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Teacher guide The Opium War in Japanese eyes: an illustrated 1849 'story from overseas'

TLF ID M008943

This is a collection of online materials about how the First Opium War, fought between Britain and China in 1839-42, was presented to a Japanese audience by the samurai scholar Mineta Fūkō in two books dating from 1849. The books are 'Kaigai shinwa' ('New stories from overseas') and 'Kaigai shinwa shūi' ('Gleanings from the new stories from overseas'). The online materials consist of an illustrated essay by Professor John W Dower and an image gallery. The essay contains chapters entitled 'New stories from overseas', 'The eye of the beholder', 'Monsters, heroines and high officials' and 'Lessons from the war next door'. The image gallery contains all the illustrations from 'Kaigai shinwa' and 'Kaigai shinwa shūi'.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This is an important resource that depicts the First Opium War from the point of view of Japanese culture and society. Their perspectives are analysed in the essay and illustrated in the image gallery. It is a significant resource for history studies in years 11 and 12 and for the year 9 depth study, 'Asia and the world'. It is particularly relevant for studies of one key event in the history of Asian contact with European power/s. It may also be useful for the year 8 depth study of Shogunate Japan. 
  • The centrepiece of this resource is an illustrated essay. It contains 23 illustrations from Mineta's books, most of them double-spreads, and several links to Wikipedia, Google books and a companion resource, 'The First Opium War'. The essay explains what and how Japanese scholars and officials knew about Western powers during the final years of Japan's 'closed country' policy. It describes how Mineta's sympathies were with the Chinese people and compares his writings to the British accounts of the same events.
  • The image gallery provides Japanese woodblock representations of the war. They cover the battles, the overwhelming British military power, the actions of the black and white 'barbarians', the grassroots resistance, and some heroic Chinese wartime commanders and ineffectual court officials. Many of these illustrations have not been seen before in a digital form. The unknown Japanese artist who produced these woodblock pictures died in prison because of them.
Year level

9; 10; 11; 12

Learning area
  • History
  • Humanities and Social Sciences

Other details

  • Author
  • Person: John Dower
  • Description: Author
  • Contributor
  • Name: Education Services Australia
  • Organization: Education Services Australia
  • Description: Data manager
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Person: John Dower
  • Description: Author
  • Publisher
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Name: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Organization: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: Massachusetts, UNITED STATES
  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
Access profile
  • Generic
Learning Resource Type
  • Online
  • Image courtesy Massachusetts Institute of Technology © 2010 Visualizing Cultures. Creative Commons-Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0. Metadata © Education Services Australia Ltd 2011 (except where otherwise indicated). You may copy, communicate and adapt this metadata for non-commercial educational purposes provided you retain all acknowledgements associated with the material.