V. The Modern Period, 1789–1914 > E. East Asia, 1793–1914 > 3. Japan, 1793–1914
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
(See 1787–93)
3. Japan, 1793–1914
Lt. Adam Laxman (b. 1776), envoy of Catherine the Great of Russia, arrived at Hakodate but failed to establish friendly relations.  1
The personal rule of IENARI as shogun was characterized by increasing extravagance, inefficiency, and signs of the breakdown of seclusion and the collapse of military rule. During this period lived Ninomiya Sontoku (1787–1856), a famous peasant philosopher and agrarian reformer; Kaiho Seiry (1755–1817), a political economist, reformer, and itinerant teacher; Takizawa Bakin (1767–1848), an extremely popular author of fiction with a moral bent; Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849), And Hiroshige (1797–1858), and Kitagawa Utamaro (1754–1806), three of the finest ukiyo-e woodblock artists.  2
Capt. William Broughton (1762–1821), a British explorer, visited Hokkaid, charting parts of the Japanese coast.  3
U.S. ships traded with Japan nearly every year, on behalf of the Dutch.  4
The Kojiki den, a commentary on the Kojiki (Record of Ancient Things, 712), was completed after 35 years of work by Motoori Norinaga (1730–1801), one of the finest scholars of the National Learning, or Nativist, school. This achievement marked a significant event in the revival of Shinto and the imperial cause. An earlier figure of considerable importance in this movement was Kamo Mabuchi (1679–1769), who worked principally on the Man'ysh (Collection of 10,000 Leaves, 759); a later figure of less intellectual depth but greater popular appeal was Hirata Atsutane (1776–1843). All relentlessly attacked Confucianism as alien to things Japanese.  5
1804, Oct.–1805, April
A Russian ambassador, Capt. Nikolai Rezanov (1764–1807), representing the Russian-American Company, reached Nagasaki but after six months failed to obtain a treaty. In 1806–7, his subordinates raided Sakhalin.  6
Kurozumi Munetada (1780–1850) founded the Kurozumi sect, the first of the modern popular Shinto sects that stressed patriotism and occasionally faith healing. This and 12 similar sects founded over the course of the next century counted in excess of 17 million adherents.  7
A sign of economic problems to come, the bakufu (shogunal government) devalued the currency on 19 separate occasions, but did not adequately contain the growing state deficit. Problems were exacerbated by a string of crop failures in the 1820s.  8
Aizawa Seishisai (Yasushi, 1781–1863) of Mito domain completed his Shinron (New Proposals, not published until 1857). He suggested that greater defensive measures be adopted by the feudal domains in preparation for the coming aggressive forces from the West; he felt that even more pernicious than Western force of arms were its Christian religion, its corruptive culture, and its economic incursions. British whaling vessels had landed in Mito the previous year.  9
Although the Tenp reign period witnessed great reform efforts, it also saw severe famines in the mid-1830s and massive social disorders as countless peasants fled rural poverty for the cities. It was an extremely rich era culturally. Planner of the reforms (effected, 1841–43) was Mizuno Tadakuni (1794–1851). He abolished the guild system, domainal monopolies, and other institutions, moving toward centralizing Edo power with respect to the domains. The reforms ultimately failed.  10
Following several years of local famine, inadequate state response, and small-scale risings, saka witnessed a mass rebellion led by shio Heihachir (1793–1837), a former policeman. He and his followers were angry at the corrupt officialdom and the venal merchants whom they saw as responsible for poverty. The uprising was quelled.  11
The U.S. vessel Morrison, with merchants and missionaries from Macao, visited Naha in the Ryky (Chinese, Liuqiu) Islands, was bombarded at Edo and Kagoshima, and failed to open relations. This was but one of numerous efforts by Westerners to establish more extensive contact with Japan before 1854. One reason for these efforts was that since about 1820 the northern Pacific whaling industry had greatly developed, and more humane treatment of crews of whalers wrecked in Japanese waters was sought, particularly by the United States.  12
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.