Beginning in the early 19th century, American merchants in China became interested in extending their activities to Japan. At this time, however, the shoguns that ruled Japan had implemented a policy of closed borders that made it very difficult for U.S. citizens and the Japanese to interact. There were, however, isolated cases of interaction. By the 1850s, a combination of growing U.S. interests in expanding a regional presence and internal shifts in Japan brought about a dramatic opening in U.S.-Japanese relations.
Modern Flag of Japan
The United States and Japan granted each other formal recognition on March 31, 1854 when Special Ambassador of the United States to Japan Matthew C. Perry and Japanese representatives signed a Treaty of Peace and Amity at Kanagawa, Japan. On July 8, 1853, Commodore Perry had sailed into the harbor of Japan’s capital of Edo (now Tokyo) and delivered a letter from President Millard Fillmore to the Emperor of Japan announcing that the United States sought to open relations with Japan and that Perry would return later to do so. However, this letter did not carry the force of formal recognition, which had to wait until the treaty of 1854.
The United States established consular relations with Japan when Townsend Harris accepted an appointment as Consul to Shimoda on August 4, 1855. The Consulate was established in Shimoda soon thereafter.
The United States established additional Consulates in Japan:
These dates reflect the earliest date at which a consul or consul general (as opposed to a vice consul, consular agent, or commercial agent) was either appointed to or arrived at each post.
Full diplomatic relations were established on July 29, 1858 with the signing of a Treaty of Amity and Commerce by U.S. Consul General Townsend Harris and Japanese representatives at the Japanese capital of Edo (Tokyo) .
The United States established its first legation in Japan when Minister Resident Townsend Harris presented his credentials to the Government of Japan on November 5, 1859.
The United States diplomatic presence in Tokyo was elevated to the status of an Embassy on May 26, 1906, when Ambassador Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary Luke E. Wright presented his credentials to the Japanese Government.
Diplomatic relations between Japan and the United States were severed on December 8, 1941, when both nations declared war on each other in the wake of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. Ambassador Joseph Grew and other diplomatic staff remained in Japan for several months, including a period of internment, before departing the country on June 25, 1942.
Normal diplomatic relations were reestablished between the United States and Japan on April 28, 1952, when the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP), which had overseen the postwar Allied occupation of Japan since 1945, disbanded. On the same day, the United States deposited its ratification of the multilateral Japanese Peace Treaty, Japan’s Chargé d’Affaires Ryuji Takeuchi presented his credentials to Secretary of State Dean Acheson, and the United States and Japan exchanged their ratifications of the United States-Japan Security Treaty. The U.S. Embassy in Tokyo reopened on May 9, 1952, when Ambassador Robert D. Murphy presented his credentials to the Government of Japan.