Escape from Impasse: The Decision to Open Japan
By Mitani Hiroshi (Professor, University of Tokyo)
Translated by David Noble
Revised and expanded edition / 2008
388 pages / hardcover
Originally published in Japanese in 2003 by Yoshikawa Kobunkan as Perii Raiko.
3,086 yen / Discount rate*: 2,160 yen (inclusive of tax)
*Discount rates are applicable for IHJ members.
This is a wonderfully clear, detailed and insightful study of the diplomatic prehistory of the Meiji Restoration. Prior to 1853, an “overwhelming ma-jority” of the “informed opinion” in Japan favored a policy of seclusion, while leading countries of the West were determined to end it. The possibility of a disastrous war was real. But Japanese leaders, becoming aware of the danger, modified their policies and by a “hair’s-breadth” avoided disaster. The book first looks at Japan’s traditional foreign policy and perception of the outside world, the Opium War and the debate it engendered within Japan, and the intentions of the West that put it on a collision course with Japan. It then treats Japan’s foreign relations between 1853 and 1856, not simply as the story of Commodore Perry, with Townsend Harris in the wings, but as the steady development of Japanese thinking about foreign relations through Perry’s first visit, the negotiations with the Russians in 1853 and 1854, Perry’s return, the Treaty of Peace and Amity of 1854, and the treaties established with Britain and Russia the following year. Digging deep, it explores the thought underlying policy decisions. The analysis of the difference between the Japanese and American versions of the 1854 treaty is outstanding—this is a must-read book.
—Albert M. Craig, Harvard-Yenching Professor of History Harvard University