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The 1853 American Expedition, The Event That Opens Japanese Eyes To The World

Japan opens up to the world
Until the mid-19th century, Japan still adhered to a feudal monarchy system, which was very closed off from the outside world. This situation meant that the social structure and international political system in Japan had changed little over the centuries.

One of the reasons why Japan is so closed off from outside culture is the geographic location of the island nation which is separate from the mainland of Asia. Not only isolated in the continent itself, but also by various countries that are hindered by the vast ocean.

Therefore, it is not an exaggeration of course that historians call Japan an neglected country from the history of world civilization.

The winds of change began in Japan. On the morning of Wednesday, July 8, 1853, Commodore Matthew Perry of the US Navy sailed to Edo Bay, in Japan with two steamers and two black sailing ships, under his command. He landed a fully armed squadron of sailors and marines, then moved one of his ships nimbly to port, so that many people could see the size of the warship's 'awesomeness'. The Japanese were amazed. They had never seen anything like it before. They thought the ships were gigantic snakes, which snorted smoke in anger. They don't know the steamer was created yet. They were even more shocked when they learned that the ships were equipped with large weapons. Since 1639, the Tokugawa military government implemented a policy of isolation (Sakoku) which strictly restricted foreign influence to enter the country.

Suddenly, the Japanese realized that their culture, their political system, and their technology were out of date. The samurai-warrior leaders and their culture of honor were unable to compete in a world dominated by science.

This commodity has a mission. He brought a letter from the US President at that time, Millard Fillmore to the Emperor of Japan, the letter contained a threat from the United States (US) to Japan if they did not open trade routes with their country.

The United States gave Japan one year to consider the ultimatum. If Japan refused, the warships would attack Japanese territory. Then at the promised time, American troops returned to Japan. On March 31, 1854, an agreement, known as the Kanagawa Treaty, was signed. Since then, Japan has finally joined the world community.

Japan is entering a new era, starting to open up. Power previously held by the military government was returned to the emperor. The emperor becomes the head of state, but government and politics are run by a group of Japanese intellectuals. The Land of the Rising Sun launched a massive reform program with the slogan "A Rich Country and a Strong Armed Forces" (fukoku-kyohei). The main goal is to create a nation that is able to stand in line with Western nations. The reforms became known as the Meiji Restoration.

This restoration represents a major overhaul of almost every aspect of life in Japan. The class-based division of labor was abolished, compulsory education was imposed, military service became mandatory, the parliament (Diet) was formed under a new constitution that was enacted in 1889.

To catch up with the West, Japan brought in more than 3,000 Western experts with a variety of expertise. These experts are in charge of teaching modern science, foreign languages ​​and technology. The Meiji government also sends thousands of students to study abroad.

The quality of Japanese society, which until now continues to amaze the world, is proven when they can match the technology of Europe and the United States, only a quarter of a century after they started the Meiji Restoration in 1868.