Saturday, April 30, 2016

Perry Expedition and the Opening of Japan (Part 6): Delivery of the Letter and End of First Visit

Delivery of the US President's Letter
Edo agreed to receive the letter in Uraga, both sides then showed the best of what they got. Explore the events of Perry’s delivery of the Presidential Letter to the Commissioners representing the Shogunate of Japan.

Ceremony for the Receipt of the Letter

On July 13, 1853, late in the afternoon, the pretentious Governor of Uraga Kayaman Yezaiman returned to the flagship Susquehanna to update the Americans on the arrival of the commissioners said to be appointed by the “Emperor.” The Commissioners, appointed by Abe Masahiro as the Shogun laid dying and the Emperor had no power, were Lord Toda of Idzu (Idzu) and Lord Ido of Iwami. Yezaiman presented a letter of their credence to the deputies of Commodore Matthew C. Perry.

Yezaiman elaborated further to the other details of the meeting set the next day. The event would be held near the village of Gorishima (Kurishima) and the Commodore would be allowed to be accompanied by 300 of his men.

The Day of the Ceremony

On July 14, 1853, both sides showed their best for a grand ceremony in the coast near the town of Kurishima. Before the meeting took place, Americans observed the venue. The official narrative of the expedition published few years after the event described the place:

“Ornamental screens of cloth had been so arranged as to give a more distinct prominence… two tents had been spread among the trees. The screens were stretched tightly in the usual way upon posts of wood, and each interval between the posts was thus distinctly marked, and had, in the distance, the appearance of paneling. Upon these seeming panels were emblazoned the imperial arms, alternating with the device of a scarlet flower bearing large heart-shaped leaves (the emblem of the Tokugawa Clan). Flags and steamers, upon which were various designs represented in gay colors, hung from the several angles of the screens, while behind them thronged crowds of soldiers, arrayed in a costume which had not been before observed, and which was supposed to belong to high occasions only.”

Perry prepared to board a boat to the shore before noon. He was accompanied by 300 of his sailors, marines, and officers, not to mention a band of musicians, all of which dressed to impress the Japanese. If the atmosphere, however, went bad, the Americans had their weapons armed and ready. As the Commodore and his entourage boarded their boats, the American squadron fired gun salutes to give the Commodore honor and shake the wits of the Japanese. Japanese boats escorted the Americans to the shore. And as the Americans came close to land, they observed more of the ceremonial area. The narrative described:

“Nine tall standards stood in the centre of an immense number of banners of diverse lively colors, which were arranged on either side, until the whole formed a crescent of variously tinted flags, which fluttered brightly in the rays of the morning. From the tall standards were suspended broad pennons of rich scarlet which swept the ground with their flowing length. On the beach in front of this display were ranged regiments of soldiers, who stood in fixed order, evidently arrayed to give an appearance of martial force, that the Americans might be duly impressed with the military power of the Japanese.”

As the American party landed in the shore, they saw a display of the Japanese army, complete with samurais lining on each side of the meeting hut in multitude numbers and in full regalia and armed with swords, spears, and some with old muskets. Cavalry wearing brass armors also stood on the side. On the each end of the bay, armed Japanese warships anchored. 

After landing, they then marched in an impressive order and discipline. Marines and sailors marched in line of squares with a band playing in the middle. They marched behind the Commodore until they reached the meeting place with his officers and lieutenants carrying the box containing the letter of the President of the United States.

When Perry entered the hut, the ceremony began with the two Japanese envoys, Ido and Toda, giving a welcoming bow. Meanwhile, Yezaiman and the Dutch interpreter Hori Tasonoske served as masters of ceremony arbitrating between the two sides. At last, Perry had the box containing the letter presented and opened by two African-American soldiers, chosen to spark curiosity of the Japanese.  After the delivery and receipt of the letter, Perry made known to the commissioners his intention to leave Japan for China and the Lew Chew Islands within 2 to 3 days. They then shortly discussed the “revolution” (Taiping Rebellion) raging in China, but the Japanese refused to comment too much. Finally, Perry informed the commissioners of his return for the reply to the letter in the following year perhaps in April or May with a much larger force. With much of the business settled, Perry returned to the Susquehanna.

As the rest of the day passed by, the Americans treated Yezaiman to a tour of the warships. Yezaiman saw the massive artillery and experienced a demonstration of firing a modern pistol of an American officers. But Yezaiman was very excited to view the steam engine that propelled the black ships. He impressed the Americans with his scant knowledge, showing them that the Japanese were not all ignorant on modern technology. After few refreshments of wine, Yezaiman left.

Ending the First Visit

Before the day of the ceremony ended, Perry moved his squadron's position. After Yezaiman left, the squadron moved northward for about 10 miles until they were near modern day Yokohama. The Americans dubbed the waters that they were as the American Anchorage. Yezaiman arrived and showed his displeasure, especially with American boats surveying the waters and the shores again. Yezaiman refreshed the Americans that they said they would be leaving. And the Americans assured they would within a day or two and they only wanted to search for better waters to set their anchors for the next visit.

True enough, the squadron sailed back to Uraga on the very next day, July 16. On that day, Yezaiman arrived with gifts including silks, fans, lacquer wares, and tobacco pipes. The Americans refused to accept as per their law forbidding the acceptance of gifts without giving back in reciprocity. But as to show their gratitude, the American officers accepted the gifts and gave the Japanese anything that they have even if it did not match the value of what they received. Lastly, before Yezaiman left in the afternoon, the Americans gave Yezaiman a case of wine.

On July 17, 1853, Perry and the American Squadron left Uraga bay and sailed back to Lew Chew Island to establish trade relations for the meantime. Meanwhile, as they arrived in Napha in the Lew Chew Islands, some ships of the squadron received other missions, such as protecting Americans and American interest in China as the bloody long Taiping Rebellion raged. 

Explore also:

Beasley, W.G. The Modern History of Japan. New York, New York: Frederick A. Praeger, Publisher, 1963.

___________. The Meiji Restoration. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1972.

Bolitho, Harold. “Abe Masahiro and the New Japan.” In The Bakufu in Japanese History, edited by Jeffrey Mass and William Hauser. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1985.

Craig, Fairbank, and Edwin Reischauer. East Asia: The Modern Transformation. Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1965.

Davis, Geo. Lynn-Lachlan. A Paper Upon the Origin of the Japan Expedition. Baltimore, Maryland: John Murphy & Co., 1860.

Franz, Edgar. Philipp Franz von Siebold and Russian Policy and Action on Opening Japan to the West in the Middle of the Nineteenth Century. Munich: IUDICIUM Verlag, 2005.

Fukuzawa Yukichi. The Autobiography of Yukichi Fukuzawa. Translated by Eiichi Kiyooka. New York, New York: Columbia University Press, 2007.

Gordon, Andrew. A Modern History of Japan: From Tokugawa Times to the Present. New York, New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Hawks, Francis. Narrative of the Expedition of An American Squadron to The China Seas and Japan, Performed in the Years 1852, 1853, and 1854, under the Command of Commodore M.C. Perry, United States Navy by Order of the Government of the United States, Volume I. Washington D.C.: A.O.P. Nicholson, Printer, 1856. 

Henshall, Kenneth. A History of Japan: From Stone Age to Superpower. New York, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.

Jansen, Marius. The Cambridge History of Japan, Volume 5: The Nineteenth Century. New York, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1989.

Murray, David. Japan. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1896.

Nitobe Inazo. The Intercourse Between the United States and Japan: An Historical Sketch. Baltimore, Maryland: The John Hopkins Press, 1891.

Williams, S. Well. A Journal of the Perry Expedition to Japan (1853 – 1854) , Edited by F.W. Williams. n.p.: n.p., 1910.

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