The exhibition will feature more than hundred photographs of the “last samurai” who spread knowledge of foreign countries and made an effort for the modernization of Japan.
In 1853, a fleet of seven US naval vessels, led by Commodore Matthew Perry, demanded the opening of a port in Japan which was then, a closed country. In 1854, the opening of a port was decided, and a Treaty of Peace and Amity between the United States and Japan was established. In January 1860, Tokugawa Shogun’s special envoy, Masaoki Shinmi and 77 others were dispatched as a Japanese mission to the United States to ratify the new treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation. The special envoy made the voyage on American vessels and arrived at Washington D.C. They carried out an important role doing such things as exchanging the documents of ratification and received warm welcome. They learned about the development of the global community by this visit, and acquired wisdom of foreign civilization through this experience. It served as a strong influence leading the way to the Meiji Restoration.
Tokugawa Shogun’s government dispatched the first Japanese mission to Europe in 1862, to learn Western arts and sciences, and technology. In the same year, a large number of students were also dispatched to the Netherlands. In 1863, the second Japanese mission to Europe was dispatched by the government of the Tokugawa Shogun. They learned navy-affiliated techniques, social sciences, and medical technology before returning to Japan.
While staying in the United States, France, and the Netherlands, they became interested in photograph, which had not spread very much in Japan at that time. They also brought back to Japan, French and European newspapers with portrait photographs taken by the French photographer, Nadar, American and European photographers, and also photographs of the actual people in the United States, who welcomed the Japanese mission. The photographs taken in France are not only artistic but were also taken for the anthropological purpose of investigating the face and frame of oriental people.