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1804—Japan Refuses Trade with Russian Ships

1825—Shogunate Bars Foreign Ships
Shogun Ienari issued Gaikokusen Uchiharai Rei, an order for repelling foreign ships and a reaffirmation of the National Seclusion policy enacted by Tokugawa Iemitsu in 1639. The new order was declared in response to an increasing number of foreign ships, particularly whaling ships, which entered Japanese waters and threatened Japan's determination to prevent interaction with western nations.

1837—American Merchant Ship Fired Upon
The American merchant ship Morrison arrived in Japan ostensibly to repatriate shipwrecked Japanese sailors, but with the intent of establishing trade. The Morrison also brought missionaries. Fired upon and forced to leave, the Morrison expedition was the first of many unsuccessful attempts by American ships to enter Japanese waters.

1837—Tokugawa Ieyoshi Becomes 12th Shogun

1839—Shogunate Cracks Down on Western Scholarship
The renewal of anti-western policies was partially motivated by the arrival of the American ship Morrison, also coupled with continued attempts by Russian, European and American ships to enter Japan. Japanese scholars who criticized the seclusion policy paid a high price for their views.

1853—Tokugawa Iesada Becomes 13th Shogun
The son of Tokugawa Ieyoshi, Iesada became 13th Shogun at 29, presiding over the negotiations with American Commodore Matthew Perry. Often ill, Ieyoshi died childless five years later.

1853—Commodore Perry Demands Japan Open to Trade
American Commodore Matthew Perry led an expedition to open diplomatic and commercial relations between Japan and the United States. Forceful and arrogant, he refused to enter the foreigners' port of Nagasaki and went directly to Uraga, near the Shogun's capital. Entering Edo Bay on July 2, 1853 with 967 men on four ships (including two steam-powered vessels) mounting sixty-one guns, Perry demanded that Japan open its ports to American trade. His war ships were larger than any the Japanese had seen, and their dark hulls earned them the name of "black ships." Perry demanded negotiations on his own terms, and declared that he would return the next year to receive the Japanese response.

1854—Perry Secures Kanawaga Treaty
Perry returned earlier than expected in February 1854 with more ships and sailors to buttress his demand that Japan open up to trade. Negotiations went on for 23 days, and Japan's lack of a strong shogun coupled with decades of internal dissention gave Perry leverage: The Kanawaga Treaty provided assistance for shipwrecked American sailors, and opened two ports for coal and supplies. Although Tokugawa officials could say no agreement had been reached for trade, the treaty paved the way for diplomatic and trade missions from Europe, and the opening of Japan.

1858—Tokugawa Iemochi Becomes 14th Shogun
Iemochi, the grandson of Tokugawa Ienari, became the 14th Shogun at age 12 and reigned for eight years. He presided over a period of internal turmoil set in motion by the arrival of Commodore Perry and his American fleet. Becoming the first shogun since Iemitsu in 1634 to travel to Kyoto, Iemochi tried to strengthen the power of the Shogunate and its ties to the emperor. He ended Sankin Kotai, the system of alternate attendance in Edo, thereby weakening the shogun's control of Japan's daimyo class. Undermined by incompetent advisors, Iemochi fell ill and died childless at age 20.

1867—Tokugawa Yoshinobu Becomes 15th Shogun
Yoshinobu became the 15th and last shogun at age 30. His father, Tokugawa Nariaki, was an advisor to an earlier shogun and arranged to have Yoshinobu (then known as Keiki) adopted into a branch of the Tokugawa family in line for shogunal succession. Yoshinobu was educated as a scholar and he brought strong leadership skills and reforms to the Shogunate during the tumultuous years following the Japan's opening to the west. During his tenure, civil war erupted between those daimyo that wanted the Tokugawa family to remain in power and those who favored the emperor. After sustaining huge losses, Yoshinobu resigned his position of Shogun in the interest of uniting Japan. He spent his last years as an amateur photographer.

1868—End of the Tokugawa Shogunate/Start of Meiji Restoration
Tokugawa Yoshinobu's resignation marked the end of Tokugawa Shogunate's 268-year rule and the return of the emperor as Japan's supreme ruler. Edo was renamed Tokyo. Lasting until 1912, the Meiji Restoration, heavily influenced by Japan's opening to Europe and the United States, saw the decline of the samurai warrior class and Japan's emergence into the modern era.

1500s | 1600s | 1700s | 1800s


Top: Foreign ships/Nagasaki City Museum


Napoleon defeated at Waterloo

Opium War. Great Britain acquires Hong Kong

Marx and Engels publish Communist Manifesto

Herman Melville writes Moby Dick

American Civil War begins

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