Just a Thought

Dear readers,


This is your former IMS intern, Reina.


It’s becoming that time of the semester where all the due dates for assignments and exams are crashing in like an avalanche.  Out of the five papers due in this and next week, I’ve just finished two of the easier ones and feeling a false sense of accomplishment as three more 10 pg papers await.  


One of the papers from this week was for my Japanese history class, and I decided to write about Sakoku (鎖国), and how that sakoku mentality still applies to modern Japan.  Sakoku is a period and policy that was implemented in Japan during the Edo era under Iemitsu Tokugawa between 1638 and 1854. It was to ban all trade and contact with other countries aside from Korea, China and the Dutch.  This policy was the result of the rapid spread of Catholicism throughout Japan, which was introduced by the Portuguese. The Tokugawa feared an uprising from the newly converted Catholic Japanese citizens, and banned Christianity as well as an exile of all missionary workers from Europe.  However, in resistance to heavy taxes and crack down on Christianity, there was a notable uprising in 1637 at Shimabara/Amakusa of Kyushu where there was a relatively high population of Christians. A year after this incident, Sakoku came into effect. The Dutch was the only Western country allowed to trade because unlike the Spanish and Portuguese who were Catholic, the Dutch were protestant and did not take much interest in spreading Christianity.  


The end of this almost 220 year policy came as Commodore Matthew Perry from the United States landed in Uraga of Kanagawa prefecture in 1853 and 1854 with his intimidating large black steam-engined ships, demanding the opening of trade.  Under the threat of force, Japan signed an unfair treating that allowed trade with the United States and later the rest of Western powers.


With this background, I believe there is still tendency of this sakoku mentality where Japan enjoys its homogenous and strictly Japanese society, rarely accepting foreign influences and people.  This even shows in many of the highly protective Japanese policies such as economic policies and immigration policies.


It is interesting to think about how Japan is well situated in the world stage as an advanced economy and exerts interest in leading world markets yet there seems to be mixed feelings about globalization.  Just a thought.


Yours truly,

Reina T.