A Rare Manuscript Account of Hokkaido
Manuscript on paper entitled "Kyumei koki" ["Governmental History of Hokkaido"].
13 drawings (several in color, two are double-page). Nine vols. 8vo (263 x 190 mm.), orig. patterned semi-stiff wrappers, new stitching. [Japan]: from the final leaf in the final volume: “Bunka 4” (1807), but most probably a later copy.
At the end of the 18th century, the Edo shogunate decided to assert greater control over the management of Hokkaido. A recent Ainu revolt and Russian activity in the area caused the central government to believe that the Matsumae fiefdom, which formerly oversaw the island, was not strong enough to counter any Russian threats.
In 1802, Masyasu Habuto (1752-1814), was appointed first bugyo (magistrate) of the northern island, following his 1801 tour of eastern Hokkaido (then called Ezo). Habuto energetically supported Ezo development, establishing a farming colony near Hakodate and horse farms, encouraging immigration to the island, building military posts along the coasts, developing improved relations with the Ainu natives, and constructing a road between Hakodate and Nemuro. After the Russians attacked and defeated his forces at Etorofu, Habuto was dismissed from office in 1807, charged with the failure of his subordinates to repel the attempted incursion.
Habuto’s account is unique, providing an insider’s view of the early days of Hokkaido. It is considered to be one of the best descriptions of the large northern island, its people and natural history, resources, and possibilities for development. Much of the text is concerned with Japanese-Russian relations, based on the archives gathered by Habuto. This information is important and not available elsewhere. The inner workings of the Hokkaido government are revealed here, with copies of letters, official documents, details of employees and salaries, economic and trade considerations, relations with the Ainu, etc.
The illustrations depict Ainu men, women, and children; historical monuments; Russians; forts with cannons; and living quarters.
Fine set, preserved in a chitsu. There is some mostly marginal worming.
❧ Ann B. Irish, Hokkaido: A History of Ethnic Transition and Development on Japan’s Northern Island (2009), pp. 52, 62, & 338.
Item ID: 8401