Japan and the U.S.
Notes from Japan, China and the Powers

For The U.S. War Against Asia
by William P. Meyers

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1860 to 1900: Japanese Foreign Relations During Modernization

All [page numbers] reference China, Japan, and the Powers by Meribeth E. Cameron, Thomas H. D. Manhoney, and George E. McReynolds. The Ronald Press Company, New York. Copyright 1952

There was a strong reaction against the treaties with foreign nations. On March 23, 1860 the regent Ii was assassinated for his role in the opening. In 1863 the American legation in Edo was burned down and the American minister, General Robert H. Pruyn, removed to Yokohama. [202]

Wyoming incident: On June 25 the emperor ordered all ports closed and foreigners expelled. The Shogun, still the de facto ruler, did not comply, but the Choshu daimyo’s batteries and naval vessels fired on the American vessel, the Pembroke. Minister Pruyn ordered the U.S.S. Wyoming to retaliate [See also Battle of Shimonoseki]. The Japanese had to pay a $12,000 indemnity to the Pembroke’s owners. Congress noted the “specially meritorious and perilous services in the destruction of hostile vessels in the Straits of Shimonoseki.” [202-203]

It is notable that in 1863 the British “reduced the city of Kagoshima to ashes.” [203]

The international treaties were a political football in Japan, between feudal lords and in particular between the Shogun and the Emperor. In 1858 the Shogun aligned with the West, including with new treaties with Townsend Harris. This drew a reprimand from the Emperor and a factional clash. Foreign legations were opened in Edo in 1859; violent attacks on foreigners by samurai followed. The Satsuma and Choshu clans were particularly anti-Western. After a British subject was killed the Shogun offered the British and indemnity but was unable to punish the assassins. “A British quadroon, in August 1863, shelled and destroyed a large port of the Satsuma town of Kagoshima.” The Emperor ordered the expulsion of foreigners. Choshu closed the Shimonoseki Strait to foreign vessels. An “allied squadron systematically destroyed the Choshu shore batteries in September 1864.” [249]

Anti-Shogun forces tried a different tack: they accused the Shogun of being anti-Western. The Shogun had been unable to get the Emperor to sign the treaties of 1858-1859. An “international fleet” was assembled near Osaka in November 1865, but their threats against the Shogun simply showed he was no longer in control of Japan. Shogun Iemochi died in 1866 and the Emperor Komei died in February 1867. The new Shogun submitted to the new Emperor, Mutsuhito on November 3, 1867, leaving Japan under a unified rule. But it was the Satsuma and Choshu clans who effectively controlled the Court. This began the Meiji Restoration. [249-250]

The internal reforms of Japan between 1867 and 1894 are covered on pages 252-268

The Japanese asked the U.S. to end the extraterritoriality clauses of its treaties in 1871, but was rebuffed. [270-271]

In 1878 the U.S. “granted Japan a commercial convention.” In return for opening two more Japanese ports to trade, the U.S. allowed Japan to set its own tariff rates. [271]

The Sino-Japanese war of 1894-1895 is covered on pages 273-274.

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