Japanese manuscript collection  1832-1861
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History

For Bankoku ichiyō [Costumes of the World, Pictures of People of 43 Countries]: Encounters with Western cultures and technologies brought great changes to Japan. European maps were first introduced to Japan in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. During a time when Christianity and all foreigners except the Dutch and Chinese were excluded from Japan, maps were not restricted because of their usefulness. In the Dutch style, illustrations of foreign couples in native costume often accompanied world maps. The earliest printed world map in Japan was the Shōhō Map and Peoples of the World, in 1645. Because of great interest in Japan, numerous copies of such world maps were made, with the illustrated figures repeated from one screen to another with small variations.

For Hyokyaku danki [The Strange Story of a Castaway]: In 1841, five Japanese fishermen were shipwrecked on an uninhabited island in the Pacific. Rescued by an American whaling ship captained by William Whitfield, they were taken to Hawaii, since Japan was closed to American ships. The youngest, a fourteen-year-old boy named Manjiro, accompanied Captain Whitfield to his home in Fairhaven, Massachusetts, where he was raised and educated by the Whitfields. Manjiro, called John Mung by Americans, learned the art of navigation and became a skilled whaler. He also struck gold as a forty-niner in the California gold rush. Returning to his companions in Hawaii, Manjiro found that two, Denzo and Goeman, were eager to return to Japan if possible. The three finally succeeded in making their way back to Japan in 1851, where they were arrested and interrogated. The full account of their testimony, accompanied by watercolor illustrations, comprised four volumes entitled Hyoson Kiryaku, "A Brief Account of Drifting Toward the Southeast." Manjiro's knowledge of English and of Western culture was particularly valuable to the Tokugawa shogunate, since they were aware of the imminent threat of Western powers despite their policy of seclusion. His testimony and sketches formed the basis of officials' information about America just prior to Commodore Perry's arrival in 1853. Commodore Perry was the leader of the United States Naval Expedition to Japan (1852-1854), which opened Japanese ports to U.S. trade and was considered a major turning point in diplomatic history. After the first peace treaty between Japan and the United States, Manjiro served as a secretary to the Tokugawa government and achieved samurai status, gaining the last name Nakahama.

For Amerika kokusho jisan no ken no ofuredome [Instructions for Receiving the Accredited Mission from America]: The first American ambassador to Japan, Townsend Harris, arrived in 1855 after Commodore Perry opened trade between the countries. Harris was finally granted an audience with the shogun in December 1857, and negotiated the Treaty of Amity and Commerce, or "Harris Treaty," in 1858.

For Kōbei Nichiroku [Diary of a Voyage to America]: The Harris Treaty was ratified in 1860 with the visit of the first Japanese Embassy to the United States. Three principle officials, accompanied by secretaries, interpreters and attendants, comprised the 77 members of the embassy. The embassy traveled on the U.S. frigate Powhatan, which had been Perry’s flagship in 1854, and on which the Harris Treaty had been concluded. The Japanese sent an escort ship, the Kanrin Maru, with a Japanese crew that included Nakahama Manjiro as an interpreter. The embassy crossed the Pacific with a stop at Hawaii, docked in San Francisco, and traveled to Washington, D.C. by way of the Isthmus of Panama. The ambassadors were presented to President Buchanan, and exchanged treaty ratifications. The group went on to visit Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York before returning home by the Atlantic route.