Opening of Japan

Partitioning the North Pacific

the Arctic 1854.0331

Opening of Japan

Alaska Purchase, Rupert's Land Act, Amur, Opening of Japan (31 March 1854)

Historical Map of the Arctic & the Far North

Across the Pacific, Japan had kept itself closed off from the world since the 17th century, restricting its contact with the West to a Dutch trading post off Nagasaki. Determined to change this stance, the United States sent a naval expedition under Commodore Matthew Perry to negotiate a treaty in 1852. Unable to counter Perry's modern steam-powered warships, the Japanese backed down and ended their era of isolation.

Main Events

Queen Charlottes Gold Rush

A gold rush was set off in the southern Queen Charlotte Islands when a Haida man sold a 27-ounce nugget in Fort Victoria for 1,500 blankets. The Una, the only available Hudson's Bay Company ship, landed a mining expedition but ended up competing with the Haida to procure any gold and was then wrecked off Neah Bay on its return voyage. Later expeditions also came into conflict with the Haida - who burn one American ship and seize another - and the gold rush soon ended with a yield of only about 300 dollars.

Colony of the Queen Charlotte Islands

In response to the Queen Charlottes Gold Rush, the British founded the Colony of the Queen Charlotte Islands - unaware that the gold rush had already ended. The colony existed only on paper and its only officer was James Douglas, who was already Governor of Vancouver Island. In July 1863 the colony was amalgamated with British Columbia.

Perry Expedition

Commodore Matthew C. Perry of the United States Navy sailed into Uraga Harbor, Empire of Japan, with two steam frigates and two sloops-of-war on a diplomatic mission to open contact with the isolationist Japanese government. Threatening to use force if they refused, he pressured the Japanese to accept a letter from President Millard Fillmore requesting "friendship and commerce", promising to return later to receive the reply.

Anglo-French entry into Crimean War

In response to the Russian attack on the Ottoman port of Sinope and after the Russian Empire ignored an Anglo-French ultimatum, the French Empire formally declared war on Russia on 27 March 1854. The following day, the United Kingdom also declared war, bringing both nations into the Crimean War.

Convention of Kanagawa

After returning to Japan with ten ships and 1600 men in February 1854, Commodore Matthew C. Perry of the United States Navy successfully pressured the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan to sign a treaty with the United States. By the terms of this Japanese-US Treaty of Peace and Amity - also known as the Convention of Kanagawa - Japan agreed to open the ports of Shimoda and Hakodate to American trade, ending its 220-year-old policy of national seclusion (sakoku). The treaty also ensured the safety of American castaways and established the position of an American consul in Japan.

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