Jul 14

Beginnings of Diplomatic Relations with Japan, 14 July 1853

Wednesday, July 14, 2010 11:00 AM


Portrait of Commodore Matthew C. Perry

In the mid-nineteenth century, Japan was largely a closed society, resistant to diplomatic and commercial contact with foreigners. Attempts by the United States and other nations to establish formal relations with Japan were repeatedly rebuffed. In response to this situation, in March 1852 President Millard Fillmore ordered Commodore Matthew C. Perry to command the U.S. Navy’s East India Squadron and to establish diplomatic relations with Japan.

Perry initially delivered President Fillmore’s request for a treaty to a representative of the Japanese emperor on 14 July 1853. Perry returned with a larger force in 1854, arriving in Edo (Tokyo) Bay, and obtained the signature of Japanese authorities to the Treaty of Kanagawa on 31 March 1854. As a result of this treaty of permanent friendship, a U.S. consul was stationed at Shimoda, U.S. vessels were allowed access to the ports of Shimoda and Hakodate to obtain provisions, and shipwrecked seamen from U.S. vessels were to receive the assistance of Japanese authorities.

This treaty led to significant commercial trade between the United States and Japan, contributed to opening Japan to other Western nations, and ultimately resulted in the modernization of the Japanese state.

For additional information about Perry and the Opening of Japan, please click here.

  • Jim Valle

    The Japanese authorities at Edo had orders to use their navy of oar powered war junks to drive off Perry’s fleet but when their admiral saw the size of the “black ships” and their huge cannons he decided that wasn’t a very good idea after all. Intesting that Perry’s roster of gifts included firearms. The Japanese had initially learned about guns from the Portugese and Dutch in the Sixteenth century but subsequently banned them and destroyed the ones they had when they saw what a threat they were to the feudal structure of Japanese society. This time there was no turning back.