Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Perry, the Black Ships and the Opening of Japan

In 1852, Commodore Matthew Perry was ordered to sail to Japan with a squadron of seven US Navy warships and three supply ships. His orders were to open up the isolationist Japanese to friendly trade relations with the United States.

On July 8, 1853, Perry's squadron arrived unannounced and uninvited into Edo (Tokyo) Harbor.

The USS Powhatan, a modern steam powered frigate, was was one of Perry's ships. She was armed with one 11-inch(the diameter of the cannon shell), ten 9-inch and five 4.62-inch cannon. All were more modern and much larger than any cannon the Japanese possessed.

The Japanese had never before seen steam power, and were over awed by the size of Perry's modern cannon. Faced with overwhelming fire power, the Japanese agreed to negotiate a treaty with the USA.

The treaty gave the US the right to trade with Japan, ports of call privileges, coaling privileges and protection to shipwreck survivors. After 250 years of virtual isolation from the world, Japan was now opened up to the advances of the Industrial Revolution. The land of the Samurai would never be the same.

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