Before Commodore Perry there was Commodore Biddle

I wrote this one about seven years ago, and I really wish our textbooks about Japan-US relations would finally be updated.


If you have been around Japan any amount of time, or a just a Japan history aficionado back home, you have probably read about the Perry Expedition of 1853 to open the “closed country” of Japan to international relations with the Americans.

As the short story goes, President Fillmore, one of the Whig presidents, decided it would be a good idea to open trade with Japan, which at the time had limited contact with other countries under the policy of sakoku.

So the president sent Commodore (Admiral) Perry with four steam ships to Edo Bay to deliver a letter requesting diplomatic relations between the young United States and the Tokugawa Government.

The four ships, which came to be known as the Kuro Fune or Black Ships, were state-of-the-art military craft that made their way to Japan via the South African Cape and Indo-China seas to deliver the message. They…

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