National Geographic : 1953 Jul
98 Philip Kuhn Great Buddha Meditates Serenely After Seven Centuries of Quake, Tidal Wave, and War Perry and his men probably never saw Kamakura's Great Buddha, but the 42/-foot bronze figure broods only 12 miles from where their fleet anchored. Japan's natural disasters have leveled near-by cities, while leaving the huge image unscathed. Hotel Buddha (opposite page), a popular rendezvous for Allied servicemen on leave from Korea, stands beyond the tile-roofed postcard stand at right. Much more work had to be done, in sub sequent treaties, to complete the process of reopening the country. But "Old Matt" had succeeded in his mission. He had achieved for the United States what no foreign country had been able to do for more than 200 years. The way was paved for Japan to make similar treaties with Britain, Russia, and the Netherlands, and to start her astoundingly swift rise to the status of a modern power. Gifts of Buttons Delight Japanese When his own treaty negotiations were almost finished and the document was ready for signature, the old Commodore was willing to relax. He allowed Japanese laborers as well as officials to visit his ships, and he found them intrigued by everything they saw, especially by Western clothing. The official narrative of the expedition re corded that the Japanese "eagerly sought to possess themselves of anything that per tained to the dress of their visitors, and showed a peculiar passion for buttons. "They would again and again ask for a button," the report said, "and when presented with the cheap gift, they appeared immediately gratified, and stowed it away as if it were of the greatest value." The reason, of course, was that the Japa nese people used only strings or sashes to hold their kimonos and other clothes together. To show friendliness, the Japanese provided entertainment in the form of contests between pairs of wrestlers. Perry's men were disgusted by the monstrous bodies of these super-heavy weights and by the brutal heaving and shoving of their traditional sport.