Why Matthew Edwin

Matthew Edwin International, LLC.

The name I have chosen for this company comes from my full name, Matthew Edwin Carpenter. There is history and meaning packed in my two given names. 

My parents are Asia specialists. My father, Bruce Carpenter, is an expert on Chinese poetry and art history. My mother, Juliet Winters Carpenter, is an internationally recognized literary translator.

I was their first child.  My name is a nod to Matthew Perry and Edwin Reischauer, two men who made signal contributions to Japanese-American relations. Among other associations.

Matthew Perry the naval officer (not the actor) led a fleet to Edo (the old name for Tokyo) in 1853 and forced the Tokugawa government to abandon Japan’s centuries- old policy of isolationism. 

The arrival of Perry and his "black ships" was a wakeup call to people in Japan, especially the youth: if they did not get their act together they would be colonized by the West. China had just lost the Opium Wars and its people were being taken advantage of by colonial oppressors. The result in Japan was a revolutionary movement led by inspired youth, culminating in the Meiji Restoration of 1868 which toppled the Tokugawa government that had been in power for around 300 years.

Edwin Reischauer was a Japan born American like me, born to Presbyterian missionaries stationed in Tokyo in 1910. He led an exemplary career as an academic in Harvard. He originated East Asian Studies in the US and trained the first generation of Asia experts in this country. 

President John F. Kennedy chose him to be the ambassador to Japan, and he served in that capacity from 1961 to 1966. Harvard’s Japanese studies program is named after him.

In short, I’m named after two American giants who were key players in the history of US-Japan relations. That’s a lot to live up to, as I myself pursue a career in US-Japan and international relations.

This is why I have chosen these two names for my company. I have entered a new phase of my career and hope to make a contribution to communication between fundamentally different cultures separated by language, customs, history, even ways of thinking. 

Matthew Perry issued a necessary wakeup call to Japan at a critical juncture, forcing a long-isolated nation to enter the treacherous waters of international relations while surrounded by powerful colonial powers. He opened the gate between Japan and the world.

Reischauer cultivated much needed awareness and dialogue in the US regarding not just Japan but all of Asia. He facilitated better US-Japan relations. In fact, he gave his life for this work: a Japanese man attacked him in Japan, leading to the illness that eventually cost him his life. 

International relations is becoming more and more treacherous again, for Japan and the US, and for all the world. The threat is not only from North Korea; in a globalized world, regional instability has worldwide repercussions. What happens in Syria, Ukraine, Sudan, Latin America, and other areas impact Japan, the US, and the relations between them.

Leaders of Japan and the US know this. There is a reason why one of President Barack Obama’s last acts as sitting president was to visit Hiroshima, the site of the world's first nuclear holocaust. There is a reason why Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Pearl Harbor before Donald Trump’s inauguration. There is a reason why the Trump administration, despite its rhetoric on economic nationalism and isolationism, is maintaining strong ties with Japan. 

I am here to contribute what I can to the process. I will do my best to live up to the proud legacy of the giants Matthew Perry and Edwin Reischauer.