An 1837 Japanese Record Regarding Ulleungdo

Japan’s 1837 Policy on Foreign Voyages – Passage to Ulleungdo Banned by the Shogunate
Aizuya Hachiemon's MonumentThe following page describes a Japanese historical document that recorded a trespassing incident involving Japanese merchant named Aizuya Hachiemon. He operated a cargo-vessel business in Hamada, Iwami (石見?濱田 today’s Hamada in Shimane) under the feudal domain of Hamada.

To the right, is Aizuya Hachiemon’s monument. He was executed for trespassing onto Chosun’s Ulleungdo. To help the ailing financial situation of his domain, he ignored the travel ban to Takeshima (Ulleundo) and conducted illegal contraband trade. Some say that he even traveled to Southeast Asia. Okada Tanomo (岡田?母), who was the chief retainer of the domain, and Hashimoto Sahei (橋本三兵衛), a financial official, silently approved Yaemon’s illegal activities since the profits from the trade was enormous and actually saved the domain from going bankrupt.

“…Why are these records important..?
Although this record does not mention Matsushima, (Dokdo) the maps and documents that detailed the trial of Aizuya Hachiemon do in fact prove that the Shogunate’s ban on voyaging also extended over Dokdo Island. But first some maps to familiarize reader with the Ulleungdo – Dokdo region.
Above left: An overall map of the Korean East coast, Ulleungdo Island, Dokdo Island and Japan’s West Coast. Above right: A highly detailed map of Korea’s Ulleungdo Island. Click pictures for larger image
Japan’s 1837 Document’s Regarding the Ulleungdo Trespassing Incident and Translation

Japanese Text of the Voyage Ban on Korean Territory
今度、松平周防守元領分 石州浜田松原浦に罷り在り候無宿八右衛門 竹嶋え渡海致し候一件 吟味の上右衛門其外夫々厳科行われ候
右嶋住古は伯州米子のもの共渡海魚漁等致し候といえども、元禄の度 朝鮮国え御渡しに相成り候 以来渡海停止仰せ出され候場所にこれ有り 都(すべ)て異国渡海の儀は重き御制禁に候条 向後右嶋の儀も同様相心得渡海致すまじく候
勿論国々の廻船等海上において異国船に出会わざる様、乗り筋等心がけ申すべき旨先年も相触れ候通り弥々(いよいよ)相守り 以来は可成たけ遠い沖乗り致さざる様乗廻り申すべく候 右の趣御料は御代官私領は領主地頭より浦方村町とも洩れざる様触れ知らすべく候尤も触書きの趣板札に認める高札場等に掛置き申すべきもの也
右の通り公儀従り仰せ出され候間 御領分の者共堅く相守るべきもの也
浦奉行   (浜田市郷土資料館)

今度 松平周防守元領分

Translation: “..After interrogation of the case about sailing to across to Jukdo (Ulleungdo) severe punishment has been given to (Japanese name) and the others. People from the Yonago and Hoki would go to that island (Ulleungdo) above for fishing but this has been banned ever since the Makbu (1690s) era when that island was turned over to Chosun..”

Translation 2: “..Just as it has been publicly proclaimed before as sailing abroad is strictly prohibited, and the island above therefore must not be sailed to. Sailors who travel around the nation are certainly to avoid encountering foreign vessels in the sea. Remember not to stray too far. Make sure this information to be known to all far and wide…”

Related Maps of Aizuya Hachiemon’s Trial.
The above records that mention Japanese were not allowed to voyage onto Ulleungdo because it was declared Chosun land in 1696. However, because Hachiemon lied about voyaging to Dokdo (Matsushima) the Shogunate made it clear Japanese citizens were also banned from voying to Dokdo Island. From this fact, we can conclude the Japanese of the day considered the islets Chosun territory. The related maps can be seen below.
Above images: The maps related to the trial of Aizuya Hachiemon prove without a doubt, Japan’s Shogunate considered Ulleungdo (Takeshima – 竹島) and Dokdo (Matsushima – 松島) as Chosun territory. (click images for larger picture)
Analysis of the 1837 Trespassing Incident
“..In 1837, Japan’s Shogunate Forbade Distant Voyages, Thus Sailing to Dokdo was Illegal..”
Around the year 1696 Japan conceded Ulleungdo Island (Dokdo’s closest neighbor island) was Chosun territory. The above paper shows how serious the Japanese government was about restricting the travel distance permissible for Japanese nationals in the East Sea. As quoted the document warned Japanese not to stray too far it also restricted them from coming in contact with foreign vessels.

Dokdo Island has little or no fresh water and could not offer adequate mooring shelter from the storms that frequent this area. Records also show Dokdo Island was about three days travel from Yonago City against both prevailing winds and ocean currents. Thus, it made no sense for Japanese to visit only Dokdo Island. It also could explain why an explicit travel ban on these distant, desolate rocks wasn’t initially declared in 1696.

In reality, there are no Japanese historical maps or records that show Japanese visited Dokdo as a sole destination but only as a stopover when trespassing onto Chosun’s Ulleungdo. The image to the right is of Korea’s Ulleungdo taken from the shores of Dokdo Island.

On a Related Note…
In March of 2009, one of the original wooden signposts from 1837 that warned Japanese to stay off of Ulleungdo was auctioned in Japan. ( see below left) It has been said the sign was similar to the one placed in Hamada and read ”..We thoroughly investigated the case of a man named Haji Uemon and others who sailed to Takeshima, to which it is forbidden to sail, and executed them for their crimes. Not only is it forbidden to sail abroad, but it also is forbidden to meet foreign ships…” (below right)

Some Japanese have asserted the travel ban did not extend over Dokdo Island. However, after a further analysis of all the related data, it seems quite the opposite is true. To the left is a picture of the actual wooden signpost that was auctioned off. There are more details on the trial of Aizuya Hachiemon to be found here. ( link )

The images above are wooden signposts demanding Japanese nationals stay off of Chosun’s territory, not to voyage far and to even avoid contact with foreigners.
To the Japanese, Dokdo’s value was only related to what fish or forestry products they could reap from Ulleungdo. In light of this document, it is not plausible the Japanese Government considered Dokdo Island of any value during this era let alone part of Japan’s inherent territory as they now assert. Here it’s also clear, as with earlier records, Japan maintained a hands-off policy in the Ulleungdo – Dokdo area at this time.

However, as we will see, the policy of the Japanese government would soften and illegal Japanese immigrants would later overwhelm Ulleungdo Island. As a result, in 1883, hundreds of illegal Japanese squatters had to be forcibly removed from the Ulleungdo. Again, for the third time the Japanese would later make another official announcement banning passage to Ulleungdo. In the not too distant future Japan’s policy would shift dramatically as shown here. ( see link 1 ) and ( see link 2 )