Shoguns at the Sphinx, 1864
August 17, 2012 4:15 PM   Subscribe

Ten years after Commodore Matthew Perry first visited Japan with four war ships and a letter from President Fillmore, Japan sent out a third Embassy to Western Nations (following the first Japanese Embassy to the United States in 1860, and the first Japanese Embassy to Europe in 1862). The third tour had the same goal as the first two: learn about Western cultures, and try to postpone the opening of Japanese ports to foreign trade. During that third tour, the group were on their way to France when they stopped in Egypt. On this stop, the members of the mission were photographed posing before the Sphinx, dressed in winged kamishimo costume and jingasa hats, carrying their feared long (katana) and short (wakizashi) swords.

The photo of the shoguns with the Sphinx was taken by Antonio Beato, a commercial photographer who used the albumen print method. Antonio was the brother of the more famous photographer, Felice Beato.

And if you like the juxtaposition of interesting tourists in front of the Great Sphinx of Giza, check out Albert Spalding, the Chicago White Stockings and All-Americas exhibition team lounging over the Sphinx, captured in 1889 as part of a tour around the globe to promote baseball.
posted by filthy light thief (21 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
A pretty awesome account of that first mission - as well as the astonishing and rapid change of the Meiji Era generally - is contained in The Autobiography of Yukuichi Fukuzawa, a book I re-read every 2-3 years.
posted by absalom at 4:27 PM on August 17, 2012 [7 favorites]


I was for some reason imagining Chandler Bing singing with Lionel Ritchie.
posted by 4ster at 4:47 PM on August 17, 2012 [7 favorites]


Sondheim's Please Hello is a satiric song about the early diplomatic sorties to Japan after Perry's visit.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 4:54 PM on August 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Maybe its pleasures are difficult to pick up from the YouTube presentation. The lyrics are here.

The climactic highlight:

ALL THE ADMIRALS
Ah, détentes! Ah, détentes!
They're what everybody wants!
You should want a détente —
Makes a nation like a brother!
We'll be here every year
To protect you from each other

source: http://www.lyricsondemand.com/
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 4:59 PM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


BTW - I have listened to that song again and again. It is so freaking brilliant, like Gilbert and Sullivan on steroids.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 5:15 PM on August 17, 2012


From President Fillmore's letter:
The Constitution and laws of the United States forbid all interference with the religious or political concerns of other nations
What is this referring to, specifically?
posted by Flunkie at 5:18 PM on August 17, 2012


"The Constitution and laws of the United States forbid all interference with the religious or political concerns of other nations"

Bwaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahahahahahahahahahahahahahaaaaaaaaaaaahhaaaahaa...
posted by Xoebe at 5:35 PM on August 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


Why would arming themselves be strange at the time?
posted by parmanparman at 5:35 PM on August 17, 2012


A pretty awesome account of that first mission - as well as the astonishing and rapid change of the Meiji Era generally - is contained in The Autobiography of Yukuichi Fukuzawa, a book I re-read every 2-3 years.

Damn you, absalom, you bastard. I swore to cut down on dead tree stuff I buy, and here you come along and point to something irresistible. Duly ordered, I feel like a failure.

Japan is like some amazing laboratory experiment, designed to teach us about humanity, civilization, development and well, the outer limits. You can never study it enough, and it always remains fascinating.
posted by VikingSword at 5:45 PM on August 17, 2012


I had my samurai pose the exact same way last time I conquered the Pyramids in Civ IV.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 6:55 PM on August 17, 2012 [7 favorites]


Good on Nicholas Reeves for watermarking images not owned by them! So often in my professional life I've needed a daguerreotype of a Japanese gentleman in traditional dress.
posted by mattoxic at 6:56 PM on August 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


mattoxic, I agree it's a weird thing to do. That's why I first linked to the Wikicommons image, which is larger, and without the watermark.

My only thought is that his website is set up in such a way that all large images are watermarked, as he's a specialist in Egyptian history and material culture, and might have personal pictures on the site.

There are other versions of the picture floating around (like this one that is smaller, but shows more of the framing of the image, and you can see the one fellow higher up the Sphinx more clearly), but the Wikimedia Commons pic is the largest and (generally) most clear. And on this French page about the history of photography in Japan had a different cropping of the same image (scroll down to paragraph 21), and with the same location of the crease marks, but the image is more ghostly, the creases and signature standing out most strongly. Here is a Japanese page from the Yokohama Museum of Art with a different copy of image, without the crease marks but with other image marring.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:42 PM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


From President Fillmore's letter:
The Constitution and laws of the United States forbid all interference with the religious or political concerns of other nations

What is this referring to, specifically?


I think it's just nice words, considering the history of US interventions in other countries.

I like how Fillmore's only mention of the four war ships in the harbor were dropped in at the end:
These are the only objects for which I have sent Commodore Perry, with a powerful squadron, to pay a visit to your imperial majesty's renowned city of Yedo: friendship, commerce, a supply of coal and provisions, and protection for our shipwrecked people.
I also like how he makes "commerce" seem like such a minor thing, following more than 200 years of Japan's Sakoku ("Locked Country") status, under which no foreigner could enter nor could any Japanese leave the country on penalty of death. You know, could you start trading with us? Let's update those rule books of yours. What, these ships? To escort our shipwrecked people home safely. Totally.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:57 PM on August 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


It takes a particularly bold type of jerk to watermark public domain images well over a hundred years old.
posted by chimaera at 9:02 PM on August 17, 2012


They look primed to hack it to bits to fulfill the prophecy.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:53 PM on August 17, 2012


Filmore's letter: Join us or we'll join you.
Perry: Which one of you'se guys is in charge here?
Shogun: WTF?
Emperor: What ship?
Perry: Look, we can hit targets on land while we're moving.
Kansai Daimyo: Fuckabuncha gaijins. Let'em come.
Shogun: Hmm...nah, I got a better idea.
Kansai Daimyo: chik'shaaa....
Emperor: WTF?

Perry: What was the name of that other island?
First mate: Ree-koo...roo--koo... something or other...
Perry: (to Tokugawa) We'll be back in a few weeks to let you know what we decide to do.
Shogun: Don't let the door slam on your chimpo on the way out. (to chamberlain) Go find that Dutch guy and get him over here. Now.
posted by mule98J at 10:09 PM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Constitution and laws of the United States forbid all interference with the religious or political concerns of other nations

What is this referring to, specifically?


Weren't the Portuguese kicked out of Japan earlier for trying to gain a political and commercial foothold by spreading Christianity?
posted by Dr Dracator at 12:33 AM on August 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


They kicked out anyone who was not willing to step on a picture of the Virgin Mary. Only the Dutch Protestant traders would and a trade monopoly was born.
posted by absalom at 5:23 AM on August 18, 2012


Well, to the Dutch trading is a religion.
posted by Pendragon at 7:14 AM on August 18, 2012


chimaera: "It takes a particularly bold type of jerk to watermark public domain images well over a hundred years old."
Seeing as they're in the public domain, he has every right to do so.
posted by brokkr at 11:12 AM on August 18, 2012


brokkr and chimaera are both right.
posted by merelyglib at 1:06 PM on August 18, 2012


« Older Man Gobbles at Turkeys, Turkeys Gobble Back. A he...  |  How to pick a successful picku... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments