United States Mint

On July 29, 1872, the delegation visited the United States Mint, a building filled with coin-making. At the time, dimes and quarters were roughly 90% real silver, while pennies were 95% copper. The delegates watched as blocks of silver and copper were melted at extreme heat into thin sheets, then cut with circular punches into […]

Iron and Steel Manufacturing

During the delegation’s tour of Philadelphia, they learned about the city’s famous history of iron and steel manufacturing. Local plants were incredibly successful, due in large part to Pennsylvania’s natural abundance of high-quality coal and iron mines. The industries had transformed the economic and natural landscape of the area, and had also stimulated other forms […]

Department of the Treasury

While in Washington D.C the delegates visited the Department of the Treasury, where the nation’s currency was printed. The group was drawn to the intricate process of printing paper money, a method that required efficient collaboration between machines and manual laborers. The delegates were especially impressed by how meticulous the printing presses were, as each […]

Streets of Washington D.C.

On February 6, 1872, the delegation headed to the United States Capitol building. They arrived via Pennsylvania Avenue, marveling at the immaculate roads surrounded by beautiful winter trees and flora. The group commented that the streets were laid out like a Go board, with the four large avenues – Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and New Jersey […]

Patent Office

During the afternoon of April 2, 1872, the delegates made a trip to the U.S Patent Office. The group was impressed by the thousands of inventions listed and on display – everything from toys to steamship designs. Kume Kunitake, the avid diarist of the journey, translated the name of the building to, “the Institution for […]

Printing Office

The delegates’ visit to the U.S Printing Office in Washington D.C struck a chord – the whole group was attracted by the calm and calculated atmosphere of the working environment. They witnessed synchronicity in action during a tour of the composing room on the top floor. From above, the delegates watched as mechanical typesetting, stereotyping, […]

Postal Service Headquarters

On April 30 1872, the Iwakura Mission group visited the Washington D.C headquarters of the United States Postal Service (USPS). They toured the dead letter office, piled high with undeliverable mail, and went through the sorting and delivery departments. The guide informed the delegates that while the USPS excelled at delivering letters and parcels, other […]

National Observatory in Georgetown

On April 23, 1872, the delegation was granted access to the United States Naval Observatory and its 10-foot-long equatorial telescope. Three stories high and overlooking the Potomac River, the telescope allowed the group to observe the movements of celestial objects such as the moon and stars in detail in addition to Mercury and the moons […]


During the delegates’ time in Washington D.C, they encountered streetcars passing through the bustle of the boulevards. Pulled by horses, the cars were used to transport freight, baggage, and as many as fifty people. The group marveled at the vehicle’s ability to carry so many passengers and cargo with ease. Kunitake Kume suspected that the […]


Broadway was a beautifully chaotic boulevard in 1872, and the Iwakura delegation were in awe of the multitude of New Yorkers commuting by carriage, bus, and on foot. Kunitake Kume wrote that the density of the city was unmatched by anything they had experienced before. It seemed as if all roads led back to New […]