Commodore Perry


Commodore Perry and Japan (1853-1854). On July 8, 1853, Commodore Matthew Perry of the United States Navy, commanding a squadron of two steamers and two sailing vessels, sailed into Tôkyô harbor aboard the frigate Susquehanna. As a result Japan, a feudal, nation would join the industrialized nations. This would led Japan in using war as a way to acquire other countries resources by using war as a method to do this.


Matthew Calbraith Perry[Note 1] (April 10, 1794 – March 4, 1858) was a Commodore of the United States Navy and commanded a number of ships. He served in several wars, most notably in the Mexican–American War and the War of 1812. He played a leading role in the opening of Japan to the West with the Convention of Kanagawa in 1854.

Perry finally reached Uraga at the entrance to Edo Bay in Japan on July 8, 1853. His actions at this crucial juncture were informed by a careful study of Japan's previous contacts with Western ships and what he knew about the Japanese hierarchical culture. As he arrived, Perry ordered his ships to steam past Japanese lines towards the capital of Edo, and turn their guns towards the town of Uraga.[9] Perry refused Japanese demands to leave, or to proceed to Nagasaki, the only Japanese port open to foreigners.[9]

Perry attempted to intimidate the Japanese by presenting them a white flag and a letter which told them that in case they chose to fight, the Americans would destroy them.[10][11] He also fired blank shots from his 73 cannons, which he claimed was in celebration of the American Independence Day. Perry's ships were equipped with new Paixhans shell guns, cannons capable of wreaking great explosive destruction with every shell.[12][13] He also ordered his ship boats to commence survey operations of the coastline and surrounding waters over the objections of local officials.

Commodore Perry's visit in 1854

In the meantime, the Japanese government was paralyzed due to the incapacitation by illness of Shogun Tokugawa Ieyoshi and by political indecision on how to handle the unprecedented threat to the nation’s capital. On July 11, Rōjū Abe Masahiro temporized, deciding that simply accepting a letter from the Americans would not constitute a violation of Japanese sovereignty. The decision was conveyed to Uraga, and Perry was asked to move his fleet slightly southwest to the beach at Kurihama (in modern-day Yokosuka), where he was allowed to land on July 14, 1853.[14] After presenting the letter to attending delegates, Perry departed for Hong Kong, promising to return the following year for the Japanese reply.[15]

This lesson requires you to consider events that might have been different if Perry had never stopped at Japan.


  • In doing this consider:
  • Korea
  • China
  • Manchuria
  • Formosa
  • Russia
  • United States
  • England
  • France
  • Germany
  • India
  • Mongolia
  • Suggest others

In the next 100 years all these countries would be impacted by military conflict by Japan directly or indirectly. Millions of military and civilians would die.

Consider countries

Consider culturea

Consider economies


Created with images by Naval History & Heritage Command - "88-15-A Japanese Bowl" • mechanicalcurator - "Image taken from page 317 of 'Narrative of the Expedition of an American Squadron to the China Seas and Japan, performed in the years 1852, 1853 and 1854, under the command of Commodore M. C. Perry ... by order of the Government of the United States. Comp"

Made with Adobe Slate

Make your words and images move.

Get Slate

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.