In the five decades after the Meiji Restoration of , the country navigated smoothly through early modernization, overcoming the might of Russia in a —5 conflict, and allying itself with the winning side in World War I. In the second stage, however, rampant overconfidence and a shift to militarism carried the country to painful defeat and the brink of annihilation in It was only after the humiliation of several years of Allied occupation and the threat of losing sovereignty altogether that Japan regained independence and entered a third stage of miraculous industrial growth, which swelled its economy to the second largest in the world. Despite long-term stagnation, Japan still has the third biggest GDP in the world and its people enjoy comfortable, peaceful lives.

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The historian Kume Kunitake as private secretary to Iwakura Tomomi, was the official diarist of the journey. In addition to the mission staff, about 53 students and attendants also joined the outward voyage from Yokohama. In he was introduced to Theodore Roosevelt. Later he became a journalist , thinker and translator and introduced French thinkers like Jean-Jacques Rousseau to Japan.

Members of the Iwakura Mission were keenly interested in observing schools and learning more about educational policy. Unsuccessful in their attempts to renegotiate the existing unequal treaties the party eventually set sail for the United Kingdom in August Traveling to London via Manchester the party spent much of late August and early September in and around the capital inspecting political, academic and military institutions, visiting the British Museum , travelling on the newly constructed London Underground and attending musical concerts at the Royal Albert Hall.

After visits to the Royal dockyards at Portsmouth and a day visit to Brighton , the mission split into smaller groups to visit, among other places, Blair Atholl in the Highlands of Scotland , Edinburgh , the Yorkshire Dales and the industrial centers of Manchester , Glasgow , Edinburgh , Newcastle upon Tyne and Bradford. Iwakura Tomomi led the Manchester-Liverpool delegation. A visit that culminated on 7 October in a civic reception and banquet where toasts highlighted the leading role of the region in world manufacturing, technology and municipal administration.

In Glasgow, as guests of Lord Blantyre , the delegation stayed at Erskine House and given tours of shipbuilding and steel fabrication facilities on banks of the River Clyde. It had been ten years since the Bakufu mission had visited the town, but as a direct result of the visit significant new export orders were obtained for ships and armaments from Tyneside factories.

They also visited the Gosforth Colliery , descending into the mine itself. Accompanied by the British Envoy to Japan, Sir Harry Smith Parkes , the group toured not only manufacturing facilities but also village accommodation, schools, almshouses, hospitals and parks provided by Sir Titus Salt and Sir John Crossley for their workers. The delegation was presented at an official audience with Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle on 5 December Another audience with the Prince of Wales took place at Sandringham on 9 December.

The party finally left for France on 16 December. On the return journey, Egypt, Aden , Ceylon , Singapore , Saigon , Hong Kong , and Shanghai were also stopping points en route, although visits in these locations were much shorter. The mission eventually reached Yokohama on 13 September , almost two years after first setting out.

Purpose and results[ edit ] Of the initial goals of the mission the aim of revision of the unequal treaties was not achieved, prolonging the mission by almost four months, but also impressing the importance of the second goal on its members. The attempts to negotiate new treaties under better conditions with the foreign governments led to criticism of the mission that members were attempting to go beyond the mandate set by the Japanese government.

Members of the mission were nonetheless favorably impressed by industrial modernization seen in America and Europe and the experience of the tour provided them a strong impetus to lead similar modernization initiatives on their return. Led by the Centre for Japanese Studies at the University of Manchester in collaboration with the Osaka Chamber of Commerce, a delegation of over 70 leading industrialists visited the Manchester Region. A Civic Plaque commemorating the anniversary of the Iwakura Mission to Manchester was also inaugurated at the site of the original Manchester Town Hall.


Iwakura Tomomi

With him came four vice chancellors, an official diarist, fourty-eight administrators and scholars and 60 students, some of whom were left behind in several countries for education purposes. The aim of the mission was twofold, firstly to renegotiate unequal treaties that had been forced upon Japan by the USA and Europe, secondly to collect information to assist in the modernization of Japan. After visiting the USA the mission arrived in the UK and arrived in London where they split into smaller groups to visit the cities of Liverpool, Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh and finally Newcastle before reconvening in London. On October 21 the party arrived in Newcastle and stayed in The Royal Station Hotel which still operates in the city today. Joined at the works by Captain Noble and Mr Rendell. Shown through the erecting and fitting departments, the bridge shop and the turning and boring shops.



This special diplomatic mission, also known as the Iwakura Mission, was a highly political venture and included almost half the Japanese Government among its members. The Japanese delegation was interested in Western industry, in the institutions of public life and educational establishments. The aim of this expedition was to modernize the Japanese economy and culture along Western lines and thus help it to catch up with the countries it was visiting. After the Iwakura Mission of the Japanese government did indeed succeed in forging links with the Western powers. A detailed record was kept of the journey and notes were taken on the art, culture, politics, society and history of the countries visited.

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