Breaking Open Japan: Commodore Perry, Lord Abe, and American Imperialism in 1853

George Feifer, Author HarperCollins Publishers $25.95 (389p) ISBN 978-0-06-088432-1
This book, a detailed history of Japan from the American fleet's arrival in Uraga Bay in July 1853 to its departure in June 1854, demonstrates how Japan's powerlessness to oppose the imperialist intentions of Commodore Matthew Perry planted a seed of humiliation deep in the Japanese psyche that would have far-reaching consequences beyond opening up the isolated nation for the first time in centuries. Covering the events leading up to and following the visit, including the fall of the Shogunate and the Meiji Restoration, veteran author Feifer (The Battle of Okinawa) provides rich insight into dueling Eastern and Western mindsets. The Japanese considered outsiders culturally and morally inferior, like beasts that looked human, and the Shogunate was fearful of European imperialism after observing the partitioning of China in the Opium Wars. The Americans had a similar sense of self-regard, believing themselves ideologically and spiritually superior, and the spread of their power and ideas across the Pacific only right and good. Feifer follows the threads of his tale through to the present day, including the most notorious aftershock of Perry's mission, the attack on Pearl Harbor, masterminded by Admiral Yamamoto Isoruku, who said he joined Japan's navy because he ""wanted to repay Commodore Perry's visit."" The clash of cultures and its legacy are explored thoroughly in Feifer's spirited narrative, making this a must-read for anyone interested in the origin of Japanese-American relations.
Reviewed on: 10/01/2006
Release date: 10/01/2006
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 416 pages - 978-0-06-230931-0
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