Japan Encounters the Barbarian: Japanese Travellers in America and Europe

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Japan Encounters the Barbarian: Japanese Travellers in America and Europe
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.

Publication Date: 
September 27, 1995