FOREIGN INFLUENCES ON JAPAN UNDER THE TOKUGAWA SHOGUNS
This research paper summarizes and examines the sources of foreign influence on Japan during three periods of Tokugawa rule, 1603-1720, 1720-1830 and 1830-1868. All Japanese names have been Anglicized, thus shogun, not shogun. The thesis of this essay is that foreign influences survived in Japan, even during the period of eighty years following the adoption of the Exclusion Policy in 1639, and that thereafter, despite the continued strict but varying enforcement of the Exclusion Policy, those influences, primarily of Western origin, exerted a growing attraction in certain Japanese intellectual and ruling circles, and were an important factor leading to the eventual collapse of Tokugawa rule and the Meiji restoration of 1868.
Conditions Leading to the Policy of Exclusion
Throughout its history and until the first shipwrecked Portuguese sailors landed on its shores in 1543, Japan, as an island nation, had largely been insulated from disruptive foreign influences, except for a period during the 13th century when it was threatened with seaborne invasions from China and later reactions to the political activities in Japan of Buddhist monks. Japan had, nevertheless, been greatly influenced by Chinese culture, and indirectly and to a lesser extent, by Indian religion. Those enormous contributions were assimilated and adapted successfully by Japan to meet its unique conditions and needs. These foreign cultural infusions came in intermittent intervals or waves over eleven centuries, thus allowing time for them to be gradually absorbed into Japanese culture. In examining these East Asian influences on Japan in language, religion, customs, philosophy and ways of thought, anthropologist Kurt Singer commented:
It is not only as givers and receivers of elements of culture that civilizations act upon each other . . . [they] produce a process of polarization: forces of one so...