ranking officials, who obviously felt that visiting the West
at this time warranted their leaving Japan only three years after the convulsion that gave birth to the Meiji government. Scheduled to remain
away a year, the mission did not return for nearly two. During that time Encounter with the West 239 its hundred or so members, often dividing themselves into smaller groups,
visited the United States, England and Scotland, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Russia, Denmark, Sweden, Italy, Austria, and Switzerland. The mission had hoped also to visit the Iberian countries of Spain
and Portugal, but were prevented by civil war in the former.4
The stated aim of the Iwakura Mission was to secure revision of the
unequal treaties, but very likely the leaders knew from the beginning
that revision was impossible until Japan became stronger and, from a
Western perspective, more “civilized.” Hence the real purpose of the
mission’s leaders was to see the West firsthand, learn about its progress
and modernization, and set Japan...
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This note was uploaded on 02/08/2013 for the course ANTH 142 taught by Professor Hans during the Spring '13 term at UBC.
- Spring '13