When the Boston journalist Edward H. House arrived in Tokyo in the summer of 1870, he proclaimed himself surprised by what he found: a people struggling with massive social changes yet gracious to the many foreigners who were pressuring Japan to make these changes, orderly and law abiding even in a time of political tumult. [The climate is lovely,] he wrote to his New York editor; [the people (natives, I mean) are kind; hospitable, and courteous to a degree which more than justifies all that has been said in their praise; … the scenery inexhaustibly attractive, and the cost of living is light.] It was not the first time Westerners had been impressed by Japan. The initial European visitors, nearly three centuries earlier, had found the Japanese people handsome, intelligent, orderly, and gracious. Some even commented on how quickly they adapted, then surpassed, the Westerners in skills as varied as making bread and turning a profit at trade.
One reason the visitors were impressed lay in the ages-old ability of the Japanese to structure their surroundings and institutions so that a large segment of the populace enjoyed the [good] life. Though plagued as much by strife as other peoples, the Japanese elites had focused for a millennium on education and harmony as keys to civilization. Another reason, by House's time, lay in the specific political and social structures of the Tokugawa era (1600–1868), which had given the country two and a half centuries of peace by emphasizing loyalty and learning, while providing enough money and freedom to spawn vibrant cities, alive with commerce and trade, up and down the islands. It was this time that laid the foundations for Japan's modern era.
One of the remarkable features of life under Tokugawa rule was its peaceful nature. For four centuries prior to consolidation of control by