The 'Opening' of Japan to Western Trade in the 19th Century
International trade has always been an advantageous business. However, not all countries were glad to collaborate with foreign lands. Japan is the example of the opponent side. Many years passed before it opened its doors to foreigners.
In the 17%u201218th century, Japan was a powerful and knowledgeable land. It had its own reforms, economy and class society. The ruler of Japan, the Shogun, was the most powerful person in the country. He determined to keep country’s doors closed to the West for as long as he could. However, there were Dutch traders %u2012 the only window for Europeans for the most years. Since all information arrived from the seas was carefully governed, they were the only group of informers who could present themselves in the Shogun’s castle once a year with news.
The capital of Japan was Ado (now Tokyo). It was the largest city in the world, and more clean, safe and crowded than any European city. It was full of stores with books, food, glass and cloth. People traveled from provinces to Ado (samurais, young women, tradesmen, mercers). Nearly half of Japanese population was samurais. They were elite (top) class of people, which had a lot of privileges. However, in years of peace it was unnecessary to keep the army; that is why samurais had uncertain future.
Also, Japanese arts and entertainment flourished. They were fond of reading books and watching Kabuki (classical dance-drama). Art of geishas and courtesans was the most spread.
Though, the land could not stop the innovation stream. In the 19th century, the different look of samurais, aimless life of geishas and courtesans and tradesmen who became slaves of moneymaking could not compare with European new ideas (western books of medical studies, astronomy and chemistry). This desire for the new knowledge was the push to open the door to Japan from the inside. However, when Americans suggested opening country for oil and coal trade, Japan gave no agreements. Then America decided to take the land by force. Japan could not defend it; that is why, they signed a compromised treaty, which served both countries’ interests.
Well, it was a real challenge for Japan to break their rules and change their culture in order to open the door to western trade in the 19th century.
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