Point of interest: Uraga and the Black Ships of Commodore Perry

Uraga and the Black Ships of Commodore Perry  Ieyasu Tokugawa and Sakoku-Jidai
517 words
This article is part of a series about locations in your Mastery Map, a visual representation of your Japanese Mastery Level.
The story of Uraga and Commodore Perry's Black Ships is the one of the great moments in Japanese history, and a critical point that finally led to Japan opening its doors to the West. This is also why your very first level of accomplishment on Kanshudo, which will open your own door to Japanese kanji and the Japanese language, bears this city’s name.
The story is the beginning of a relationship between Japan and the United States. Learning about Uraga's role in opening trade with the West is similar to the first steps in improving your Japanese kanji with Kanshudo.
Back in the early 1800s, the primary source for the world's oil came from whalers and whale oil. The best whaling territory at the time was the Western Pacific, off the coast of Japan, and by the 1840s, American and European whalers were setting sail for these waters in droves. However, these voyages had to be pretty much self-contained - the ships had to stow all their fuel, water, and provisions far away from Japan itself. Japan refused to allow any ships into port that weren't flying a Dutch or Chinese flag.

Early Portuguese and Dutch Settlers

North Korea could learn a thing or two from the Shogun (military leader) Tokugawa Ieyasu. Tokugawa more or less controlled Japan on behalf of the Emperor in the early 1600s, when the first Dutch ships came into port in Sashifu. These were not the first Europeans in Japan - that honor belongs to the Portuguese, who first landed in 1543.
The local population took pity on the exhausted sailors and did not kill them on sight ... but they did loot the ship. The ship, "Liefde" was theoretically a trader, but carried a well-stocked armory as well. That armory (19 cannons, rifles, "fire-arrows" and other assorted weaponry) came to the attention of Tokugawa in Edo (now Tokyo), who invited two of the Dutchmen to have a chat about their plans for their weapons and Japan.
A Portuguese interpreter convinced Tokugawa that they were traders, and not interested in converting the Japanese to Christianity. This gave them a leg up on the Portuguese Jesuits, who tagged along on the ships with an eye towards that very goal. To Tokugawa, the "red-haired devil" Protestant Dutch were preferable to the over-proselytizing Jesuits. Also, as Europeans, they knew a lot more about these Jesuits and that knowledge could prove useful.

Japan's Isolationist Policies

Tokugawa decided two European interlopers into his country were quite enough, and after he agreed to let the Dutch stay in the country, he slowly cut Japan off from trade with any country besides China and the Netherlands. The Portuguese were banned from the mainland and sent to the island of Deshima off the coast. The Dutch soon joined them there, in Russian-style ghettos.
Tokugawa decided that to keep Japan free from the outside influences of guns, Christianity, and trade, he would effectively isolate the country. Thus began the period of "sakoku-jidai" which lasted over 200 years, until Commodore Perry and the famed Black Ships sailed into Uraga.
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