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Japanese Studies Primary Sources in Western Languages: 5. The Bakumatsu Period: 1853-1868

Journeys to Japan

Created by Professors Daniel Botsman and Rustin Gates (Bradley University), this bibliography contains dozens of Western accounts of travel to Japan, beginning in the 16th century. The sources are grouped chronologically, and are linked to their respective Orbis records.

Special Collections

Search Tips

The Bakumatsu period refers to the last decade and a half of Tokugawa rule, and is generally bookmarked by Commodore Perry's 1853 visit to Japan and the Meiji Restoration of 1868. There is consequently a vast explosion of English-language material on Japan as the official policy of isolation collapsed.

To search for works on the Bakumatsu period in English, use an Orbis keyword search with English set as a limit. (The 'Set Limits' tab is located to the lower right-hand side of the search box.) Try 'Japan history Tokugawa,' or 'Japan history' and relevant dates: 1853, for instance. Another good keyword search: 'Japan history restoration.' For more specific subject headings, see Reiko Yoshimura's website.


See Travel Accounts for suggestions and examples. Also refer to Professor Botsman's bibliography.

Sources in Translation


Databases and Reference Works

The Historiographical Institute at the University of Tokyo offers a wealth of online resources: most of their databases are in Japanese, but the On-line Glossary of Japanese Historical Terms (located under 'Tools') allows you to search for terms in English, French, German and Japanese (romaji, hiragana, and/or kanji). The database returns works (in all these languages) that contain the relevant term, and also serves as a useful tool for translation. To search using a non-Japanese term, enter the term (or terms) and click the 全文検索 button; to search using a romanized term, click the 語彙検索 button.

For help with Japanese dates, refer to Tsuchihashi's chronological tables.


John Dower's Japanese History and Culture from Ancient to Modern Times: Seven Basic Bibliographies contains a section devoted to the historiography of the Bakumatsu period, and some translated primary sources for the late Tokugawa and early Meiji periods.