With what did Commodore Perry arrive at Tokyo Bay?

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By Kristy Tolley

The Arrival of Commodore Perry

On July 8, 1853, an American fleet led by Commodore Matthew C. Perry arrived in Tokyo Bay, Japan. This event marked the beginning of a new era in Japanese history and international relations. Commodore Perry’s mission was to open Japan to trade with the United States, and his arrival represented a significant challenge to the isolationist policies of the Tokugawa shogunate, which had controlled Japan for over two hundred years.

The Expedition to Japan

Commodore Perry’s mission was the result of a growing interest in Japan among American merchants and politicians. In 1852, President Millard Fillmore authorized an expedition to Japan, with the goal of "securing a treaty of peace, amity, and commerce." The expedition was led by Commodore Perry, a veteran of the Mexican-American War and a seasoned naval officer. Perry’s mission was a challenging one, as Japan had been closed to foreign countries for over 200 years. However, he was determined to succeed, and he assembled a powerful fleet to show the Japanese that the United States was a force to be reckoned with.

The Fleet and the Ships

Commodore Perry’s fleet consisted of four ships: the flagship USS Susquehanna, the USS Mississippi, the USS Plymouth, and the USS Saratoga. These ships were among the most advanced of their time, with steam engines and the latest naval technology. The USS Susquehanna was the largest ship in the fleet, with a crew of over 700 men. The ships were armed with a variety of weapons, including cannons and rockets, to demonstrate American naval power to the Japanese.

A Brief History of U.S. Naval Power

Commodore Perry’s mission to Japan was part of a broader trend in American naval history. Since the Revolutionary War, the United States had worked to build up its naval power, with the goal of protecting American commerce and projecting American influence around the world. In the early 19th century, American naval power grew significantly, thanks in part to advances in shipbuilding technology. By the mid-19th century, the United States had one of the most powerful navies in the world, and was expanding its influence in the Pacific.

The Armaments of the Ships

Commodore Perry’s fleet was armed with a variety of weapons, including cannons and rockets. The cannons were the most important weapons on the ships, and were used to demonstrate American military power to the Japanese. The cannons fired large iron balls, which could cause significant damage to buildings and ships. The ships also had rockets, which were used to create a dramatic display of American fireworks. The rockets were not very accurate, but they were effective at creating a sense of awe and fear among the Japanese.

Diplomatic Gifts and Trade Goods

Commodore Perry’s mission to Japan was not just about military power. He also brought with him a variety of diplomatic gifts and trade goods, which he presented to the Japanese as a way of demonstrating the benefits of opening up to trade with the United States. The gifts included a variety of American products, such as clocks, firearms, and telescopes. Perry also presented the Japanese with a miniature steam engine, which he used to demonstrate the power of American technology.

The Importance of Cultural Exchange

Commodore Perry’s mission to Japan was not just about politics and economics. It was also an opportunity for cultural exchange between the two nations. Perry brought with him a team of scientists, artists, and writers, who documented their experiences in Japan and shared their knowledge with the Japanese. The American team was fascinated by Japanese culture, and they recorded their observations in diaries, sketches, and photographs. This cultural exchange helped to lay the foundation for future diplomatic and economic relations between the two nations.

The Impact of Perry’s Arrival on Japan

Commodore Perry’s arrival in Japan had a profound impact on Japanese society. The Japanese had been isolated from the world for over two hundred years, and they were not prepared for the power and technology of the American fleet. The arrival of the Americans created a sense of shock and fear among the Japanese, who had never seen anything like it before. However, they were also impressed by the power and sophistication of the American technology, and many Japanese began to see the benefits of opening up to the world.

The Significance of the Treaty of Kanagawa

Commodore Perry’s mission to Japan was ultimately successful, and he was able to negotiate a treaty with the Japanese government. The Treaty of Kanagawa, signed in 1854, opened two ports to American trade and established diplomatic relations between the United States and Japan. This treaty was a turning point in Japanese history, as it marked the beginning of the end of the isolationist policies of the Tokugawa shogunate.

The Legacy of Commodore Perry’s Mission

Commodore Perry’s mission to Japan had a lasting impact on American and Japanese history. It helped to establish the United States as a major naval power in the Pacific, and paved the way for American economic and political influence in the region. It also helped to modernize Japan and bring it into the world community. However, it also had negative consequences, as it disrupted the traditional Japanese social order and ultimately contributed to the downfall of the Tokugawa shogunate.

Conclusion: A Turning Point in US-Japan Relations

Commodore Perry’s mission to Japan was a turning point in the history of US-Japan relations. It opened the door to trade and diplomatic relations between the two nations, and helped to establish the United States as a major power in the Pacific. However, it also had far-reaching consequences for Japanese society and culture, and helped to set the stage for the modernization of Japan. Today, the legacy of Commodore Perry’s mission can still be seen in the close relationship between the United States and Japan, which has become one of the most important bilateral relationships in the world.

References and Further Reading

  • Gordon, A. (2003). A modern history of Japan: From Tokugawa times to the present. Oxford University Press.
  • Howland, R. P. (1975). Foreign ships in Mikawa Bay, 1853: The inception of American-Japanese relations. Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan, Third Series, 13, 1-28.
  • Perry, M. C. (1856). Narrative of the expedition of an American squadron to the China Seas and Japan. G. P. Putnam & Company.
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Kristy Tolley

Kristy Tolley, an accomplished editor at TravelAsker, boasts a rich background in travel content creation. Before TravelAsker, she led editorial efforts at Red Ventures Puerto Rico, shaping content for Platea English. Kristy's extensive two-decade career spans writing and editing travel topics, from destinations to road trips. Her passion for travel and storytelling inspire readers to embark on their own journeys.

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