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Permanent Friends: The Treaty of Kanagawa


Students will:

  • Learn about foreign relations between Japan and the United States in the 19th century.
  • Discuss the impact of the "Treaty of Kanagawa".
  • Begin to understand events leading up to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Resources / Materials

Fact Sheet

Classroom Activities

Japan - a country in isolation

1. Using the Teacher Information Sheet as a reference, begin a class discussion on the status of Japan during the early 19th century. Then ask your students how these two nations might establish a new relationship.

The Treaty of Kanagawa

1. Divide the class into small groups and ask students to read the Treaty of Kanagawa. As they read the Treaty, ask students to focus on Article I concentrating on the idea of "permanent friends." Students will gain a deeper understanding of the treaty using a worksheet.

2. In these groups, ask students to imagine that they were alive in 1854 and present at the signing of this Treaty. Discuss the mindset of the two nations as they signed the treaty. Why did they want this treaty signed? Space is available on the student worksheet for students to jot down their ideas. Encourage students to come up with at least 2 points for both nations.

Reasons for signing this treaty


Japan U.S.
  • Did not want conflict with the United States - knew their military strength was inferior
  • Wanted to settle the matter quickly
  • Needed a coaling station for U.S. ships while in East Asia.
  • Sought to open the doors of this isolated country for future trade.
  • Desired protection for shipwrecked sailors in Japan.


Follow-up / Extended Activity

4. Ask students to research the events leading towards the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, by following up on the events after the signing of the Treaty of Kanagawa.

Students should grasp the following points:

  • After the treaty was signed, Japan grows and expands trade with many nations.
  • Japanese victory in the Russo-Japanese War establishes them as a major force in world affairs.
  • U.S. expands its boundaries after Spanish-American War into the Pacific.
  • Japan feels presence of European colonial powers in Asia.

Japan then expands into Southeast Asia in the early 20th century

Museum Visit

Upon your visit to the Museum, be sure to see "Commodore Perry and the Opening of Japan" exhibition. You and your students will be able to see the Japanese and the United States reaction towards each other when they first meet during Perry's initial visit to Japan. Moreover, you will be able to see some of the Japanese items that were brought back to the United States from Perry's voyage.

Published: Wed Jan 11 13:56:45 EST 2023