What other factors, apart from Commander Perry arriving at Edo, precipitated the Meiji restoration?
Commodore Matthew C. Perry's arrived in Edo bay, on the 8th of July, 1853 with a letter from American president Millard Fillmore. Fillmore's letter phrased his country's aims in modest terms; his overarching hope was simple that:
and that it would be beneficial for both nations if Japan would:
Perry delivered Fillmore's letters and some of his own amidst much pomp and ceremony, assuring Shogunate officials that he would return the next spring with a much larger force if necessary to learn the shogun's response to President Fillmore's requests.
Perry's demands left the Shogunate with an insolvable dilemma. Militarily Japan was woefully inadequate to deal with conflict with the United States, but to abandon the seclusion policy would result in widespread criticism from the ruling classes inside Japan.
Perry returned to Edo bay on February 14th the following year and Shogunate officials, lacking a mandate from Daimyo for either war or peace, entered negotiations with the Americans. On March 31 the two nations signed a treaty that permitted American ships to call at Shimoda and Hakodate and that an American consul would take up residence at Shimoda.
The expected widespread criticism of the capitulation of Japanese isolation was forthcoming and added to a more general dissatisfaction with the Tokugawa shogunate.
From the early 19th century Japan had suffered a decline in the social and economic foundation that supported the Tokugawa regime. The Samurai class, and their Daimyo masters, were increasingly impoverished while the merchant class began to live:
Naiyu Gaikan - "Troubles from within and without"
The combination of the Shogunate's failure to deal with the changing domestic landscape and this new capitulation to the growing foreign threat, led to the creation of a groundswell of young samurai enacting violence against the despised foreigners and the shogunal officials who tolerated the barbarian's presence.
It took a further fourteen years of internal discord for this groundswell to grow into a national uprising, led by a new emperor and his modern army, capable of toppling the regime that had ruled Japan for nearly two and a half centuries.
Ironically the victorious imperial faction abandoned its early objective to expel foreigners and adopted a aggressive policy of modernisation with the oft-stated motive to become a great and respected country, equal to the most advanced nations on the globe.
Quotes and references from:
James L. McClain. Japan, a modern history W.W. Norton & Co, 2002