Japan in Isolation

Japan in Isolation

The problem question being dealt with
is "To what extent was Tokugawa Japan\'s policy of isolation a benefit or
drawback when examined in terms of social stability, treatment of foreign
influences, and standard of living?"

The benefits of isolation when looked at
by the subject of social stability are numerous. The social stability
of Japan during isolation was something to be looked at upon with great
respect. Isolation gave Japan stability and internal solidarity at
a time when these factors were urgently needed. Under the new system of

Tokugawa merchants were at the bottom however, encouraged by the availability
of money, they bought, sold, traded and developed a new system of credit
and became wealthy. Also during this time of isolation businesses created
new farms and mines that strengthened the growing national economy. Finally
enterprising farmers who produced a surplus could sell their excess for
coin, invest in more land, and grow cash crops like cotton and tobacco.

There were some drawbacks of the isolation
on the social stability of Japan. Ironically, as Japan became increasingly
sealed off, the rest of the world was being opened up to an unprecedented
interchange of goods and ideas on comprehensive scale. The rate of social
and technological change and development in the West grew dramatically
in the two centuries after 1640. In Japan, the rate of change the rate
of change was deliberately slowed down by the Tokugawa policy. When Japan
reopened its doors after 1853, there was much ground to make up, but the
skilled, hard working population was in a strong position to close the
gap rapidly.

The second criteria for the isolation
of Japan are the treatment of foreign influences. Japan was not open to
any foreign influences during their period isolation, except for the Netherlands.

Some benefits did arise from this, one of the most noted is the perfection
of the sword in Japan. The Japanese samurai voluntarily gave up the use
of firearms, even after Japanese craftsman had advanced the use of
matchlocks (a type of gun). They decided that it was dishonorable to use
firearms in combat. Traditional weapons regained their importance. Japan
made the best swords in the world. Tests done in the twentieth century
showed a Japanese blade cut a European sword and even cut through the barrel
of a machine gun.

The drawbacks of the isolation when concerning
foreign influences are also apparent as well. Christianity was a very disputed
topic among the Japanese before isolation took place. The Catholic missionaries
came to be regarded as agents of foreign powers. In 1613, leyasu decreed
that all missionaries had to leave Japan and that all Japanese Christians
had to join a Buddhist sect and prove they had genuinely switched faiths.

There were repeated deportations of missionaries from Japan and repeated
incidents of oppression of believers up to 1687. The Exclusion Acts of
the 1630\'s included the prohibition of overseas voyages and restrictions
on trade. Those living abroad were considered corrupted and not allowed
to return. Meanwhile, in 1637a bloody revolution of Christian peasants
in Nagasaki, which was brutally crushed, hastened the policy of isolation.

Finally another drawback of isolation and the treatment of foreign influences
was with no new ideas entering from foreign countries it set them apart
and Japan fell behind excessively in technological discoveries. Instead
of advancing they digressed.

The final criteria that will be looked
at is the standard of living in Japan during the period of isolation. There
were some great benefits that came along with this plan of isolation for
the standard of living, one of them is the fact that with the extra money
farmers were making off of other extra crops they could grow cash crops
such as tobacco and cotton. With this the farmer could now afford extras
like sake (rice wine), fashionable clothes and other previously unattainable
luxuries. There were also some Social-climbing merchants who had money
and paid to become adopted by a samurai family.

There were also some drawbacks to this
plan of isolation by Japan when regarding standards of living. For instance
it was the samurai who were most drastically affected by Tokugawa peace
and stability. The cherished principles of loyalty, simple living, and
honor had previously enriched their high social status, but these were
earned in a time of war. Peace undermined these virtues. With no major
wars to fight, the samurai became listless. Since their wages were fixed
at a time when prices were rising, their money bought less. Only the samurai
could carry two swords as a sign of distinction, but this did not always
compensate for financial distress. As the daimyo