Japan Society of Fairfield County
Iwakura Delegation’s 140th Anniversary

Saturday, February 25, 2012, Westport Public Library, a lecture by Harry Sakamaki
      Do you remember a movie “Around the World in 80 Days” staring David Niven? The story was written by Jules Verne almost same time (1873) as Iwakura Mission and took almost the same route. The Mission took a little longer - 632 days in fact.
      The Iwakura mission was a turning point for Japan as it modernized from a feudal state to the constitutional monarchy of the Meiji Era. The literal meaning Meiji is “Enlightened Government”. In an earlier talk on the “77 Samurai Delegation”, Harry Sakamaki described the opening of Japan and the first two treaties. The second of these treaties was due to expire on July 4, 1872 and was the source of considerable unrest in Japan. The Tairo (Chief Shogunate Minister) Ii Naosuke signed the treaty without the assent of the emperor.  He was eventually assassinated by the anti-alien forces in the Sakuradamon incident. Although the treaty was an unequal treaty, it was more fairly balanced than the treaties earlier imposed upon China. A civil war broke out between the pro-imperial “Sonno” and anti-alien “Joi” groups.  Many foreign vessels traversing the Shimonoseki Strait were damaged by Choshu foces in 1863 during the “Battle of Shimonoseki”.  The 15th Tokugawa Shogun Yoshinobu surrendered his powers to the Emperor and Meiji Restoration started with the first constitution based on the American constitution. The capital Edo was renamed Tokyo. Mutsuhito became Emperor Meiji after Emperor Komei died in 1867. Daimyo (clan) domains were returned to the Emperor and turned into Prefectures. This meant transferring 2 million jobs/positions from the Daimyo to the centralized Meiji Government.
     At this point another American entered the picture. Guido H. Verbeck was a Dutch-American civil engineer who became a teacher and key foreign advisor to Meiji Government.  His alma mater, Rutgers University, became a mecca for Japanese students. There is a photo of Verbeck in the center of a big group of the main intellectuals who built the Meiji Government. He wrote a proposal called “Brief Sketch” which was a plan for modernizing Japan. Harry found a handwritten copy of the eleven page “Brief Sketch” in the achives of the Reformed Church in America of New Brunswick, NJ.

It suggested:
• “Visit and observe practical operations” rather than read books and papers,
• “Help to raise Japan to a perfect political equality with the States of the West”
• Publish the study report for the public to enlighten the people and educate

   The purpose of the Iwakura mission was to get Meiji Japan recognized as a modern and soverign nation and it was led by Prince Iwakura Tomomi.  Several children were taken along to be left to study abroad for 10 years before returning to Japan. One purpose was to cultivate girls in Western ways; they were to become models of  “ideal womanhood” and thus help to usher in a new and modernized Japanese nation. Of the 107 members of the mission, 43 were students who would be left in western countries  to study.
   A Japanese diary of the mission was written by Kume, an attache to Iwakura.  A 5 volume translation was written by Martin Collcutt, a Princeton history professor.
   The mission began in Yokohama when they boarded the America, a side wheel steam paddle frigate. During the 20 day passage, they conducted a mock western style trial of “Tommy”.  He was the heart throb of the 77 Samurai mission and was accused of toying with the affections of the female members of the mission. In a reception in San Francisco Ito made a famous speech in English which was accepted with an overwhelming round of applause and a standing ovation. This is believed to be the first time that the red circle of the Japanese flag was interpreted as a rising sun. While in San Francisco, the delegation sent a telegram to Secretary of State Hamilton Fish. They then proceeded across the continent by train.      Several hundred miles of the route of the east bound Amtrak California Zephyr follows the same track taken by the Iwakura mission up the Sierra Nevada in California and later into Chicago.
    In 1872 there were only 37 states. California, Oregon, Nevada were among them, but Utah, Colorado, Idaho, the Dakotas, and Wyoming were still territories. The mission had a private train with five sleeping cars. Because of a severe snow storm, they were obliged to detour from Union Pacific to Utah Central RR to go south through Salt Lake City on 2/9. This was New Year’s day according to the lunar calendar. They celebrated at their hotel inviting guests and enjoying Champaign. In Utah, they visited the Mormom Tabernacle, met with Brigham Young, and listened to a sermon. “The style of the ritual was simple & clear (compared to Buddhism)”. They enjoyed taking a hot spring bath in the mountains. They were delayed 14 days in Salt Lake City. When they arrived in Chicago, the smell of the Great Chicago Fire of October 1871 was still in the air. The Japanese delegation made a $5000 contribution to disaster relief. In Chicago they adopted western style clothing and haircuts, removing their samurai topknots (mage). They were impressed with the great number of telegraph lines within Chicago, the municpal water system, and the paved roads. They were impressed by the data presented on the effectiveness of paving and rails.

Burden of draught-animals moving 1 ton over various surface
• On ordinary dirt road: friction=1/8th of a ton=250 lb
• On firmly-paved road: friction=1/30th of a ton=66.5 lb
• On iron rails: friction=1/280th of a ton=7 pounds

    They arrived in Washington DC on February 29, 1872 and were welcomed by Mori Arinori, Japanese Charge d’Affairs in the US and General Myers of U.S. Army. They stayed in Arlington Hotel on Vermont Avenue and found a huge bouquet of flowers from First Lady Mrs. Grant (worth $300 then). The Iwakura Embassy then presented their credentials. Secretary of State Hamilton Fish escorted the delegation from Red Room to the East Room of the White House. Members of the Iwakura Embassy were in formal Japanese court dress with swords. They greeted each other with bowing, not handshaking.
    The Credential Letters from Meiji Emperor were the cause of arguments in later stages of negotiation. The letters appointed the ambassadors “Extraordinary & Plenipotentiary” to negotiate and sign a treaty but Secretary of State Fish rejected this.  A four month delay was incurred by sending representatives back to Japan for further authorization. While waiting for Okubo and Ito to return from Japan with new new credentials from the Emperor, part of the Mission traveled around Northeastern part of the United States. Iwakura and his team stayed in D.C. to continue renegotiation with Hamilton Fish. During the renegotiation process, there were number of warm receptions for the Embassy.
     Originally Japan sought to merely extend the unequal terms of the treaty but then decided to improve the terms from Japan’s perspective. Fish then made a counter offer and then a compromise offer but agreement could not be reached much to the consternation of President Grant. In 1872 Ulysses Grant was seeking his second term. One of the sticking points during the negotiations was the ban Japan had placed on Christianity.  This ban was lifted during the Iwakura Mission.
     They traveled to New York City and took the ferry from Jersey City to New York City. They noted that the deck of the ferry was aligned with the pier so wheeled vehicles could drive directly on to the ferry.  Plumes of smoke from the three cities mingled in the sky above the bay and the numerous ships formed a forest of masts and sails. In New York City they saw an elevated railway. They visited the Washington Market which was on the Lower West Side of Manhattan. It was a vital part of New York City and stretched from Fulton Market to the west side. It was largest fruit and produce exchange in the nation.
    On June 11, 1872 they traveled by steam boat up the Hudson River to visit West Point, the US Military Academy. They also visited Niagara Falls and Saratoga, New York, a major resort location at that time.
    On June 17 they went to Boston, visiting the Coliseum, site of the World’s Peach Jubilee and International Musical Festival to honor the ending of the Franco-Prussian War.  There was a truly massive musical performance for an audience of 50,000 with an Orchestra of 1000, 40 soloists, and a chorus of 10,000.

6/27 Returned to Washington D.C. to join Iwakura, Okubo and Ito team
7/24 After renegotiation failed, the Mission bid farewell to President Grant and Hamilton Fish
7/27 Philadelphia-stayed at Jay Cooke & Continental Hotel, U.S. Mint, Independence Hall
7/31 NY- Astor Library
8/2  Boston
8/6  Left Boston by English steamship “Olympus” for London

     The trip continued around the world with visits to Britian’s and Europe’s technological and cultural centers. Japan saw the best of western scholarship and governance and selected what they perceived as best.

A list of the number of reports prepared by the Iwakura Mission is given here:
• Transportation & Telecommunication: railroad 38, ship 28, canal 14, road 13
• Metal & Mining: iron & steel 37, gold & silver 20, mining16
• Textile: cotton 25, wool 19, silk 12
• Farming: food & wine 20, machinery 17
• Machinery & Electricity: machinery 18, physics & chemistry, telegram 9
• Chemical: chemical industry 13, ceramic 20
• Military: 40

     The third purpose of the Iwakura mission was to study advanced industries and it exceeded expectations.
     A report of the Iwakura Embassy from 1871-73 was prepared by Kume, an attaché to Iwakura.  He later became a professor at Tokyo University. It features both a diary and research papers for 12 countries visited.  The report was 3000 pages consisting of 100 chapters, including 20 chapters on America & Britain, 9 chapters on France, 3 chapters on Belgium/Holland/Switzerland, and 1 chapter on Denmark.
     It was published in 1883 and 3500 copies were printed and it became a best seller. Martin Collcutt, a Princeton professor of History, prepared a 5 volume English translation of the original Japanese report. Collcutt’s translation served as the major source for Harry’s researches.
     The girls that were left abroad to study returned to Japan after 10 years and their stories are amazing.
• Tsuda Umeko was seven years old when she started school in the US. She studied Biology and English at Bryn Mawr College in Philadelphia. After returning, she founded the Women‘s Institute for English Studies.

• Ngai Shigeko went to Vassar College in Poughkeepsie New York and married Admiral Uryu a baron.

• Yamakawa Sutematsu stayed with Leonard Bacon’s family in New Haven Connecticut.  She earned a BA in Vasser College (magna cum laude), attended the nurses training school in Connecticut. She established the first nurses training school in Japan and assisted Tsuda operating her college.

 • Iwakura Embassy 1871-73 A True Account of The Ambassador Extraordinary & Plenipotentiary’s Journey of Observation Through the United States of America and Europe 「特命全権大使 米欧回覧実記」
• 岩倉使節団「米欧回覧実記」 田中彰
• 「堂々たる日本人」泉三
• Dr. Russell L. Gasero, C.A., Archivist at Reformed Church in America,
• The Iwakura Mission in America and Europe by Ian Nish
• The History of Modern Japanese Education –Constructing the National School System 1872-1890 by Benjamin Duke
• Negotiating with Imperialism by Michael Auslin
• Japan’s Modern Century from Perry to 1970 by Hugh Borton
• The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant: February 1-December 31, 1872 By Ulysses Simpson Grant, John Y. Simon, Ulysses S. Grant Association
• New York Historical Society – Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Papers 187-72, New York Times 1871-82
• New York Public Library
• Wikipedia, etc.

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