Matthew Perry and the Black Ships

Contributor: Brian Anthony. Lesson ID: 12278

Today products made in Japan are considered among the highest quality available. It's hard to believe that Japan was once closed to other nations. Learn the controversial way this change came to pass!



learning style
personality style
Otter, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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You wake up one morning to this sight shown above outside your window. What would be your first three questions?

For many centuries, Japan was closed to trading goods and culture with others.

The Shogun, or the military rulers of Japan, wanted to protect the country — and their power — from the influence of the European countries who were colonizing many of the regions of the world.

These rules, in place in Japan for centuries, abruptly changed after July 8, 1853. That was the day Commodore Matthew Perry appeared in Tokyo Bay with four warships to persuade Japan to open itself to trade with other nations.

Today, Japan is one of the top economies in the world; they produce more wealth than almost any other country except the United States and China. This period of success in Japanese history started with the visit of Matthew Perry. 

Choose a resource below, then look for the answers to the following questions:

  • What were three or four of the important events in the life of Matthew Perry?
  • Who was in charge of Japan at the time?
  • Why do you think they decided to finally open their country to the outside world?

Now, explore one or more of these resources and collect the information needed to answer the questions above:

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Share your answers with someone, then discuss this question together:

  • Do you think that it was fair for Matthew Perry to open up Japan to the outside world in this way? Why or why not?

The arrival of Matthew Perry and the Black Ships was a turning point in the history of Japan and the world. Just like any major historical events, people see his arrival in different ways — some good and some not so good.

In the Got It? section, explore how some Japanese saw the visit of Matthew Perry through the art they created to depict this event!

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