An ice-breaking journey in Japan and Britain: a personal history of the Meiji restoration


For Japanese historians, the work of British diplomat erne satoshi (1843-1929) is undoubtedly an important source of first-hand history. After all, he was the first person in the western world to “see Japan with open eyes”.

As one of the earliest Japanese translators in Britain, sa daoyi has been widely involved in the diplomacy with Japan since 1862. He not only integrated into Japanese life with the pronunciation of his name “sa dao’s assistance of love”, but was promoted to be British minister to Japan step by step. The son of wu tian kuji, who was born with a Japanese woman, became a famous botanist. At that time, Victoria England dominated the world, sa daoyi spent most of his youth in this small Oriental country, but why?

Raw wheat incident: the estrangement between east Asia and the west

On September 14, 1862, a samurai of Samoa (kagoshima prefecture) drew his sword and attacked four Englishmen, killing one and wounding two.

The incident became a major diplomatic event between Japan and Britain. Simply from the moral description of the sa, the Japanese samurai came up to cut people, natural barbarism, should bear full responsibility; From the Japanese point of view, however, all the honour guards of the vassal family had the right not to be disturbed by civilians, and four Englishmen had already gone the wrong way near the car of kuriko shimazu, which was not only offensive to etiquette but also a security risk. In the logic of the samurai, the only correct way to protect the Lord is to cut him down.

The two interpretations symbolize the cultural differences between Japan and Britain, as well as the hostility between the two cultures. Mr Sato notes that the Japanese “routinely tear up contracts and engage in commercial fraud”, and that yokohama’s foreign reservations have been described as “Europe’s garbage dump” because of their low moral standards. With the “con man” on one side and the “garbage” on the other, the two will no doubt be in a state of “mutual barbarism”.

Thus, “bloody attack” has become a “very common and even possible danger in sabine’s life in Japan”. From 1856 when the American minister stationed in Japan to 1868 when the Meiji restoration began, Japan broke out a total of 24 cases of “foreigners” (attacks on foreigners), 2 times a year. The attackers included even ITO po-wen, the “chief designer” who was later enthusiastic about westernization and created the glory of the entire Meiji empire. Sa daodei himself in 1867 on the way to edo encountered a small attack.

EugeneVanReed, an American businessman, had a different recollection of the wheat affair. He had met the procession of samoyed earlier in the day, but he had taken off his hat, put his horse on the curb, and watched the procession depart without any difficulty. After all, as saodei observed, “standing up is regarded as a kind of irreverence in Japanese etiquette”. When Japanese civilians see the “daimyo procession” (the guard of honor of lords), they would kneel on the roadside to greet them. However, this foreigner just stands up, which shows that samurai are not unreasonable even though they have different cultures.

Because of this memory, the New York times also gave a more neutral assessment of the “raw wheat incident” : “it was Richard Nixon’s fault… So rude to Japan’s main aristocracy, not to mention foreigners, even Japanese subjects are not allowed. The treaty gave him the freedom to live and trade, but not the right to offend Japanese law and custom.

The shogunate, long dismissed as uncivilized, was not really uncivilized. In large cities such as edo and Osaka, landlords operate tsujixueyin (public toilets), which collect waste and sell it to farmers as fertilizer, making the city as a whole very clean. In contemporary European countries, it has long been a habit to defecate anywhere, and it is even said that the earliest generation of high heels is to not step on the dirt on the ground. Britain’s minister to Japan, RutherfordAlcock, his moral boss, lamented in his book “the great kingdom” that “the Japanese are a people of purity… There’s no dirt on the ground to stop traffic, which is incredible in most of the European and Asian cities I’ve been to.

Breaking through the ice: England cooperates with the vassal states

The association of British and Japanese male fan, it may be said that “do not fight do not know”.

In order to seek justice for the “wheat incident”, in August 1863, seven British warships entered the Samoan fassal, aiming at deterring opponents by force. Unexpectedly, the satsumo vassal was not afraid of fighting. He severely wounded three British ships with more than ten cannons, causing more than 60 British casualties. The cost was the destruction of kagoshima city as a whole, resulting in heavy losses. Although the campaign is loss-lose, sa daoyi got acquainted with a few in the campaign to be aimed at learning western country however samo warrior, make him begin to change to Japanese.

By September 1864, the British fleet, together with the French, American and Dutch fleets, had jointly shelled the territory of changzhou vassal (yamaguchi prefecture), claiming to be “occupied by foreigners”, and destroyed all coastal forts. < / p > < p > in the face of the European and American fleet attack, just returned from the United Kingdom to study abroad in changzhou zhishi ITO junfu (bowen) as an English translator to take the initiative to contact with the United Kingdom, to coordinate the truce between the two sides. In this negotiation, sa daoyi found that although the Japanese at the beginning “behaved like the devil as fierce and tough”, but soon attitude “gentle”, to all kinds of requirements “one by one to accept”, also “faithfully abide by the provisions of the agreement”, “walk the talk, trustworthy” Japanese finally appeared in sa daoyi. The cognitive biases that divide Japan and Britain are melting away.

On the one hand, it was threatened by the British “strong guns and boats”, on the other hand, it was also because of the intention to overthrow the decadent edo shogunate rule, samo, changzhou two vassal aspirants gradually united. In the summer of 1865, the samothrace purchased arms through the British chamber of commerce, and sent one “foreign-style ship” and “foreign-style gun” with 14,000 tins into the Japanese territory through the shogun blockade. Then in February 1866, the two sides formed the “sa long alliance” and agreed “with the goal of restoring the imperial power” to overthrow the edo shogunate.

It was also during this time that the shamans joined the end-of-act fray in ways unimaginable to them.

As the edo shogunate only traded with the Dutch all the year round, there was only one official foreign language, Dutch. Even western technology and western medicine were called “orchid” and “orchid medicine” in the early days. When the British arrived, they could only translate the English into Dutch and then into Japanese, and vice versa. The procedure was not only complicated, but also Japanese officials could often pretend that they did not understand, in order to delay the time. However, the arrival of sa daoyi, who was proficient in Japanese and English, completely upended the negotiation situation between Japan and the UK, giving the UK a head start in foreign affairs against Japan.

Sa, 23, felt it was unfair to be paid only 400 pounds a year because of his rising status. He asked for a raise to the level of a Dutch translator (500 pounds), but was rejected because of the principle of “seniority”. Frustrated, he started writing anonymously for the JapanTimes, an english-language newspaper in yokohama, where he got a bit of money, turning his work from cultural tourism to political affairs. Among them, three articles published from march to May 1866 were translated by Japanese and integrated into the so-called “British policy theory”. “British policy theory” proposed a set of solutions for Japan following the British system: the shogun was not the sovereign of the state, but the head of the vassal. However, at present, the object of treaties made by the great powers and Japan was the shogun, which lacked legitimacy. The immediate task should be to abolish all existing treaties and meet with the emperor and the vassals to work out a new one.

As the article mentioned that “the shogunate cannot represent the country”, the “emperor and the vassal” should be in charge of the state sovereignty. Once published, it immediately stirred up waves in the minds of Japanese scholars who were involved in the fall of the curtain, and for a time, it was widely copied, almost everyone had a copy, and even was called “the original text of Meiji restoration”. Out of admiration for “British policy”, satsuma believed that the British government supported the fall of the curtain movement, so he made every effort to realize the new British minister to Japan HarryParkes’ visit to kago.

In this visit, sa daoyi serves as interpreter and xi xiang long sheng of leader of sa mo zhi shi meets, two people talk very happy, form deep friendship. In response to the famous reformer and Meiji founder, sa daoyi commented: “he has huge eyes shining like black gems, but when he opens his mouth, the affinity is very strong.” In 1877, before xixiang longsheng launched the “southwest war” against the Meiji government, sa daoyi paid a special visit to him, and he became the last foreigner xixiang longsheng met before his death.

In December 1867, the edo shogunate announced the return of the great emperor, returning nominal power to the emperor, and retired as a great vassal. In February 1868, dissatisfied with the fact that the shogunate still controlled a large amount of factual power, the reformers encouraged the emperor to issue a decree to “restore the ancient ways of royal administration”, and established a new central ruling system by referring to shamodei’s “British policy theory”, and set off a civil war against the old shogunate forces.

Promoting peace: Britain mediates Japanese civil war

It must be said that Britain greatly influenced the outcome of the Japanese civil war (the hundred days’ war) in 1868.

One of the major points of the Meiji restoration history was the agitation of Japan by foreign powers. However, it is interesting to note that although sa deyi devotes a great deal of space to introduce the local conditions and customs of Japan, the impressions of major political figures, and even the details of the battles he has experienced, how Britain intervened in Japanese politics is always mentioned. His lack of detail on politics is understandable, given that he would become British minister to Japan, but it would be a pyronic loss if the reader lost the pleasure of learning about history.

< / p > < p > due to the samo, changzhou and other vassal troops composed of the reform army was recognized by the emperor, the war is very smooth, just three months, the new army from Kyoto all the way east, close to the shogunate headquarters — edo city, and the original shogun tokugawa kei xi after a series of failures, public statement to give up resistance.

Although the British always supported the two states of samo and nagasu, which were opposite to the shogunate, they did not want large-scale unrest in Japan, so as to prevent the “foreigners” from attacking the foreign residence (in fact, samodei recorded three attacks in 1868). As early as early as 1868, when the war broke out, the British minister basil announced that his government had set the national policy of “neutrality from outside”, and the British fleet could only be used to rescue British nationals. Later, he led sa daoyi and other British officials to Osaka, Kyoto area to inquire about the situation, to confirm that the “imperial government” will also guarantee the British interests in Japan.

Upon his return to yokohama in early April, the British legation received two emissaries from the newly reformed army. The reform army proposed that in the future they would attack edo directly and hoped that the British legation could help prepare for field medical treatment. Masahiro pashari suggested that, in the eyes of international law, the defenseless Mr Tokugawa should not be attacked. He even warned against napoleon’s failure to be executed. < / p > < p > the restoration of the army did not immediately answer, so the minister angrily left, suspend the meeting, and sent sa morality to edo monitoring the action of the restoration of the army.

In response to the pressure of the pasha ceremony, xixiang longsheng, the DE facto commander of the reform army, quickly made a 180-degree change, from “force against tokugawa” to “peaceful liberation of the city of edo”, supplemented by siege and dominated by negotiations. The reform army and the shogunate representative sheng haizhou finally reached the agreement of “no blood kaesong in edo”.

On April 28, saigo takamori made a special trip to the British legation a salute pacha demonstrate protocol, whereas pacha ceremony further warned “we are not in favor of the former great king (general) take the punishment is too harsh, especially physical punishment”, or “European public opinion will outcry, people impression of the new government may also be worsening”. Finally, on May 3, the restoration army moved into the city of edo, and Mr. Tokugawa was merely exiled.

Throughout the Japanese civil war, although the British minister insisted on the principle of “neutrality from the outside”, he made a timely and appropriate statement on key issues, which was enough to influence whether the reform army attacked edo or severely punished igawa. In a sense, it is impossible to know whether the city would have remained the same without the British intervention. And if the war of damage to the city of edo, the new Meiji Japan whether to edo (Tokyo) as the capital, today’s Tokyo can have the world’s most metropolitan power, it is difficult to speculate。

The reason to prevent the restoration of aspirant “corporal punishment” tokugawa, or due to the British deep into the bone aristocratic spirit. This noble spirit not only aroused the Japanese noble spirit which was also spread for thousands of years, but also helped Meiji restoration become one of the few “bloodless revolutions” in the world history. After the reform, ITO bowen, a former reform scholar, took Britain as a teacher and built the “Chinese” (noble) system throughout the history of the Meiji era. At the same time, he also imitated the establishment of the British constitutional monarchy with “virtual monarch” as the core, and the whole country entered the legal track.

In 1889, the constitution of imperial Japan was promulgated under the auspices of ITO hirofumi. In 1894, Japan and Britain revised the treaty of navigation and trade between Japan and Britain, the first east Asian country to end the unequal treaties. In 1902, Japan signed a treaty of alliance with Britain. In 1912, Japan ended its unequal treaties with the United States and emerged as the only east Asian nation to escape its colonial fate.

After the tour


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