Discuss Japan’s Interest in China and the West in the Period of the Tokugawa Shogunate

The Tokugawa shogunate period is the time of tranquility and prosperity in Japan that has been celebrated as the time of the fullest expression of Japanese culture before the arrival of westerners. This period lasted from 1603 to 1867 when Japan experienced the greatest level of social mobility and economic development (read more about it at my blog). The then leaders were occupied with the development that could enable the nation to withstand the hostile environment. This insecurity created the need for the nation to be capable of competing with the stronger western nations. Therefore, it is crucial to discuss the interests of Japan in both China and the West.

The Tokugawa shogunate period is marked as the period when the nation gained the centralized leadership borrowed from Chinese culture. Prior to this period, the Tokugawa Shogunate was ruled by a ceremonial emperor who was both irrelevant and powerless since the military dominated the decision making process. With the demise of the emperor Hideyoshi and with no heir to ascend the throne, Tokugawa ceased power and used their predecessors model to control a quarter of the country while the rest retained its autonomy provided that they pledged loyalty to the Tokugawa house (History of Japan, Tokugawa Period, 1600-1867, n.d.). This marked a period when the country gained economic and diplomatic development through its interaction with the rest of the world.

Japans interests in China were both economic and diplomatic. China was the only country that had been approved to trade with Japan in Nagasaki while all the other countries such as Spain and Portugal were banned (History of Japan, Tokugawa Period, 1600-1867, n.d.). It also served as a great point of information as it helped Japan to understand what was happening in the outside world. For instance, thanks to China, Japan found out about the anxiety created by the western imperialism during the first opium war. China also acted as a military measure in which Japan sought to test the military capability of the western nations. In such a way, it was confirmed that the western military was much stronger, and this was the reason why Chinese defiance of cooperation with it was easily crushed.

The West was important to Japan because it offered an economic development to the region. It was through interaction with the West that the Japanese gained knowledge, and it was evident that most parts of Japan had presence of the students from the West (History of Japan, Tokugawa Period, 1600-1867, n.d.). The country was concerned with gaining enough knowledge of the Western language in order to benefit from the vast industrial expertise, political leadership, and capitalism.

In conclusion, Japans interest in both China and the West is evident. China offered both economic and diplomatic capabilities for Japan as both countries participated in trade in Nagasaki and China acted as a bench mark upon which Japan interacted with the West. Japans interest in West was created by the need to understand their political, industrial expertise, and capitalism. The knowledge gained from them helped Japan in its development, thus making it possible to compete with the rest of the world.

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