The United States also strengthened the basis for extraterritorial rights in Japan. This was accomplished by Townsend Harris, a New York businessman and merchant who was appointed the first American consul at Shimoda, Japan, in 1855. Three years later, in July 1858, he concluded a treaty of amity and commerce that greatly extended the privileges secured by Commodore Matthew C. Perry in 1854. Perry's treaty, which opened Japan, contained no extraterritorial provisions, but Harris persuaded the Japanese to grant Americans jurisdiction in both civil and criminal matters.
Although critical of the inefficiency of Japanese judicial administration, the Western powers were negligent—as they had been in China and elsewhere—in improving the system of extraterritoriality. Gross interference occurred in the enforcement of Japanese laws, especially with regard to quarantine regulations, drawn up in 1873, and the control and regulation of the opium trade. The British minister, Sir Harry Parkes, adamantly insisted that British subjects could be tried and punished only for violation of British laws. He declared that the Japanese government could not enact laws applicable to British nationals. The United States and the Netherlands opposed this position, claiming that there was no danger in recognizing all Japanese laws as long as the power to try and punish foreigners remained in the consular courts. England subsequently modified its policy.
During the 1880s the Japanese government raised the matter of treaty revision. A concerted attempt was made to secure tariff autonomy and the repudiation of extraterritorial privileges. These efforts provoked vigorous opposition, especially from England. Despite this resistance, Japanese leaders took steps to obtain full judicial autonomy by completing the codification of their laws. At the same time, they pressed for an immediate end to consular jurisdiction over matters relating to police administration, partnerships between Japanese and foreigners, and customs affairs. In January 1882 a preparatory conference for treaty revision, attended by the ministers of twelve treaty powers, was convened at Tokyo. Japan proposed the abolition of extraterritorial jurisdiction in five years and the employment of foreign judges in Japanese courts during the transition period. In return, the Western powers were offered an extension of foreign rights to residence and land tenure within treaty ports and the opening of the country to all foreigners. By 1885 a general agreement was reached that the treaties should be revised. On 1 May 1886, the official conference of the treaty powers opened at Tokyo, and after many lengthy sessions a draft jurisdictional convention was approved.
Although the prospects for treaty revision looked bright, they were quashed by the strong popular opposition to Westernization and the proposals advanced by Japan's leaders. Agitation was especially directed against the system of mixed courts and the promise to submit the constitution of the courts and the codified laws to the Western powers for their approval. Unable to reach a general agreement, the Japanese attempted to abolish extraterritoriality and to obtain tariff autonomy by bilateral treaties. The United States was first approached, and in February 1889 the American minister, Richard D. Hubbard, concluded a treaty with Japan that included the abolition of consular courts in five years. His successor, John Franklin Swift, opposed the treaty's adoption, and Secretary of State James G. Blaine withheld it from the Senate. Meanwhile, Japan signed new treaties, practically the same as that with America, with Germany and Russia.
In 1890 the British agreed to treaty revision, on condition that Japanese jurisdiction over foreigners would be postponed for five years and that the newly codified Japanese laws would be in actual and satisfactory operation for one year before the expiration of that period. In July 1894 the compromise Anglo-Japanese Treaty of Commerce and Navigation was signed. The agreement specified that foreigners would be treated on an equal footing with Japanese in regard to travel, residence, and trade. Consular jurisdiction and foreign settlements were abolished. The implementation of the treaty was made contingent upon the satisfactory operation of Japan's newly codified laws, and provision was made for its termination at the end of twelve years.
The United States thus was not the first power to relinquish extraterritorial rights in Japan. Further delays were caused by Washington's objection to a clause in the Anglo-Japanese treaty that provided for the reciprocal rights of entrance, travel, residence, and property ownership. However, after Japan agreed to include a clause for mutual exemption of laws relating to laborers and labor immigration, a new treaty was signed in November 1894. Early in 1895 the American-Japanese treaty was ratified by both nations. Japan fulfilled all of the conditions that had been specified within the prescribed period of time, and in 1899 extraterritorial jurisdiction in the Japanese Empire was abolished.
The ending of extraterritoriality in Japan coincided with Japan's victory in the Sino-Japanese War (1894–1895) and its emergence as a major world power. However, the retreat of the Western powers in Japan did not immediately have an impact on other countries.