Hakodate’s Consular Heyday, 1863-1934

From Hokkaido, A History of Ethnic Transition and Development on Japan’s Northern Island, by Ann B. Irish (McFarland, 2009), pp. 89-90:

A new British Consulate opened for business in 1863, and Richard Eusden assumed consular duties in 1867, serving here until 1880. He was by far the most effective British consul in Hakodate. Both he and his wife became involved in the community; she helped create the city’s public garden. Over the years several fires damaged the consulate and it burned down in 1907. brit-faroblA few years later, the British government’s Shanghai Construction Bureau built a new consulate, a two-story-high tile-roofed structure on a site a few blocks away. This building still exists, looking rather like a large bungalow transplanted to Asia. Nowadays it is open to tourists, featuring interesting historical exhibits about early western experiences in Hakodate, an English tea room and a souvenir shop carrying articles from Britain. The British ceased consular operations in Hakodate in 1934.

The foreign consuls in Hakodate acted as judicial officials. When an American, Charles H. Smith, was charged in the death of a Japanese, the American, English and Russian consuls, the Hakodate bugyo and other Japanese and western men sat at the court and agreed that the defendant was not guilty, for he had shot in the darkness at a burglar.

Hakodate at different times had consulates representing not only Russia, the United States and Great Britain, but also France, the Netherlands, Portugal, Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, Italy, Austria, Hungary and Spain, though these other nations were mostly represented by men who were consuls of other countries. Even Hawaii, when it was an independent nation, briefly had consular representation in Hokkaido. The foreigners perceived Hakodate as a safe, if sleepy place; they did not feel the need for weapons in Hakodate. “We do not go armed as all foreigners do in Yedo, wrote E. E. Rice and, while Yokohama had a specific area set aside for foreign settlement, Hakodate featured no special area for foreigners, though the various consulates were not far from each other.

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Filed under Britain, Europe, Japan, Russia, U.S.

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