Official Letter of Rapprochement Written by the United States of America


On July 8, 1853, at a time when Japan still maintained its Sakoku (closed country) policy, the East India Squadron of the United States Navy, commanded by Commodore Matthew C. Perry (1794–1858), dropped anchor in the Uraga Strait. Perry conveyed to the Japanese authorities an official letter from U.S. president Millard Fillmore proposing friendship and the establishment of commercial relations between Japan and the United States. Senior Councilor Abe Masahiro (1819−57) decided to accept the letter and promised to give an answer within a year. This was an extraordinary reaction in the context of the Bakufu (shogunate) policy of the time. Abe had Japanese translations made of the official letter and other related letters, showed them to various daimyōs (territorial nobles who ruled over vast private land holdings and large numbers of vassals), and sought their opinions. This collection contains five letters written in classical Chinese, including the official letter from Fillmore and a letter from Perry and their Japanese translations.

Last updated: April 23, 2015