Commodore Perry in the Land of the Shogun

Commodore Perry in the Land of the Shogun

by Rhoda Blumberg


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In 1853, few Japanese people
knew that a country
called America even existed.

For centuries, Japan had isolated itself from the outside world by refusing to trade with other countries and even refusing to help shipwrecked sailors, foreign or Japanese. The country's people still lived under a feudal system like that of Europe in the Middle Ages. But everything began to change when American Commodore Perry and his troops sailed to the Land of the Rising Sun, bringing with them new science and technology, and a new way of life.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060086251
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 01/21/2003
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 144
Sales rank: 336,761
Product dimensions: 8.50(w) x 11.00(h) x 0.28(d)
Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

About the Author

Rhoda Blumberg has written about the opening of Japan (1853-1854) in Commodore Perry in the Land of the Shogun, a Newbery Honor Book, which also won the Boston Globe/Horn Book Award and the Golden Kite Award. Her acclaimed histories also include The Incredible Journey of Lewis & Clark, The Great American Gold Rush, and The Remarkable Voyages of Captain Cook, all ALA Notable Books. She is the winner of the Washington Post/Children's Book Guild Award for her overall contribution to nonfiction.

Rhoda Blumberg says that while doing research for Commodore Perry, "I read about the ordeals and strange adventures of Manjiro, then spent years replaying his life story in my mind until I felt impelled to write about him."

The author and her husband, Gerald, live in Yorktown Heights, New York.

Read an Excerpt

Commodore Perry in the Land of the Shogun AER
Chapter OneAliens Arrive

If monsters had descended upon Japan the effect could not have been more terrifying.

People in the fishing village of Shimoda were the first to spot four huge hulks, two streaming smoke, on the ocean's surface approaching the shore. "Giant dragons puffing smoke," cried some. "Alien ships of fire," cried others. According to a folktale, smoke above water was made by the breath of clams. Only a child would believe that. Perhaps enemies knew how to push erupting volcanoes toward the Japanese homeland. Surely something horrible was happening on this day, Friday, July 8, 1853.

Fishermen pulled in their nets, grabbed their oars, and rowed to shore frantically. They had been close up and knew that these floating mysteries were foreign ships. Black ships that belched black clouds! They had never seen anything like it. They didn't even know that steamboats existed, and they were appalled by the number and size of the guns.

Barbarians from out of the blue! Will they invade, kidnap, kill, then destroy everything? What will become of the sacred Land of the Rising Sun?

General alarms were sounded. Temple bells rang, and messengers raced throughout Japan to warn everyone that enemy aliens were approaching by ship. Rumors spread that "one hundred thousand devils with white faces" were about to overrun the country. People panicked. They carried their valuables and furniture in all directions in order to hide them from invading barbarians. Women and children were locked up in their homes or sent to friends and relatives who lived inland, far from the endangeredshore.

Messengers rushed to the capital of Edo (now Tokyo) to alert government officials. Edo, the world's largest city with more than one million occupants, went into a state of chaos the very day the ships were sighted. Women raced about in the streets with children in their arms. Men carried their mothers on their backs, not knowing which way to turn.

Who could control the turmoil? The Emperor Komei was isolated in his royal palace at Kyoto. Although he was worshiped as a divine descendent of the sun goddess, Amaterasu, he was a powerless puppet, responsible primarily for conducting religious ceremonies. During his leisure hours he was expected to study the classics and compose poetry. The Japanese referred to their emperor as "he who lives above the clouds." By law, he was not permitted to leave his heavenly palace unless he received special permission from the government. An emperor's sphere of influence was otherworldly. All down-to-earth decisions were made by shoguns who had been wielding power for more than 700 years.

The word shogun means "barbarian expelling generalissimo." How appropriate at this time! Surely the Shogun would take command!

But Shogun Ieyoshi who occupied the palace at Edo in 1853 was a weakling. No one even bothered to tell him the frightening news. Three days after the ships arrived he overheard chatter about them while enjoying a Noh play that was being performed for him in his palace. The news affected him so badly that he went to bed, sick at heart.

Because the Shogun was inept, his councillors, called the Bakufu, ruled the country. But according to a Japanese reporter, "They were too alarmed to open their mouths." The Bakufu should not have been so surprised. Before reaching Japan the American fleet had stopped at Loo Choo (now Okinawa). Japanese spies stationed there had sent word that American ships were on their way to Japan. Dutch traders had also alerted the Bakufu. But for mystifying reasons, the government did not take these reports seriously until the Black Ships arrived on July 8. After recovering from shock they ordered the great clans to prepare to battle barbarians.

Locked away from the rest of the world, using the Pacific Ocean as its moat, Japan had maintained a feudal society similar to that of Europe during the Middle Ages. There were lords (daimyos), knights (samurai), and vassals who labored in their lord's domain and paid tithes to their masters.

The country had not been at war since it invaded Korea in 1597. That was 256 years earlier. Nevertheless, feudal lords were able to mobilize troops. Men who had never dressed for warfare worked to get rust off spears. They placed new feathers in their families' antique arrows. Tailors were pressed into service so they could fix the silk cords on ancient armor, make warriors' cloaks, and sew cotton skull-caps that would cushion the weight of heavy helmets. Seventeen thousand soldiers were readied for battle.

When the ships moved toward land that first day, Japanese guard boats set out to surround the enemy. But they could not catch up with aliens whose ships were so magical that they steamed ahead against the wind without using sails or oars.

At five o'clock in the afternoon the foreign ships anchored a mile and a half from shore, at Edo Bay. They were less than thirty-five miles from the capital city. Beautiful cliffs, rolling green hills, and, above all, snow-capped Mount Fuji mad a breathtaking scene. After dusk, beacon fires dotted the land, and there was an incessant toll of temple gongs.

That night a meteor with a fiery tail streaked through the sky like a rocket. An omen from the gods! Shrines and temples were jammed. Priests told worshipers that barbarians were about to punish them for their sins.

Commodore Perry in the Land of the Shogun AER
. Copyright © by Rhoda Blumberg. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Table of Contents

Part IThe Coming of the Barbarians11
1Aliens Arrive13
2The Black Ships of the Evil Men17
3His High and Mighty Mysteriousness23
4Landing on Sacred Soil30
The Audience Hall
5The Dutch Island Prison37
6Foreigners Forbidden41
7The Great Peace44
The Emperor
The Shogun
The Lords
Artisans and Merchants
8Clouds over the Land of the Rising Sun54
The Japanese-American
Part IIThe Return of the Barbarians61
9The Black Ships Return63
10The Treaty House69
11An Array of Gifts78
Gifts for the Japanese
Gifts for the Americans
12The Grand Banquet87
13The Treaty92
A Japanese Feast
14Excursions on Land and Sea97
A Birthday Cruise
15Shore Leave100
16In the Wake of the Black Ships107
The First American Consul
The Fall of the Shogun
ALetter of the President of the United States to the Emperor of Japan123
BTranslation of Answer to the President's Letter, Signed by Yenosuke125
CSome of the American Presents for the Japanese127
DSome of the Japanese Presents for the Americans129
EText of the Treaty of Kanagawa131
About the Illustrations138

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Commodore Perry in the Land of the Shogun 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you are looking for in-depth info, this isn't the book to get. However, as a readable primer on the subject, this book does well.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Newbery, Travel to Japan! This book is about Commodore Perry's voyage to Japan. He attempts to open American to Japan trade. He experiences extreme cultural differences in Japan that he had to triumph over. Rhoda Blumberg was born on December 14, 1917 in New York City. She is a graduate of Adelphi College and lives in Yorktown Heights, New York with her husband Gerald. Bibliography Blumberg, Rhoda. Commodore Perry in the Land of the Shogun. New York: Lothrop, Lee, and Shepard Books, 1985.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book covers a lot of details about Commodore Perry's journey from America to Japan. It doesn't just state everything, but it expresses emotion, and feelings in words that spark like diamonds! Truly enjoyable, and worth reading for all ages who want to learn about something new! It also has beautiful artwork with trivial details in each, and you can experience that is said in the book by the book drawing you in. A lot of information, and it's very funny how they give both sides a look into each other. Japan's view, and the United States's view, both of them discussing, 'What is that?' and 'How does this work?' Both countries how signs of curiousity, and happiness with each other. It's truly a brilliant book for anyone that is studying in this field or just for knowledge.