THE OPENING OF JAPAN
 ON the 8th of July, 1853, the Japanese were treated to a genuine surprise. Off Cape Idsu, the outer extremity of
the Bay of Yedo, appeared a squadron of war-vessels bound inward under full sail, in bold disregard of the
lines of prohibition which Japan had drawn across the entrance of all her ports. Rounding the high mountains
of the promontory of Idsu, by noon the fleet reached Cape Sagami, which forms the dividing line between the
outer and inner sections of the Bay of Yedo. Here the shores rose in abrupt bluffs, furrowed by green dells,
while in the distance could be seen groves and cultivated fields. From the cape a number of vessels put out to
intercept the squadron, but, heedless of these, it kept on through the narrow part of the bay—from five
to eight miles wide—and entered the inner bay, which expands to a width of more than fifteen miles. Here
the ships dropped anchor within full view of the town of Uragawa, having broken through the invisible bonds
which Japan had so long drawn around her coasts.
During the period between the release of the Russian captives and the date of this visit various foreign
vessels had appeared on the coast of Japan, each with some special excuse for its presence, yet each
arbitrarily ordered to leave. One of these, an
 American trading vessel, the Morrison, had been driven off with musketry and artillery, although she
had come to return a number of shipwrecked Japanese. Some naval vessels had entered the Bay of Yedo, but had
been met with such vigorous opposition that they made their visits very short, and as late as 1850 the
Japanese notified foreign nations that they proposed to maintain their rigorous system of exclusion. No dream
came to them of the remarkable change in their policy which a few decades were to bring forth.
They did not know that they were seeking to maintain an impossible situation. China had adopted a similar
policy, but already the cannon-balls of foreign powers had produced a change of view. If Japan had not
peaceably yielded, the hard hand of war must soon have broken down her bars. For in addition to Russia there
was now another civilized power with ports on the Pacific, the United States. And the fleets of the European
powers were making their way in growing numbers to those waters. In a period when all the earth was being
opened to commercial intercourse, Japan could not hope long to remain a little world in herself, like a
separate planet in space.
It was the settlement of California, and the increase of American interests on the Pacific, that induced the
United States to make a vigorous effort to open the ports of Japan. Hitherto all nations had yielded to the
resolute policy of the islanders; now it was determined to send an expedition with instructions not to take no
for an answer, but to insist
 on the Japanese adopting the policy of civilized nations in general. It was with this purpose that the fleet
in question had entered the Bay of Yedo. It was under command of Commodore Matthew C. Perry, who bore a letter
from the President of the United States to the Emperor of Japan, suggesting the desirability of commercial
relations between the two countries, requesting the supply of American vessels with coal and provisions, and
demanding the kind treatment and prompt return of shipwrecked mariners. This letter, splendidly engrossed, was
enclosed in a golden box of a thousand dollars in value, and was accompanied by numerous presents. The fleet
consisted of the steam-frigates Susquehanna and Mississippi and the sloops-of-war
Plymouth and Saratoga, being the most imposing armament that had ever entered a Japanese
port. Perry was determined to maintain his dignity as a representative of the United States, and to demand as
a right, instead of soliciting as a favor, the courtesies due from one civilized nation to another.
The ships had no sooner dropped anchor in the bay than several guns were fired from a neighboring point and a
number of boats put off from the shore. In the stern of each were a small flag and several men wearing two
swords, evidently persons in authority. These boats were stopped at the ships' sides, and their inmates told
that no person could be admitted on board except the principal official of the town, the high rank of the
commodore forbidding him to meet any lesser dignitary. As one of the visitors represented that he was second
in rank in the town,
 he was finally received on board the flag-ship, but the commodore declined to see him, turning him over to Mr.
Contee, the flag lieutenant.
A long interview followed, in which the official was made to understand that the expedition bore a letter from
the President of the United States to the emperor, a message of such importance that it could be delivered
only to an officer of high rank. He was also told, through the interpreters, that the squadron would not
submit to be placed under guard, and that all the guard-boats must withdraw. The official displayed much of
the inquisitive curiosity for which the Japanese had made themselves notable on former occasions, and asked a
variety of unimportant questions which the lieutenant refused to answer, saying that they were impertinent.
The Japanese officer had brought with him the ordinary notifications, warning all ships against entering their
ports, but these the lieutenant refused to receive. Returning to the shore, in about an hour the officer came
back, saying that his superior could not receive the letter addressed to the emperor, and stating that
Nagasaki was the proper place for foreign ships to stop. As for the letter, he doubted if it would be received
and answered. He was at once given to understand that if the governor of the town did not send for the letter,
the ships would proceed up the bay to Yedo and deliver it themselves. At this he withdrew in a state of great
agitation, asking permission to return in the morning.
During the night watch-fires blazed at points along the coast, and bells sounded the hours. The
 watch-boats remained around the fleet, but kept at a respectful distance from the perilous intruders. The next
morning the highest official of the town came on board, but did his utmost to avoid receiving the letter. In
the end he offered to send to Yedo for permission, and was granted three days for this purpose.
While awaiting an answer the ships were not idle. Surveying parties were sent four miles up the bay, sounding,
and finding everywhere a depth of from thirty to forty fathoms. As they approached the forts armed soldiers
came out, but retired again when the boats drew nearer. The forts, five in number, were very feeble, their
total armament consisting of fourteen guns, none larger than nine-pounders. Many of the soldiers were armed
with spears. Canvas screens were stretched from tree to tree, as if with the idea that these would keep back
cannon-balls. In truth, the means of defence were so slight that Yedo lay at the mercy of the American fleet.
Villages seemed to line the shores in an unbroken series, and numerous small craft lay in the harbor, while
trading vessels came in and out with little regard to the presence of the foreign ships. Every day there
passed up and down the bay nearly a hundred large junks and a great number of fishing and other boats.
Yezaimon, the governor of the town, protested earnestly against the survey of the waters by the ships, saying
that it was against the laws of Japan. He was told that it was commanded by the laws of America, and the
soundings went steadily on. On
 the second day the surveying party proceeded some ten miles up the bay, the Mississippi steaming
in their wake. This roused new agitation in the Japanese, government boats meeting them at every point and
making earnest signs to them to return. But no notice was taken of these gestures, and the survey was
continued, deep soundings and soft bottom being found throughout.
In the evening Yezaimon came on board with a cheerful countenance, saying that he expected good news from
Yedo, though he protested still against the doings of the boats. One of the officers speaks of him as a
"gentleman, clever, polished, well informed, a fine, large man, about thirty-four, of most excellent
countenance, taking his wine freely, and a boon companion."
On the 12th word came that the emperor would send a high officer to receive the letter. No immediate answer
would be given, but one would be forwarded through the Dutch or the Chinese. This offer the commodore rejected
as insulting. But, fearing that he might be detained by useless delay, he agreed to withdraw for a proper
interval, at the end of which he would return to receive the answer.
On the 14th the reception of the letter took place, the occasion being made orate of much ceremony. The
commodore landed with due formality, through a line of Japanese boats, and with a following of three hundred
and twenty officers and sailors from the fleet. Passing through a large body of soldiers, behind whom stood a
crowd of spectators, the building prepared for the reception was reached. It was
 a temporary structure, the reception-room of which was hung with fine cloth, stamped with the imperial symbols
in white on a violet background. The princes of Idsu and Iwami awaited as the envoys of the shogun, both of
them splendidly attired in richly embroidered robes of silk.
A large scarlet-lacquered box, on gilded feet, stood ready to receive the letter, which, after being shown in
its rich receptacle, was placed on the scarlet box, with translations in Dutch and Chinese. A formal receipt
was given, ending with the following words: "Because the place is not designed to treat of anything from
foreigners, so neither can conference nor entertainment take place. The letter being received, you will leave
"I shall return again, probably in April or May, for an answer," said the commodore, on receiving the receipt.
"With all the ships?" asked the interpreter.
"Yes, and probably with more," was the reply.
This said, the commodore rose and departed, the commissioners standing, but not another word being uttered on
either side. As if to indicate to his hosts how little he regarded the curt order to leave, the commodore
proceeded in the Susquehanna up the bay to the point the Mississippi had reached.
Here he dropped anchor, the spot being afterwards known as the "American anchorage." On the following day he
sent the Mississippi ten miles higher up, a point being reached within eight or ten miles of the
capital. Three or four miles in advance a crowded mass of shipping was seen, supposed to be at
Sina-  gawa, the southern suburb of Yedo. On the 16th the vessels moved down the bay, and on the following day they
stood out to sea, no doubt greatly to the relief of the Japanese officials.
In consequence of the death of the shogun, which took place soon after, Perry did not return for his answer
until the following year, casting anchor again in the Bay of Yedo on February 12, 1854. He had now a larger
fleet, consisting of three steam-frigates, four sloops-of-war, and two store-ships. Entering the bay, they
came to anchor at the point known as the "American anchorage."
And now a debate arose as to where the ceremonies of reception should take place. The Japanese wished the
commodore to withdraw to a point down the bay, some twenty miles below Uragawa. He, on the contrary, insisted
on going to Yedo, and sent boats up to within four miles of that city to sound the channel. Finally the
village of Yokohama, opposite the anchorage of the ships, was fixed upon.
On the 8th of March the first reception took place, great formality being observed, though this time light
refreshments were offered. Two audiences a week were subsequently held, at one of which, on March 13, the
American presents were delivered. They consisted of cloths, agricultural implements, fire-arms, and other
articles, the most valuable being a small locomotive, tender, and car, which were set in motion on a circular
track. A mile of telegraph wire was also set up and operated, this interesting the Japanese more than anything
else. They had the art, however, of concealing their feelings, and
 took care to show no wonder at anything displayed.
In the letter of reply from the shogun it was conceded that the demands in relation to shipwrecked sailors,
coal, provisions, water, etc., were just, and there was shown a willingness to add a new harbor to that of
Nagasaki, but five years' delay in its opening were asked. To this the commodore would not accede, nor would
he consent to be bound by the restrictions placed on the Dutch and Chinese. He demanded three harbors, one
each in Hondo, Yezo, and the Loochoo Islands, but finally agreed to accept two, the port of Simoda in Hondo
and that of Hakedate in Yezo. An agreement being at length reached, three copies of the treaty were exchanged,
and this was followed by an entertainment on the fleet to the Japanese officials, in which they did full
justice to American fare, and seemed to be particularly fond of champagne. One of them became so merry and
familiar under the influence of this beverage that he vigorously embraced the commodore, who bore the
infliction with good-humored patience.
CHUSENJI ROAD AND DAIYA RIVER.
At the new treaty ports the restrictions which had been thrown around the Dutch at Nagasaki were removed,
citizens of the United States being free to go where they pleased within a limit of several miles around the
The success of the Americans in this negotiation stimulated the other maritime nations, and in the same year a
British fleet visited Nagasaki and obtained commercial concessions. In 1858 the treaties were extended, the
port of Yokohama replacing that
 of Simoda, and the treaty ports being opened to American, British, French, and Dutch traders. Subsequently the
same privileges were granted to the other commercial nations, the country was made free to travellers, and the
long-continued isolation of Japan was completely broken down. A brief experience of the advantages of commerce
and foreign intercourse convinced the quick-witted islanders of the folly of their ancient isolation, and they
threw open their country without restriction to all the good the world had to offer and to the fullest inflow
of modern ideas.
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