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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Entrusting the western half to Matsumae

The Russians did not attempt to dispute this ruling. They retired quietly. But their two visits had shown them that Yezo was capable of much development, and they gradually began to flock thither as colonists. Officials sent from Japan proper to make an investigation reported that Kamchatka, hitherto a dependency of Japan, had been taken possession of by Russians, who had established themselves in the island of Urup and at other places. The report added that the situation would be altogether lost unless resolute steps were taken to restore it. Unfortunately, the death of the tenth shogun having just then occurred, the Yedo Court found it inconvenient to take action in remote Yezo. Thus, Russian immigration and Japanese inaction continued for some time, and not until 1792 were commissions again despatched from Yedo to inquire and report. They made an exhaustive investigation, and just as it reached the hands of the Bakufu, a large Russian vessel arrived off Nemuro, carrying some ship-wrecked Japanese sailors whom her commander offered to restore to their country, accompanying this offer with an application for the opening of trade between Russia and Japan. Negotiations ensued, the result being that Nagasaki was again referred to as the only port where foreign trade might be lawfully conducted, and the Russians, therefore, declared their intention of proceeding thither, a passport being handed to them for the purpose. It does not appear, however, that they availed themselves of this permit, and in the mean while the Yedo commissioners pursued their journey northward, and pulled up a number of boundary posts which had been erected by the Russians in Urup.

The Bakufu now began to appreciate the situation more fully. They took under their own immediate control the eastern half of Yezo, entrusting the western half to Matsumae. The next incident of note was a survey of the northern islands, made in 1800 by the famous mathematician, Ino Tadayoshi, and the despatch of another party of Bakufu investigators. Nothing practical was done, however, and, in 1804, a Russian ship arrived at Nagasaki carrying a number of Japanese castaways and again applying for permission to trade. But it soon appeared that the Bakufu were playing fast and loose with their visitors and that they had no intention of sanctioning general foreign commerce, even at Nagasaki. Incensed by such treatment, the Russians, in 1806, invaded Saghalien, carried away several Japanese soldiers, and partially raided Etorop and other places. They threatened further violence in the following year unless international trade was sanctioned.

The Bakufu had now a serious problem to solve, and their ideas of its solution were almost comical. Thus, one statesman recommended the organization of a special force recruited from the ranks of vagrants and criminals and stationed permanently in the northern islands, A more practical programme was the formation of a local militia. But neither of these suggestions obtained approval, nor was anything done beyond removing the Matsumae feudatory and placing the whole of the islands under the direct sway of the Bakufu.

For a period of five years after these events the Russians made no further attempt to establish relations with Japan, and their next essay, namely, the despatch of a warship--the Diana--to survey the Yezo coasts, was unceremoniously interrupted by the Japanese. Another vessel flying the Russian flag visited Kunajiri, in 1814. On that occasion the Japanese managed to seize some members of the Russian crew, who were ultimately saved by the shrewdness of one of their officers. These events imparted fresh vigour to Japan's prejudices against foreign intercourse, but, as for the Russians, not a few of them found their way to Saghalien and settled there without any resolute attempt on the part of the Bakufu to expel them.

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