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Samurai's exploration of Hokkaido


Requests for security in Hokkaido increased in the 19th century due to Russia's policy of moving southward, and the shogunate responded by allocating coast guard areas and territories to various domains in the Tohoku region. In Shiraoi, the former Sendai domain camp still remains. During the turmoil at the end of the Edo period, the various clans that had joined the Ouuetsu(northeastern part of Japan) clan alliance returned to the mainland, and the Boshin War broke out. Among the losers, it is well known that Aizu suffered a bitter loss as the Tonan domain was reduced from 280,000 koku to 30,000 koku, while the Sendai domain was also reduced from 620,000 koku to 280,000 koku.

The Watari Date family was a prestigious family that was the vice-chief of the Sendai domain, which was founded by Masamune's uncle Sanemoto, and had a fief of 23,000 koku, but the territory belonged to the Nanbu domain, and Kuninari, the feudal lord, received only 58 koku. He was forced to live in a mansion in Sendai, his vassals returned to farming, and were forced to become residents of the Nanbu domain. In the second year of the Meiji era, the Meiji government introduced a system that allowed for ``divided territory'' to encourage the development of Hokkaido, and land was distributed to clans, samurai, and commoners on a voluntary basis, regardless of whether they were a group or an individual. The Meiji government, which lacked a budget, aimed to speed up development by having settlers pay their own lunches, as well as have them take on the responsibility of defending Hokkaido.


The Watari Date family, including their lord (Kuninari), his family, and many of his vassals, settled in Usu County (present-day Date City) at the foot of Lake Toya and attempted to establish a new domain. However, due to the abolition of feudal domains and the establishment of prefectures, this system was abolished after just two years, and Hokkaido came under the jurisdiction of the Hokkaido Development Commission (a government agency). At the same time, the Date family and vassals, who were enemies of the Imperial Court, were made commoners and lost not only their economic base but also their honor(samurai status). Afterwards, as a result of building a base in a new land while enduring the government's harsh treatment and harsh living conditions, Kuninari returned to the samurai class along with his vassals in 1899, and was made a baron in 1891. His 6th grandchild is Kanako Date, who was chosen as Miss World in 2018.


The Ikeda family of the Tottori domain is a descendant of Ieyasu, and was treated well as a Tokugawa family clan under the shogunate system, and fought well with the government army during the Boshin War. However, there was no notable industry, and the samurai tribe was particularly poor after the Meiji Restoration in the agricultural domain, and starting in 1897, the samurai tribe began to migrate to Hokkaido. The settlement area was located near both banks of the Akan River in Kushiro City and was named Tottori Village, but it suffered from flooding for a long time. Tottori Town merged with Kushiro City after the war, but everything in the area, from streets to schools to shrines, was still named Tottori, and Tottori Shrine petitioned Izumo Taisha Shrine in 1899 to enshrine "Okuninushi no Mikoto" (one of famous gods in Japan).

Next time I have a chance to go to Kushiro, I would definitely like to enjoy seafood bowl after visiting the shrine. By the way, this palace's prince, Marquis Nakahiro Ikeda (son and adopted son of Lord Tokugawa Yoshinobu), opened a large farm in Tokachi, and the area was named Ikeda-cho.

Home is far away, however now Watari town and Date city, Tottori city and Kushiro city are currently sister cities and exchanges continue respectively.

Incidentally, under the aforementioned Meiji government's capricious territorial control system, my hometown, the Kaga domain, apparently received the Soya and Rebun regions at the northern tip of Hokkaido, but they gave it up less than a year later.


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