The New York Times has been running a blog series, "Disunion," on the American Civil War. It's a cool concept--they run stories chronologically, with the same timeline that they would have followed in the 1860s. (For example, the November 2010 coverage was of Lincoln's November 1860 election.)
One of the posts I stumbled across today describes the experiences of a group of Japanese envoys in the US in late 1860 (link). It's full of great tidbits--for instance, there were basically no envoys who could speak English, but many educated Japanese could speak Dutch, thanks to the long-standing Dutch trading presence here in Kyushu. As a result, communication required two layers of translation: Japanese to Dutch, then Dutch to English.
Anyway, the post is a good read (as is the blog itself). Go check it out!