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Unformatted text preview: tern people, the Japanese were both impressed and alarmed by the material superiority of the
West. We see this perhaps most clearly in the proclamation of certain
scholars in the very last years of the Tokugawa shogunate of the need for
a combination of “Eastern morals and Western technology,” which aphoristically suggested the central problem that was later to confront a modernizing Japan: how to retain the socially binding ethics of traditional
behavior while at the same time resolutely acquiring the material benefits of the Western scientific and industrial revolutions. 9 Encounter with the West In 1844 King William II of Holland dispatched a letter to the shogun
of Japan warning him that the quickening pace of world events made continuance of the Japanese policy of national seclusion both unwise and
untenable. The development of steam navigation, for one thing, now enabled the ships of Western countries readily to penetrate the most distant
waters of the world. China, as noted, had already suffered military defeat
at the hands of the British in the Opium War, and Japan could not expect
to remain aloof from world affairs much longer.
Although they debated it among themselves, Tokugawa officials did
nothing concrete in response to the letter of the Dutch king. The shogunate was at the time engrossed in the last of its great traditionalistic
reforms, and the failure of this reform, combined with vacillation in the
face of the now pressing need to seriously reconsider the seclusion policy,
portended trouble for the shogunate. The Edo regime was certainly under
no immediate threat in the 1840s of being overthrown, but the political
temperature in regard to seclusion was rising and could readily become
a challenge of a kind that, in gravity, the shogunate had not faced before.
This challenge became reality with the arrival in Edo Bay in the
summer of 1853 of Commodore Matthew Perry of the United States
and his squadron of “black ships.” Perry had been dispatched by President Millard Fillmore to inquire into the possibility of opening diplomatic and commercial relations with Japan, and in 1854 he achie...
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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 The University of British Columbia.
- Spring '13