As We Saw Them: The First Japanese Embassy to the United States (1860)

As We Saw Them: The First Japanese Embassy to the United States (1860)

As We Saw Them: The First Japanese Embassy to the United States (1860)

As We Saw Them: The First Japanese Embassy to the United States (1860)

Excerpt

Far off, methinks, I hear the beaten drum.

King Lear

Eastern morality, Western technology .

Sakuma Shōzan

Even during seclusion, Japan kept a tiny crack open to the rest of the world. There were always a few Chinese traders.And under the most humiliating conditions, several members of the Dutch East India Company persisted in living on the small man-made island of Deshima in Nagasaki.At every ship's arrival, the Dutch director of the trading post was required to write the Tokugawa authorities a news‐ letter ( fūsetsugaki ) setting out recent events in the world outside.He was also ordered to pay homage each spring to the Shogun in Edo.As the Dutch director's entourage stayed in the capital, scholars and intellectuals flocked to their lodgings asking questions and comparing notes.If the traders were not all well educated, there were a few learned men like Engelbert Kämpfer, who published the long standard History of Japan after his stay between 1690 and 1692, or Carl Peter Thumberg, who later became the President of the University of Uppsala, or Philipp Franz von Siebold, the author of several outstanding works on Japan.Despite the rigidly conservative Tokugawa orthodoxy, the Shogun's capital did have some opportunity to hear about the steadily evolving Western events.At times with governmental encouragement but often under the severest strictures (aimed against Christianity and domestic subversion), knowledge of the West gradually spread.

By the end of the eighteenth century, the impact of "Dutch . . .

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