How effectively had Japan modernized itself by 1914?

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Ayaka Ito 10V (b)

History Essay –Japanese Restoration-


How effectively had Japan modernized itself by 1914?

-- Introduction

Not until the 1800’s did Tokugawa realize how powerless they were. Since the early 1600’s, Japan completely isolated itself from the Western countries. Due to the anti-Christianity attitudes of the Tokugawa Ieyasu, Japan prohibited itself from any contact with the Western countries, and trade was mostly done with the Dutch and Chinese. For the next 200 years, although the Japanese made contact with its trade partners, and gained information about some of the current developments, the western countries were far more advanced. Japanese fiefs such as Satsuma and Choshu noticed this when Commodore Matthew C. Perry finally succeeded in breaking down the wall of Japan’s seclusion in 1864.

-- What was the impact of Perry’s missions on Japan?

Dissatisfied about the fact that American “ship-wrecked sailors” were treated very badly by the Japanese, the United States sent Perry to negotiate a treaty with Japan. In 1853, Perry arrived in large, intimidating ships to display their strength and frightened the Japanese. Perry was then able to discuss his desire for a treaty for the shipwrecked sailors. Unable to make decisions for themselves, Tokugawa exposed their weakness by having to ask the imperial leaders whether they supported the American Treaty. A year later, the actual Treaty of Kanagawa was signed. Under strict laws, United States was also allowed to trade with Japan.

        After Perry broke down Japan’s wall of seclusion, other Western countries such as England and Russia were encouraged to negotiate treaties as well. Gradually, shogunates opened a number of major ports for foreign trade. While Japan started to trade with other countries, they realized that these treaties were rather “unfair”. The new treaties made Japan become ranked as a lower position.

        As foreign countries forced “unequal treaties”, Tokugawa became inept. Eventually, they started asking advice from various fiefs as well. The fiefs, who were loyalists, disliked the fact that Tokugawa was negotiating with the western countries. Slogans “Expel the barbarians!” and “Revere the emperor!” were made as foreign influence became stronger, and Tokugawa became weaker.

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        Two of the major fiefs, Choshu and Satsuma, wanted to drive out the western countries from Japan and overthrow Tokugawa. Although the two fiefs were opponents, they united from having common enemies, and planned to attack the western nations. After the unsuccessful attack, the leaders learned to develop their military training and technology from their enemies. With this, Choshu and Satsuma improved their military and led their forces and the small fiefs to overthrow Tokugawa.

        In conclusion, the Treaty of Kanagawa influenced the western countries to negotiate with Japan. It can be said that Perry’s naval expedition exposed Tokugawa’s weakness, ...

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This is a well written and accurate response that has a good level of detail. The author does address the question but it is often done implicitly - analysis could be sharper and more focused on the question and the conclusion needs development. 4 out of 5 stars.