a living god, Emperor Meiji received Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, in Tokyo, “as his
equal in point of blood.”37
Before the Meiji Restoration, several missions were sent abroad by the Bakufu in
order to learn about Western civilization, revise treaties, and delay the opening of
cities and harbours to foreign trade. A Japanese Embassy to the United States was
sent in 1860. In 1862 and 1863, embassies were sent to Europe. Japan also sent a
delegation and participated in the 1867 World Fair in Paris.
The first Meiji delegation was the 1871-73 Iwakura Mission, whose role was to
renegotiate unfair European treaties and to get information on education,
mechanics, worldview, military, and social structures. Their itinerary included a
rail journey from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., then tours of Britain, France,
Belgium, the Netherlands, Russia, Germany, Prussia, Denmark, Sweden, Bavaria,
Austria, Italy, Switzerland, then on to Egypt, Aden, Ceylon, Singapore, Saigon,
Hong Kong, and finally Shanghai.
During a time of rebuilding after the Civil War, there was enormous social change
with the abolition of slavery and the influx of Eastern and Western immigrants. The
Iwakura Mission would have been shocked by the disorder and division of the
Arriving in San Francisco, the Japanese observed how mineral wealth could be
translated into a hastily built modern city. Traveling across the recently completed
Transcontinental Railroad, it was difficult not to notice the effects of infrastructure
on opened up territory confiscated from Native Indians who, for a time, lived in
concentration camps and then segregated to reservations.
Japan, whose economy was agrarian based, observed how Southern agrarian
industry was built off the back of black slavery. As they travelled from the Great
Lakes down the East Coast, they saw how the Civil War fueled northern industrial
expansion and how the financial infrastructure was built on trade with the West.
In Europe, the Japanese envoy observed the fractious and duplicitous nature of
diplomacy between the European nations. The appalling social problems associated
with industrial growth on cluttered populations would have concerned them greatly.
On the return voyage, the Japanese saw the effects of European Imperialism on
Africa, the Middle East, the Asian subcontinent, and the Far East.
After returning to Japan, the Iwakura Mission would have tried to explain what
they learned from Western civilization by promoting the positive aspects coupled
with warnings. With each positive, the threat to Japan would have been the fear of
falling behind and the fear of implementing industrialization to the detriment of its
The rapid industrialization and modernization of Japan both allowed and required
a massive increase in production and infrastructure. Japan built industries, such as
shipyards, iron smelters, and spinning mills, which were then sold to wellconnected entrepreneurs. Consequently, domestic companies became consumers of
Western technology and applied it to produce items that would be sold cheaply on
the international market. With this, industrial zones grew enormously and there was
Keene, op cit., p.183.