For over a hundred years the Japanese have looked to the West for ideas, institutions and technology that would help them achive their goal of 'national wealth and strengh'.
In this book a distinguished historian of Japan discusses Japan's 'cultural borrowing' from America and Europe. W.G. Beasley focuses on the mid-nineteenth century, when Japan's rulers dispatched diplomatic missions to the West to discover what Japan needed to learn, send students abroad to assimilate information and invited foreign experts to Japan to help put the knowledge to practical use. Beasley examines the origins of the decision to initiate direct study of the West at a time when western countries counted as 'barbarian' by Confucian standards. Drawing on many colourful letters, diaries, memoirs and reports, he describes the missions sent overseas in 1860 and 1862, in 1865 - 1867 and in the years after 1868, in particular the prestigious embassy led by Iwakura in 1871-1873. The book also tells a story of the several hundred students who went overseas in this period. It concludes by assessing the impact of the encounters on the subsequent development of Japan, first by examining the later careers of the travelers and the influence they exercised (they included no fewer than six prime ministers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries), and then by considering the nature of the idea they brought home.
Published by Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 1995
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