sep 30, 1855 - The United States
Forces Japan to
Open its Borders
Since 1639, Japan had essentially been completely closed off from the outside world. All trade with foreign nations was completely banned except for China and the Netherlands who were only allowed to visit the strict port of Nagasaki. The residents of Japan were not allowed to come and go from the archipelago for fear that Western culture and Christianity would destroy the Japanese way of life and cause the government to be overthrown.
During the 19th Century, however, a couple of nations requested that Japan end their isolationist policy before someone forced them to. These requests were denied so eventually the United States of America took it upon themselves to force Japan to open it's borders in 1853.
The US had been enjoying commercial success with China over the past number of years and were still driven by the concept of Manifesting Destiny by imposing the benefits of Western civilization on what they considered as backward Asian nations.
From Japan's viewpoint, the enormous gap between the West's military technology and feudal Japan's became a growing concern. As well as this, the Opium Wars they had heard about from the Dutch traders caused great debate throughout the Japanese government in terms of whether they could withstand a European attack.
In the end, when a fleet of American ships arrived in 1854 threatening warfare, the Japanese gave into the demands. The Kanagawa Treaty was subsequently signed on the 31st March and officially went into effect eighteen months later.
Now the United States was freely allowed to trade with Japan and soon treaties with other nations such as Britain, France, and Russia were also made. After 216 years, the sakoku period had finally ended and the Japanese borders were open for foreign visitors.
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