What would have happened if Japan never opened trade to foreign countries?This one bugs me and it's been on my brain for awhile. Way back when Japan was in its Mild Isolation period, they would...

What would have happened if Japan never opened trade to foreign countries?

This one bugs me and it's been on my brain for awhile. Way back when Japan was in its Mild Isolation period, they would only trade with neighboring countries and a few European nations (the Dutch mostley), but that fell when Commador Matthew Perry came ashore in Tokyo Bay demanding Japan open up trade. So what would have happened if that didn't happen?!

2 Answers | Add Yours

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

It would not have mattered if Perry had not “opened” Japan.  There was no way that a populous country like Japan in an accessible part of the world was going to remain isolated.  Had it not been for Perry, someone else would have forced Japan to start trading at some point.

If we hypothesize a world where Japan could somehow have stayed “closed” in the sakoku era forever, the history of that world would be much different from ours.  That Japan would not have become a major power and would not have defeated Russia in 1905.  Since that would not have happened, it would not have inspired Asians to question European supremacy.  WWII in the Pacific clearly would not have happened as it did.  China might have stayed subjugated to the Europeans and Americans and the West might still be absolutely dominant.

ajjohns's profile pic

ajjohns | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted on

The best any of us could is speculate, but we can examine some aspects of this situation.  First the Japanese were not opposed to trade.  They traded with the Dutch.  There was a cultural exchange resulting from this as is reflected in the Japanese language integration of Dutch words.  Secondly Japan, as a result of Perry forcing Japan to open its ports, abandoned many traditional aspects of its culture which resulted in attempts to Westernize Japan.  This affected everything from fashion to education to architecture and military practices.  Also Japan learned about the concept of "Imperialism."  This  idea would later impact the course of Japan and resulted in many of the Japanese actions in WWII.  As another contributor has mentioned, if Perry had not forced Japan to open its ports, someone else likely would.  Japan was perhaps more important to America, because it presented a station between America and China.

We’ve answered 318,963 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question