Japan Encounters the Barbarian

Japanese Travellers in America and Europe

W. G. Beasley

View Inside Price: $59.00


September 27, 1995
264 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
10 b/w illus.
ISBN: 9780300063240
Cloth

For over a hundred years the Japanese have looked to the West for ideas, institutions, and technology that would help them achieve the goal of "national wealth and strength." In this book a distinguished historian of Japan discusses Japan's "cultural borrowing" from America and Europe. W.G. Beasley focuses on the mid-nineteenth century, when Japan's rulers dispatched diplomatic missions to the West to discover what Japan needed to learn, sent students to learn it, and invited foreign experts to Japan to help put the knowledge to practical use.

Beasley examines the origins of the decision to initiate direct study of the West, at a time when western countries counted as "barbarian" by Confucian standards. Next, drawing on many colorful letters, diaries, memoirs, and reports, he describes the missions sent overseas in 1860 and 1862, in 1865-1867, and in the years after 1868, in particular the prestigious embassy led by Iwakura in 1871-1873. He also tells the story of the several hundred students who went abroad in this period. He concludes by assessing the impact of the encounters on the subsequent development of Japan, first by examining the later careers of the travelers and the influence they exercised (they included no fewer than six prime ministers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries), and then by considering the nature of the ideas they brought home.

W.G. Beasley is professor emeritus of the history of the Far East at the University of London and is a fellow of the British Academy and of the Japan Academy. His many books include The Rise of Modern Japan, Japanese Imperialism 1894-1945, and The Meiji Restoration.

"Professor Beasley's new book is a scholarly, interesting and well written survey of Japanese missions to America and Europe and of the Japanese who went to study in the West during the early Meiji period. . . . This is a book which all students of modern Japanese history should read and will enjoy."—Hugh Cortazzi, The Japan Society Proceedings

"Japan Encounters the Barbarian makes enjoyable reading, and is recommended for those with some background in Japanese studies. . . . For readers interested in Japanese contact with the West or in bakumatsu-Jeiji history, this is another text to add to the reading list."—Roy S. Hanashiro, Monumenta Nipponica

"The style and arguments are clear. . . . Worth reading, for in very different ways, they add much to our knowledge of how East Asia reacted to the impact of the West."—J.E. Hoare, Asian Affairs

"This is an erudite and enjoyable book about the Japanese who encountered 'the barbarian', i.e. the westerner, in the third quarter of the nineteenth century. . . . Free from Eurocentric, and even more from Anglocentric views of the nineteenth century, Beasley presents a well-balanced account of Japan's vision of the west and its reaction during the most crucial decades of the country's history. The book is enthralling."—Kazuhiko Kondo, Economic History Review

"To date, however, few studies have concentrated entirely on these Japanese, their experiences, and the direct and indirect results of their activities after their return to Japan. Now we have such a study, and we are doubly fortunate that it is from the pen of one of the acknowledged masters of Japanese history in the vital period of transition from the early modern world of the Tokugawa to the modernizing regime of the Meiji. . . .As usual, Beasley has produced a study that presents a good balance of detailed narrative and probing analysis, and he has done so magisterially and gracefully, in a fashion that further enhances our grasp of the early decades of Japan's modern history. The book will become a standard work on its topic and should be consulted by anyone who is interested in learning more about the complex process of Japan's transformation from Tokugawa to Meiji."—Charles Yates, The Historian

"A study that presents a good balance of detailed narrative and probing analysis, and he has done so magisterially and gracefully, in a fashion that further enhances our grasp of the early decades of Japan's modern history. The book will become a standard work on its topic and should be consulted by anyone who is interested in learning more about the complex process of Japan's transformation from Tokugawa to Meiji."—Charles Yates, The Historian