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Analysis Of Japan And The Effect Of Isolationalism

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The Barbarian and The Geisha

by Adam Stubert

It was 1856 and the annual invitation of the Japanese dead ancestors was taking place in the Japanese village of Shimoda. That night, the Japanese spotted a dark ship approaching their land. Since the Japanese practice isolation, no person left their empire and no person entered. The ship lay anchored in their bay all night. At sunrise the foreign ship tried to enter the town. The Japanese yelled to the foreigners to stay away, but they persisted, and as the foreigners entered, some of the Japanese fled. Townsend Harris requested quarters for himself, his translator, and three Chinese servants. The Japanese didn't want the foreigners to stay, but they did. Harris tells the Japanese that the treaty they made with the Commodore Perry didn't translate properly.

The Americans flew the U.S. flag for the first time in Japan. Little children watch Harris as he is told by the government of Shimoda to take the flag down. Harris unwillingly takes it down. Tamora, the governor of the village, tells the people to avoid the foreigners and not sell them anything because these people are barbarians. Harris then protests, saying the Japanese should treat him better. Japan is a crossroad for the world, states Harris, they need to be treated better. Harris then handed a letter to Tamora to give to the emperor of Japan. A little while later, Tamora receives a letter back and the emperor told Tamora to keep Harris and his people happy, if possible. Tamora then sends a letter to Harris asking him to dine with him. While dining with Tamora, Okiji came and sang a song to Harris. That night, Okiji waited up in her room for Harris to come, he did not. Okiji was given orders from Tamora to "spy" on Harris. She was to go back to the Barbarians, but Okiji did not want to. While the Americans walked around Japan, they were constantly made fun of. The situation was so terrible at one time that Harris got into a fight with some Japanese men. Because Okiji was associating with the Americans, she was not allowed to bathe with the other women.

One morning a ship is spotted, so Harris flew his flag. The Japanese were going to fire a canon at the ship, but Harris kept standing in the way of it. Harris rowed out to the ship only to discover the men on the ship had a very bad disease, Cholera. The sailors swam to the shore. They infested the entire village. Harris tried to get rid of the disease by the American way, and the Japanese did everything they could by using prayers and traditional ways. Harris thought Okiji had got the disease so he watched over her. The village became deadly. The only way for the disease to disappear is to set fire to everything. The interpreter and Harris did that. The villagers took them into custody; meanwhile, the Cholera had disappeared. Okiji is sad because Harris is to leave on the next boat that comes.

To Harris's surprise, as he is escorted to the gates by Okiji, the Japanese are thanking him from saving them from Cholera. He was their hero. Harris was to go to Edo (known now as Tokyo). The Shimoda people accompanied Harris to the Shoguns because it was said to mean much importance when this happened. During the trip, Harriss kindness was celebrated and the American flag was carried. When they arrived at the capital, Harris is seen to his quarters and the people bow to him. Many women were waiting in his room to serve Harris. Some Japanese man read Harris a list of what he had to do the next couple of days. Japanese servants lead Harris down a corridor to meet the Head Shogun, Head Gonta. Items from the America's were brought to the Head Shogun. Harris asked Japan to be their friend, and requested that they pull down the barrier that separates them from the rest of the world. Okiji told Harris it would take about three days for the government to make a decision about this request.

On the second day of the waiting period, a banquet was held. During this banquet Harris argued with Japanese government about why they should accept the proposal. One day after this banquet, the men were at an archery contest. Lord Shishu, a very noble man, was assassinated there. Some of the Japanese government told Harris that he should go back to America because they said that Japanese fight for their family, not themselves, and the Japanese people would do anything to save their land. A voting session was held by the government to decide if Japan should go with Harriss proposal. The voters approved it. Because of this, some Japanese planned a tragic death for Harris. The ceremonial sword was given to Tamora; he was to lead the conspiracy. Tamora swore to secrecy with Okiji and told her his wish: death for Harris. Okiji was Tamora's to command, she had no choice but to obey him.

Okiji had been told to tie a red silk cloth to Harris's doorknob so Tamora could sneak in his room in the middle of the night and kill him. After everyone was asleep, Okiji gave Tamora a signal, and tied the red silk to her bedroom door. She had disobeyed Tamora. Tamora then went to kill himself because he had not taught Okiji the obedience and discipline he was supposed to teach her. Because of her actions, Okiji left Edo, but left behind a comb and a mirror for Harris. As Harris went to sign the treaty, the people honored him, but he was wondering about Okiji.

The Tokugawa Shogunate was established in 1603 when Ieyasu was appointed shogun by the emperor. Ieyasu's brought the whole country under his tight control and he redistributed the land that the Daimyo had gained giving people that were in favor of him more land than those that weren't. He also instated that every Daimyo would have spend every second year in Edo which put great financial strain onto the Daimyo and limited their power back in their territory.

Under Ieyasu trade with Foreign Countries was greatly improved upon. Until than Japan had Isolated itself from the rest of the world but under Ieyasu they began to trade with European countries like England. Even though he supported the trade with other countries Ieyasu did not support the foreign religions like Christianity in fact he suppressed Christianity and persecuted those that would practice it. He eliminated the Toyotami Clan in 1615 which rid him and all of his supporters of opposition bringing Japan into a period of peace and prosperity.

Ieyasu's successor however forbade traveling abroad and tried to bring Japan back under isolation. He could not do this though because the trade that had been established grew to be one of the biggest economic factors in Japan.

There was a strict four class social system in Japan during the Edo period and the most powerful of the system



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