Robert Oxnam :: The
third dimension of the Tokugawa obsession with order, in addition to politics
and society, was in international relations. They sought a new approach by
closing Japanese borders to Western nations and by seeking a reordering of
relations with other East Asian countries.
Carol Gluck :: Isolation, closing off the country,
not closed off to Asia, but closed off to the West because the West was an
unsettling, disordering possibility, whether it was in the form of Christianity
or it was in the form of colonization.
Henry D. Smith, II :: The early Tokugawa shoguns
did not feel in any way that they were imposing particularly unique restrictions
or closing the country. Rather, they were trying to regulate trade to their
own advantage and to reorder international relations along the lines of the
international system that they'd always known, which was that of the "East
Asian Cultural Sphere," as it's called. That is, the notion that there is
a proper hierarchy among nations, traditionally with China at the pinnacle.
There were problems, of course, with putting China at the pinnacle of the
hierarchy in Japan. But still, the idea that proper, orderly, hierarchical
relations among nations was the way that the world was organized remained
basic to the Japanese perception of the world. So much of what they did in
so-called closing the country and excluding many foreigners was to
reorder their relations in terms of their neighbors, Korea and China.
Robert Oxnam :: So while we make note of this "self-imposed
isolation" in studying Tokugawa Japan, the point should not be overstated.
Isolation was not complete. Dutch traders were allowed to keep a small port
at Nagasaki, and Japanese trade continued with Chinese and Koreans. While
people-to-people contact remained limited, there was an active exchange in
material goods and in culture.
Henry D. Smith, II :: It's often forgotten that throughout
this period Japanese contact with China was very frequent in cultural terms.
Intellectually it was a period of the revival or really the institution of
Confucianism, or rather the form of Confucianism known as neo-Confucianism,
as an official reigning intellectual discourse in Japan.
It was also a period in which Chinese imports in the form of books, in the
form of paintings, exercised a very important influence within Japan.
Robert Oxnam :: Through cracks in the system
came a substantial amount of information about the Western world and about
Carol Gluck :: Even though Japan was the "closed-off
country" and cut off from the West for over two hundred years, in fact, knowledge
of the West, was, became an increasingly important product, if you like, of the
samurai class. By the time you get to the mid-nineteenth century and the beginnings
of modem Japan, these samurai knew all about parliaments, they knew all about philanthropic
institutions, they had been reading all these books, primarily Dutch books, translations,
things like that. They knew about the sun and the moon and the stars, and they
said, Japan lies under the same sun, moon, and stars as the Western countries.