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  • Japanese: 函館、箱館 (Hakodate)

Hakodate is a port city in Hokkaidô notable as a treaty port opened to American use by the Convention of Kanagawa in 1854. Negotiations following the signing of the Convention established an area of free movement for Americans within the city five ri square.[1]; this was extended to ten ri by the so-called Harris Treaty of 1858.[2]

Though most famous for its Bakumatsu/Meiji period history, Hakodate was active as a regional port long before then as well. It was one of a number of cities where Tanuma Okitsugu established clearinghouses in 1785 to effect the collection of marine products for official Bakufu sale at Nagasaki. The position of Hakodate bugyô was created several decades later, in 1802, to help oversee these economic matters as well as the security/defense of the port.

Commodore Perry spent several weeks in Hakodate in the 4th-5th months (on the Japanese lunar calendar) of 1854, surveying the port and preparing to negotiate for the details of arrangements to be made for American access to and use of the port.[3] At the end of the 6th month, the shogunate had Matsumae Takahiro, lord of Matsumae han, return Hakodate and the surrounding areas to shogunate control, and assigned Takenouchi Yasunori as Hakodate bugyô to oversee the port and city.[4] By 1856, the position had been expanded to include three officials - Takenouchi Yasunori, Hori Toshihiro, and Muragaki Norimasa - who would alternate between serving in Hakodate, in Edo, and on patrol around the Ezo region.[5]

Privileges extended to the United States in the 1854 Convention of Kanagawa (signed 1854/3) were then extended to the British in the Anglo-Japanese Convention of 1854 signed in the 8th month, and to the Russians in the Treaty of Shimoda, signed in the 12th month that same year.[6] A Russian consulate was established in Hakodate shortly afterwards; it was active by 1860, if not earlier. These privileges were then extended to the Dutch as well, in the Treaty of Peace and Amity (Dutch-Japan), signed 1856/1.[7]

During the Boshin War which accompanied the Meiji Restoration, Hakodate became the center of the short-lived Republic of Ezo. Pro-shogunate holdouts seized the Goryôkaku fortress in 1868/10 and made their last stand against Imperial forces there in the 1869 battle of Hakodate. The Republic surrendered on 1869/5/18, marking the end of the Boshin War.

From 1873 to 1878, Hakodate became home to Merriman Harris and his family, the first Protestant missionaries in northern Japan. Harris served as Vice-Consul beginning in 1874, and then as Acting Consul of the United States from 1875 until the consulate was closed in 1878.[8]


  1. Ishin Shiryô Kôyô 維新史料綱要, vol 1 (1937), 603.
  2. Robert Hellyer, Defining Engagement, Harvard University Press (2009), 176.; Mitani Hiroshi, David Noble (trans.), Escape from Impasse, International House of Japan (2006), 273-283.
  3. Ishin Shiryô Kôyô 維新史料綱要, vol 1 (1937), 584, 589, 599.
  4. Ishin Shiryô Kôyô 維新史料綱要, vol 1 (1937), 618.
  5. Ishin Shiryô Kôyô 維新史料綱要, vol 2 (1937), 250.
  6. Mitani, 222-232, 247-250, 292.
  7. Mitani, 260-262.
  8. Prominent Americans interested in Japan and prominent Japanese in America, New York, 1903 (Public Domain source)