National Geographic : 1953 Jul
The National Geographic Magazine &AJ'WA 00J -U Japanese Eyes Saw Commodore Perry as Stc Matthew Calbraith Perry made a profound impression when he opened Japan to the outside world just a centi deep impression on the Japanese people, one of whom the treaty negotiations. Actually, Perry's hair was wa he spent a long time smoothing it in front of a mirror hama to deliver President Millard Fillmore's letter to th tive. Japanese phonetic syllables identify Perry. American victory, although world-minded Japanese now regard it as a victory for their own nation as well. To the United States of those days, and to President Millard Fillmore, who gave Perry his orders, the hermitlike seclusion of Japan had become a nuisance and a menace to peaceful American interests. Hermit Japan Imprisoned Seamen The crews of American whalers, ship wrecked on Japanese shores, had been im prisoned. Some had been locked in cages as punishment for landing on Japanese soil. American expeditions had failed to break this seclusion, although they succeeded in rescuing the imprisoned seamen. Our ships in Pacific waters needed coaling and could not get it; they needed refuge from Pacific typhoons. And in the young America of those days there was a lusty de- sire for commercial ex pansion in the Pacific, a stirring that helped to push the Govern ment in Washington to fit out a massive expe dition to open Japan. "Make no use of force," the Secretary of State, Edward Everett, wrote to Perry at the President's insistence, "except in the last re sort for defence, if at tacked, and self-preser vation." What the President did not know, and could not know, was that Japan was ready to be opened. The Japanese people had fallen on evil days since their feudal rulers, the sho guns, had ordered all foreigners expelled in Courtesy, Library of Congress the early 17th century. ern and Forbidding The people were hun on the course of history gry and discontented; ury ago. He also left a taxes were oppressive; drew this sketch during the walls of isolation ivy and so unruly that before landing at Kuri- were already crumbling. e Emperor's representa- Japanese scholars, knowing that their country had to rouse itself, learned Dutch, the language of the Hol landers who had been allowed to keep a trading post in Nagasaki harbor during all the hermit years. From Dutch books in later years the Jap anese learned of Western science, of the growth of armies and navies in Europe, of the spread of European empires and the rise of the United States. But in Japan the arts, the theater, the urbane and stylized way of life went on undisturbed, as if in a cocoon. Thus the island nation was being left be hind in a swiftly changing world, and her wisest men knew it.