Today in History, July 8-14th, 1853, Commodore Perry Opens Relations with Japan at the Point of a Gun.

When the Tokugawa shogunate gained control of Japan in 1603, the first order of business was to cleanse Japan of all foreign influence.  The Tokugawa shogunate enforced a strict policy of isolationism from the rest of the world.  Japanese subjects were forbidden from leaving the country, and trade was restricted to a small number of Dutch merchants confined to Nagasaki.  The Tokugawa went so far as to forbid shipbuilding to small fishing boats. For the next 350 years Japan remained isolated from most of the world, sheltering itself from western imperialism but missing out on the technological and social advancements of the West.  By the mid 19th century, Japan was still a medieval feudal state that was little different from the Japan of the ancient Samurai.  That all changed on July 8th and 9th, when a powerful fleet of warships entered Tokyo Harbor and started making demands.

Many businessman and politicians in the west saw Japan as an untapped source of wealth in trade and business.  The only thing that stood in the way was Japan’s isolationist policy.  In 1852, US President Millard Fillmore resolved to make an effort to change all of that.  He commissioned an American naval fleet to deliver a treaty to the Japanese which outlined American demands, the most important of which was to open Japan to American trade.  The fleet consisted of four warships, the USS Mississippi, the USS Plymouth, the USS Saratoga, and the USS Susquehanna.  Commanding the fleet was Commodore Matthew Perry, an experienced naval officer and Mexican American War veteran who became known as the “father of the steam navy.”  Millard Fillmore tasked Perry with delivering the treaty to the Tokugawa, and authorized him to use force if necessary.

Perry’s fleet disembarked from Norfolk, Virginia in 1852, and arrived at Tokyo (Edo) Bay in July 8th, 1853.  At first he was met with a flotilla of small Japanese boats that blocked his access from the harbor.  The Japanese demanded Perry turn around, but the small unarmed boats were no match for the fleet, which had a combined armament of 67 heavy guns. Many of the fleets heavy ordinance were Paixhans guns, state of the art heavy naval guns which fired devastating high explosive shells.

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On July 9th, Perry’s fleet sailed past the Japanese flotilla and entered Tokyo Harbor.  The Japanese demanded Perry leave, but with Tokyo lightly defended by obsolete weapons, there was nothing they could do to stop him.  Commodore Perry then demanded he be allowed ashore to present the treaty to the Tokugawa officials.  When he was refused, Perry ordered the shelling of a few harbor front buildings.  The Japanese were helpless as their outdated cannon couldn’t even achieve the range to fire back at the fleet.  Seeing that the situation was hopeless, the Japanese granted Perry’s request on July 14th.

Commodore Perry returned a year later to find that the Japanese had heavily fortified Tokyo harbor.  However the obsolete Japanese weaponry was so pathetic that it could scarcely harm Perry’s fleet, which was twice as large as the previous.  The Japanese gave in to all American demands.  As a result, other powerful nations such as Britain, France, Russia, and Germany also demanded similar terms.  In an instant, the ancient culture of medieval Japan came to an end, signalling the birth of a modern nation.

Salty & Emily

So I got a request from an Anon to draw Emily and I was like, “Why not!” ^u^

And of course I added Salty because Salty and Emily are, like, my fave Valiard couple you guys. <3 Maybe my second fave now that I think of it… Next to Sir Theodore and his lovely wife, Gloria—AMIRITE!!! ;D

Ugh, I always get fuzzy happy mushy when Valentines Day approaches. I don’t care if it’s commericalized, capitalist garbage. I love it. :B


The Scotsman who founded modern Japan,

Today Japan boasts one of the largest modern economies in the world, home to many famous international corporations such as Toyota, Honda, Canon, Kubota, Sony, Panasonic, Toshiba, Nintendo, and many others.  Much of Japan’s success is based on advanced technology and advanced manufacturing processes.  However, Japan was not always so advanced in terms of technology and industrialization.  The rise of the Tokugawa Shogunate in 1603 led to a very strict policy of isolationism in Japan.  While this policy sheltered Japan from the ambitions of western colonial powers, it also prevented Japan from adopting the many scientific and technological advances that were occurring during the industrial revolution.  

Japanese isolationism ended in 1854 when Commodore Matthew Perry steamed into Tokyo Harbor with a fleet of American warships, and demanded permission to present a letter from President Millard Fillmore. When the Japanese refused, Perry threatened war.  With obsolete weaponry, there was little the Japanese could do but give in to western demands.

Shortly afterwards Japan opened her ports to western trade.  Thousands of foreign merchants traveled to Japan seeking opportunity and wealth.  One such person was a Scottish merchant named Thomas Blake Glover, who settled in Nagasaki in 1858.  When Glover set up business in Japan he immediately became wealthy buying and exporting Japanese green tea.  Glover was an especially successful businessman in Japan because of his humble, respectful attitude and reputation for fair and honest dealing.  This was in contrast to many foreign merchants who were obnoxious, racist, overbearing, and had a propensity to cheat their Japanese clientele.   In addition, Glover was fascinated by Japanese culture, quickly learning their language, social customs, and mannerisms.  His fascination with the Samurai earned him the nickname “Scottish Samurai” by his Japanese clients and business partners.

During the Boshin War, Glover sided with the Satsuma Clan and the restoration of the Meiji Emperor by supplying them with discount weapons, in particular modern rifles from Europe.  Unlike a regular arms dealer who sold to the highest bidder, Glover was an enthusiastic supporter of the Meiji cause.  As it turned out the Tokugawa Shogunate was overthrown and the Emperor was restored to power.  The Meiji victory resulted in Glover earning incredible profits and high respect from the new Japanese Government.

After the Boshin War Glover strived to become a wealthy captain of industry by industrializing Japan.  Using his wealth, he sponsored scores of Japanese students to travel to Britain to be educated in modern technology and engineering.  When they returned, those students would become the engineers who would help him build his industrial empire.  In the next few decades Glover financed numerous industrial programs all over Japan.  He built some of the first modern coal mines in the country as well as the first modern shipyards.  In 1868 he introduced the first steam locomotive to Japan, then financed the building of the first Japanese railroads.  He erected telegraph lines and also instituted the construction of the first modern sewage and water systems in Japan.  He also founded the Japan Brewing Company, now known as the Kirin Brewing Company, which is a major conglomerate today dealing in alcoholic beverages, soft drinks, food products, and pharmaceuticals.  Glover’s highest achievement occurred in 1870 when he co-founded the Mitsubishi Corporation with the Japanese businessman Iwasaki Yataro.  

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Throughout the 19th and 20th century Mitsubishi would grow into the largest corporation in Japan, supplying Japan with ships, locomotives, automobiles, and other industrial goods.  Today Mitsubishi is one of the world largest multinational companies, with over 350,000 employees and a $7.2 billion quarterly profit.  Enterprises conducted by Mitsubishi include mining, shipbuilding, telecom, financial services, insurance,electronics, automotive, construction, heavy industries,oil and gas, real estate, foods and beverages, chemicals, steel, aviation and others.

By the late 19th century Glover was the wealthiest man in Japan and among the wealthiest men in the world; comparable to industrialists such as John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, and George Westinghouse.  For his part in developing Japan’s industrial infrastructure Glover was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun by the Emperor.  He passed away in 1911 at the age of 73.  His grave is located at he Sakamoto International Cemetery in Nagasaki.