JAPAN AND THE WEST
Western attempts to open trade --the Opium War --Japanese reactions--developments in shipping and armaments
WHEN THE third Tokugawa ruler, Iemitsu, took the final steps in establishing Japan's policy of national seclusion in the seventeenth century, he did so for reasons that seemed to him practical and cogent. Christianity he regarded as an instrument of foreign ambitions, to be stamped out by every means at his disposal. Trade, which might provide guns and gold to a disaffected vassal, ought to be limited and controlled. Hence priests were excluded; those who brought them were punished; and the few Dutch and Chinese merchants still permitted at Nagasaki were closely watched. With the passage of time, trade itself came into disfavour, on the grounds that what the foreigners brought were luxuries and what they took were goods that Japan could hardly spare, while the suspicions on which Iemitsu had acted became inflated by constant repetition until the whole structure of his belief became hallowed as ancestral law.
The difficulty about enforcing this law, however, was that it depended on the willingness of other countries to accept the ban, as well as on Japan's ability to resist any demands they might make for its removal. In both respects the position changed gradually to Japan's disadvantage. Advances in European science and technology, unmatched elsewhere, had by the nineteenth century made it impossible for Japan to defend herself successfully in the event of war. Similarly, a new wave of European expansion, linked with the growth of industry and a search for markets, ensured that she would not be left alone for ever. In the south, after about 1775, Britain, followed by the