In the nineteenth century, after the world’s great powers successfully industrialized, they began expanding their influence to Asia in search of new markets. Foreign ships appeared in the seas around Japan, occasionally coming to shore with the aim of establishing trade ties. The Tokugawa shogunate, in power since the beginning of the seventeenth century, refused all these requests. In 1853, however, Commodore Matthew Perry of the US Navy, the commander of the East India squadron, arrived with a fleet of “black ships” and demanded the opening of the country. Seeing no other option, in 1854 the shogunate’s leaders agreed to the Japan-US Treaty of Peace and Amity, which opened the ports of Shimoda and Hakodate to US ships. Similar deals soon followed with Britain, Russia, and the Netherlands. These outside influences destabilised the shogunate and brought about what is called the Meiji Restoration, the end of the shogunate and a return to imperial rule. Read through these resources to learn more about the end of shogunate Japan.
In 1852, Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry (1794-1858) of the United States Navy was dispatched to Japan by U.S. President Millard Fillmore (1800-1874). On July 8, 1853, Perry, commanding a squadron of two steamers and two sailing vessels, arrived in Uraga harbor, near the Tokugawa capital of Edo (Tokyo) aboard the frigate Susquehanna and forced Japan to enter into trade with the United States. Upon seeing Perry's fleet sailing into their harbor, the Japanese called them the "black ships of evil mien (appearance)." The arrival of these ships would mark the beginning of the end for the Tokugawa shogunate. Read through this detailed article to learn more. The article also includes numerous links to extra resources for further reading.
This article provides a very brief overview of Commodore Perry's arrival in Japan, how this was received by the Japanese people of the time and how it changed the course of history for Japan.
Change was the currency of the Meiji era (1868–1912). From the day the teen-aged Mutsuhito claimed power on January 3, 1868 in a relatively tranquil coup called the “Meiji Restoration” (after his reign name) until his death forty-five years later, Japan experienced an evolution so rapid that one Tokyo expatriate said he felt as if he had been alive for 400 years. An isolated, feudalistic island state in 1850, Japan had become a powerful colonial power with the most modern of institutions when Meiji’s son, the Taisho emperor, took the throne in 1912. Both the sources of these changes and the way in which they made Japan “modern” provide the material for one of human history’s more dramatic stories. They also laid the groundwork for the turbulence of Japan’s twentieth century. This article tells the story of the Meiji Restoration and how it ended the shogunate period of Japan.
In 1868 the Tokugawa shôgun ("great general"), who ruled Japan in the feudal period, lost his power and the emperor was restored to the supreme position. The emperor took the name Meiji ("enlightened rule") as his reign name; this event was known as the Meiji Restoration. This article provides a summary of this period, as well as discussion questions for you to check your understanding.
Japan’s Tokugawa (or Edo) period, which lasted from 1603 to 1867, would be the final era of traditional Japanese government, culture and society before the Meiji Restoration of 1868 toppled the long-reigning Tokugawa shoguns and propelled the country into the modern era. This article includes a brief summary of the Tokugawa shogunate before discussing the events that led up to the decline and fall of the shogunate.