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25.03.2016 г.

Russian and Japanese Primary Sources on Antipin and Shabalin's Expedition to Hokkaido in 1778-1779: what does comparative study make clear?

Vasilii V. Shchepkin, Institute of Oriental Manuscripts, Russian Academy of Sciences

Historical significance of the expedition

Russian expedition to Hokkaido in 1778-1779 was a part of a bigger expedition to the southern Kuril Islands (1775-1784). It had many tasks including exploring the possibility of trade relations with "hairy Ainu"; a study of geography, natural features, minerals of Urup and islands to the south of it; the possibility of grain cultivation, and others [1]. However, negotiations with Japanese are of greater historical significance due to the following reasons. First, it was the first attempt to establish official trade relations with Japan. Second, it was the first and the only time when Ainu took part in Russo-Japanese negotiations in their own right. Last, the negotiations became a starting point of Japanese awareness of Russia's presence to the north.

Previously Russians had reached Urup and islands to the north of it several times, and rumors about them reached Matsumae. However, they were just Kazaks who collected fur tributes or sea otter hunters. Kudo Heisuke in his "Akaezo fusetsuko" could see somehow a higher precedence of the newly arrived:

"People from Matsumae tell that behind Ezo lands to the northeast there is a country, which they call Red Ezo. In the sea to the northeast of Ezo there are many big and small islands called Chishima. It seems that the trade is carried on with these islands from old times... However, over recent years vessels looking as if they were drifted by the sea current began to come to the harbor of Nosshamu in Urayashibetsu in Ezo lands. They differ from the previous ones and look like Dutch ships. Clothes of the people look like Dutch ones too; they wear wool, velvet and vermeil broadcloth. Interpreters of both Japanese and Ezo come with them. Those who speak Japanese can write katakana, and there is nothing they can't understand. Interpreters of Ezo use the language of closer Ezo and do their work properly." [2]

Indeed, the expedition was initiated by the governor of Irkutsk, Adam Brill, and in charge was a commander of Kamchatka, Magnus Behm. Then, after first meeting with Japanese, a merchant from Yakutsk Pavel Lebedev-Lastochkin who financed the expedition went to St. Petersburg to report the results to the head of the Secret Office, Knyaz Vyazemskii. At last, Empress Ekaterina's order of 1779, April 30, exempting "hairy Kurils" from fur tribute [3] shows that the expedition was the object of highest attention.

In this paper I would like to highlight just some issues concerning the expedition, which stand out from the comparative study of Russian and Japanese primary sources: 1) dates and names of Japanese negotiators; 2) the question of Kunashir and Iturup during the negotiations; 3) the question of illegal trade between Japanese and Russians. Before proceeding to these issues let me give a brief outline of the expedition from both Russian and Japanese sources.

On November 28th, 1772 the governor of Irkutsk Adam Brill sent an instruction to a newly appointed commander of Kamchatka Magnus Behm. He ordered to organize an expedition to the Kuril Islands "up to Atkis (Akkeshi)" to explore the possibility of trade relations with Japanese [4]. Behm managed to find a capital provider for the expedition in 1774. It was a merchant from Yakutsk Pavel Lebedev-Lastochkin. Ivan Antipin from Irkutsk, who knew the Japanese language to some extent, was appointed as a head of the expedition. Expedition vessel left Kamchatka on June 24, 1775, but six weeks later, while mooring at Urup it ran into a gale and was wrecked. It was only next year in June when few members of the expedition reached Kamchatka on kayaks and informed authorities about the incident. The same year, Lebedev-Lastochkin dispatched two kayaks with provisions headed by Dmitrii Shabalin to Urup, and in 1777, he managed to send a state-owned ship "St. Natalia" headed by Mikhail Petushkov to help the expedition.

After spending a winter on Urup, the crew headed by Shabalin left for "Atkis" on three kayaks on May 31, 1778. Antipin stayed on Urup and didn't take part in that trip. On June 19, the members of the expedition arrived at Nokkamappu where they found a Japanese vessel. Next day Shabalin went to Japanese for negotiations. Japanese replied to his offer of trade that they couldn't be engaged in it without a permission of their sovereign "except for some presents for the first time just to show friendship" [5]. Nevertheless, parties arranged that "Russian and Japanese vessels should come to the twentieth island Kunashir until their sovereign issue a decree" [6]. Japanese asked Russians to come there by July 20 of the next (1779) year. On June 24, Russians left for Urup.

In spring of 1779, Shabalin and Antipin left for meeting with Japanese and arrived at "Notkome" harbor (Nokkamappu) on June 24. On July 5, an Ainu man came from Akkeshi and informed Russians about Japanese who were waiting for their vessel at that place. On July 13, another Ainu man came from the same place and passed Russians a sign from Japanese that meant not to go further and to wait them at "Notkome". Russians waited until August 21 and then decided to go to Akkeshi. On August 26, Shabalin and Antipin met with a captain of a Japanese vessel who read them a letter "from Matsumae's chief" who asked them to come again next year to Kunashir. After that Russians stayed at Akkeshi for several days until the vessel with Matsumae domain officials arrived at Akkeshi on September 5. Few days later, on September 9, Antipin and Shabalin were called for negotiations.

Japanese officials replied to Russians' request about trade relations that "there is a place named Samur, and there is their god in this place who forbids meeting and trading with Russians. Russians should not come to Kunashir and Iturup, but if they need rice or wine, they should send Ainu from Urup through whom Japanese promised to provide these goods. If Russians want to trade then they should go to the place named Nagasaki, where people from all the sides gather and trade. Now Russians should go back to their vessel without hesitation". [7] Getting no other permission but sending Ainu from Urup to obtain rice and wine on September 13 Russians left Akkeshi and on September 30 returned to Urup.

We can read a brief Japanese version of the things in the seventh volume of "Tsuko ichiran" which derives from the information provided by Japanese interpreter Rin'uemon to bakufu officials in 1785 during their first expedition to Ainu lands:

"On the 9th of 6th Month of An'ei 7 (1778) two foreign boats accompanied by one Ainu boat appeared at Nokkamapu. Ainu landed and told that Russians have arrived and want to meet with Japanese. At that time Matsumae domain officials Niida Daihachi and Kudo Yaouemon as well as interpreter Rin'uemon were at Nokkamapu. They met the next day. Russians asked for trade relations and Niida Daihachi replied that he had no right to agree or to refuse and was obliged to report about the offer to domain authorities. He asked to come for the reply to Iturup next year. Russians sailed from Nokkamapu on the 12th (of the same month).

In summer of the next An'ei 8 (1779) Matsumae domain sent officials to give a reply to Russians, but they were late. Russians had no patience to wait on Iturup, moved to Kunashir, and then sailed so far as Akkeshi. Japanese arrived there only in 7th month and gave a reply as follows: "Foreign trade is restricted to the only port of Nagasaki, and since it is prohibited in other places no permission would be given no matter how long you ask. It is useless to cross the sea and to come here in future". Then they returned presents that Russians had given them a year before and provided them with fuels, water and rice, and with that Russians moved away." [8]

Dates and names in Russian and Japanese sources

What stands out first due to comparison of Russian and Japanese sources is the gap in dates. According to Russian sources, in 1778, Russians arrived at Nokkamapu on June 19 and left it on June 24, i. e. they stayed there 6 days including the days of arrival and departure. Japanese interpreter said that Russians arrived on the 9th of 6th month (June 22) and left on the 12th (June 25), thus they have been staying there for 4 days. Another Japanese source, "Records of Russians' first coming to the trade area of Kyubee who is from village of Yunoshima, Hida province, in Ainu lands of Matsumae in 1778 and 1779", states that Russians came to Nokkamapu on 22nd of 6th month (July 5) [9]. The reason of such gap is hard to explain. Shabalin in his report writes in details what they did every day, so there is no room for suspecting him in deliberate correction of the dates. As for Japanese version, bakufu officials put it into writing seven years after the negotiations during the first Japanese expedition to the Ainu lands, so some facts could be wrong, whether deliberately or not.

There is one more argument in favor of Russian version. Shabalin wrote in his report that on June 22 he had sent to Japanese various gifts and samples of goods with a big mirror and a big wineglass "for their chief in Matsumae" among them and got a receipt from Japanese along with four "letters": two name cards and two for Japanese living in Russia [10]. These letters and receipt remain deposited in the Russian State Archives of Ancient Documents (Moscow). On the receipt, we can see the Japanese date: the 9th of 6th month [11], which is the date of Russians' arrival according to Japanese sources.

As for the names of Japanese negotiators, there is some difference in their spelling in Russian and Japanese. According to Japanese sources, two Matsumae officials who communicated with Russians in 1778 were Niida Daihachi and Kudo Yaoemon. Shabalin in his report called them Fiogichi (Fiogis, Fioges) and Genimon (Genaimon). By the way, in Japanese historiography there are variant readings of the former name (Niida or Araida). However, Japanese letters deposited in the Russian State Archives of Ancient Documents provide us evidence that we should read this name as "Niida" [12].

Further, we should pay attention to the names of Japanese officials who were sent by Matsumae domain for negotiations with Russians in 1779. According to Rin'uemon, the group of officials included Asari Kobee, Matsui Mohee and Kudo Seiuemon as officers, Shibata Kambee and Furuya Bunroku as inspectors and San'uemon and Rin'uemon as interpreters. All of them left Matsumae on the 29th of 4th month (May 21) and arrived at Akkeshi on the 7th of 8th month (September 5) [13]. However, in Antipin's journal we can find the following information.

According to him, at the negotiations on September 9 there were: "three Japanese, one who sat higher was the former chief daikwan to whom we have met earlier here at Akkeshi and who was called this time Shipadachimpe, and two newly-arrived chiefs except for the bigger one" as well as "two interpreters who knew Kurils Ainu language, one was the former and another was a newly arrived with chiefs" [14].

The name of "Shipadachimpe", the daikwan with whom Russians communicated before Matsumae officials arrived, is very close to the name "Shibata Kambee" referred by Rin'uemon. By the way, another Japanese source refers this name as "Shibata Jimbee" which is closer to the pronunciation in Russian source [15]. The difference between two versions can be easily explained by the similarity of two characters "kan" and "jin". If we assume basing on this similarity that two sources speak about the same person, then we can put in doubt Rin'uemon's words. It can be suggested that he tried to assure bakufu officials to whom he told about the incident in 1785 that only Matsumae domain officials met with Russians in 1779 and no other person gave them reason to expect trade relations in future, even though via Kuril Ainu.

It is necessary to point out that according to Russian sources it was this Shipadachimpe who read a letter "from chief at Matsumae" to Antipin and Shabalin on August 26. And then, on September 3 he told to Antipin: "I will bring my presents to you next year, but this time I have no worthy things, because my vessel came here to trade with local peoples, and another vessel went to negotiate and to trade with you" [16]. We can state that his position differs from that of Matsumae officials who came later.

Question of Iturup and Kunashir during the negotiations

According to the instructions given by governor of Irkutsk and commander of Kamchatka, Russians regarded the Ainu of southern Kurils as an object of submission rather than as a trade partner [17]. Japanese seemed to take the same attitude. Ainu of Iturup and Kunashir took part in Russian-Japanese negotiations in 1778-1779, and it was the first and the only time. Susanne Koller has stated clearly the role of Kuril Ainu in these negotiations as interpreters and information providers [18]. At the same time, she describes the movements of Tukinoe, the chief of Kunashir, as if he tried to deal and to trade with either Russians or Japanese [19]. However, if we consider the movements of Tukinoe from 1774, when he made an assault upon Japanese vessel, to 1789, when Ainu uprising at Kunashir occurred, we can see that he tried to stay independent from both Russians and Japanese and to become an intermediary between them. The interesting in this regard are the opinions of both Russians and Japanese about the status of Iturup and Kunashir. During the negotiations in 1779, Antipin characterized the relations between Russians and Kuril Ainu as following:

Japanese interpreter asked us through Chikin in Ainu language: "For what purpose are you coming to Urup and hunting sea otters? And what do you get in your trade with the hairy Ainu and how do you use these things?" I answered, "We are coming to the Ainu island of Urup to gather yasak from Ainu of 16th island who are our subjects and are living there, and we sell some clothes to them. Sometimes we spend winter there hunting sea otters with nets. We make clothes for us from fur of sea otters. As for the hairy Ainu, we don't have any relations with them". [20]

The opinions of Japanese differed during the negotiations. In the letter that the chief of Japanese vessel read out to Russian in 1779 it was said that:

"If people from any country would have any demand or want something from us, then they should wait a vessel to be sent from him (a chief) next year to Kunashir, where the harbor is. They can go there by their vessel and make negotiations about what they want. Though a vessel from Matsumae was also sent this year, the weather didn't allow them [to come on time], and being out of time they are going to get back. Foreign people should not go to Akkeshi because here is our land, and Ainu chiefs living here receive from us sorts of clothes, rice, tobacco and other things, and we receive in return for it fats, dried codfish, shells and other things we need (though there is nothing good here), and for this purpose we communicate by vessels. And if after negotiations we would like to trade with them, they will be allowed to go by vessel to our distant cities".[21]

Then, we can read in Antipin's journal what Matsumae domain officials said about coming to Kunashir and Iturup.

"There is a place named Samur, and there is our god in this place who forbids meeting and trading with Russians. Russians should not come to Kunashir and Iturup, but if they need rice or wine, they should send to us Ainu from Urup through whom we promise to provide these goods. If Russians want to trade then they should go to the place named Nagasaki of our state, where people from all the sides gather and trade. Now Russians should go back to their vessel without hesitation" [22].

In the first evidence we can see some kind of difference between Kunashir and Akkeshi since the arrival to Kunashir was allowed while the arrival to Akkeshi was prohibited. And in the second statement Japanese clearly forbade Russians to come to both Kunashir and Iturup. Japanese hadn't been to Kunashir for six years by that time. As for Iturup, they had not had any trade post there at all. We can suppose that it was due to some intrigues by Kunashir Ainu chief Tukinoe that Japanese decided to prohibit Russians' arrival there.

At the same time, this reflects some changes in Japanese perception of the southern Kurils. Kikuchi Isao in his work "Ainu uprising in late 18th century" states that after Kunashiri-Menashi uprising in 1789 bakufu officials adopted Matsumae domain officials' view of the Ainu lands as a borderland next to Russia, while before that they regarded it as a foreign land [23]. Basing on the above-mentioned evidences, I think that Russian-Japanese negotiations in 1778-1779 became a starting point in this Matsumae domain officials' view of the Ainu lands as a borderland next to Russia. Moreover, in 1778 it was only Ezo main island that was included in this borderland, and after 1779 negotiations this regard extended to Kunashir and Iturup as well.

Did an illegal trade between Japanese and Russians really exist?

Kawakami Jun in his article "Kuril Ainu and Kuril trade route in 18 and early 19 centuries" reviews in details the question of illegal trade between Hidaya Kyubee and Russians in 1770-1780s [24]. Some evidences in "Ezochi ikken" give us ground to suggest that some relations between them really existed in early 1780s. Now I would like to consider the information in Kudo Heisuke's "Study on the rumors about Kamchatka" (1783) that triggered bakufu to send an expedition to Ainu lands in 1785. Kudo Heisuke wrote about the illegal trade between Russians and Japanese as follows:

"I think it reasonable to investigate thoroughly the possibility of trade [with Russians]. If there were no mistakes in my speculation, it would be better to have such trade relations. If the trade would remain as it is, it will always stay illegal. It is hard to know whether there is illegal trade or not, but I guess there is. It is very hard to prevent such an illegal trade, but if we start official trade relations, then we can take different measures. First is the building of fortresses. Second is the prohibition of illegal trade. If we leave everything as it is, the illegal trade will become trickier, and the number of merchants will increase. If we consider it, then there is no way but to make this trade legal. If we would have legal trade relations, we could know the manners of those people and the natural features of their lands, and work out appropriate measures." [25]

The person who presumably told Kudo Heisuke about the illegal trade between Russians and Japanese was Minato Genzaemon, a commissioner of finance at Matsumae domain. Once he had hired Nambu Kauemon, who formerly served at Hidaya Kyubee's trade house and then tried for several times to grab trading areas from Hidaya. In 1780, Hidaya Kyubee filed a claim against Kauemon with Bakufu Court and Minato Genzaemon was called in to Edo for investigation of this case the same year. In Edo he met with Kudo Heisuke and told him about the illegal trade between Russians and Japanese. Since Russians had visited Hokkaido in 1778 for the first time and Genzaemon had left Matsumae in 1780, the illegal trade he was talking about refers to the trade exchange between Russians and Japanese during 1778 and 1779. According to Shabalin's report of 1778, he presented to Niida Daihachi and Kudo Yauemon the following items:

  • red broadcloth (to Fioges - 8,5 arshins, to Genimon - 7,5 arshins);
  • Dutch green broadcloth - 5 arshins;
  • red half-ratine - 1,25 arshins;
  • high boots - 2 pairs;
  • fatty soap - 10 pounds;
  • cotton kerchief - 1 piece;
  • black suede gloves - 2 pairs;
  • linen in a roll - 94 arshins and 6 vershoks;
  • two silk belts;
  • two man's rings;
  • two silver woman's rings;
  • four silver cufflinks;
  • two hats;
  • passementerie - 2 arshins and 15 vershoks;
  • shoes - 2 pairs;
  • two porcelain cups with saucers;
  • cotton stockings - 2 pairs;
  • a caftan made from blue broadcloth.

To Japanese merchants and servants:

  • high boots - 4 pairs;
  • blue broadcloth - 2 arshins;
  • silk ribbons - 4 cuts;
  • shoes - 2 pairs;
  • needles - 2 packs;
  • 32 eagle tails.

To their chief in Matsumae:

  • one robbing mirror;
  • one big wineglass [26].

In 1779, while waiting for Matsumae officials for negotiations, Russians made some trade exchange with Japanese merchants and interpreters too. We do not know whether Minato Genzaemon told Kudo Heisuke about the illegal trade or Kudo Heisuke concluded this from the words of the former. We do not know what happened to these goods afterwards as well. However, judging from the list of goods we can qualify them just as samples of goods but not as goods themselves. If so, then we have one more evidence that Minato Genzaemon had probably tried to talk against Hidaya Kyubee.


1) The negotiations of 1778-1779 became a turning point in Matsumae domain officials' attitude to the Ainu lands (Akkeshi and Kiitappu, and later Kunashir and Iturup) as a borderland next to Russia;

2) The negotiations of 1778-1779 became also a starting point in Russians' realization that the Ainu of southern Kurils and Ezo mainland are Japanese subjects;

3) Variances in dates and names in Russian and Japanese sources (and among Japanese sources) as well as the question of illegal trade between Russians and Japanese force us to reconsider the early Russian-Ainu-Japanese relations as a multipart process. We should take into consideration attitudes of not only Russian and Japanese central governments, but Russian and Japanese local authorities, Russians and Japanese merchants and Ainu as well.

[1] Russkiie ekspeditsii po izucheniiu severnoi chasti Tihogo okeana vo vtoroi polovine XVIII v. Sbornik dokumentov (Russian North Pacific research expeditions in the latter half of the 20 century. Collection of sources). M.: Nauka. Glavnaia redaktsiia vostochnoi literatury, 1989. P. 145-154.

[2] Kudo Heisuke 工藤平助. Kamusasuka koku fusetsuko 加模西葛杜加国風説考 (Study of rumors about Kamchatka) // Iwasaki Naoko 岩崎奈緒子. Akaezo fusetsuko no kenkyu 赤蝦夷風説考の研究 (Study of "Akaezo fusetsuko") // Heisei 18-20 nendo kagaku kenkyuhi hojokin kenkyu seika hokokusho 平成18~20年度科学研究費補助金研究成果報告書 (Report on 2006-2008 research grant results). Kyoto 京都, 2009. P. 9.

[3] Russkiie ekspeditsii. P. 182.

[4] Ibid. P. 142-143.

[5] Ibid. P. 167.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Polonskii A. S. Kurily (Kuril Islands) // Zapiski Imperatorskogo Russkogo geograficheskogo

obshestva po otdeleniiu etnografii (Notes of Ethnography department of the Imperial Russian geographic society). Vol. 4. St. Petersburg, 1871. P. 461.

[8] Tsuko ichiran 通航一覧 (List of [the foreign] ships come [to Japan]). Vol. 7. Osaka 大阪: Seibundo shuppan 清文堂出版, 1967. P. 84-85.

[9] An'ei hachinen roshiajin osetsugaki 安永八年魯西亜人応接書 (Notes of the reception of Russians in 8th year of An'ei) // Manuscript, call number 旧記 0007, Hokkaido University Library.

[10] Russkiie ekspeditsii. P. 168.

[11] RGADA (Russian State Archives of Ancient Documents), f. 7, op. 2, d. 2539, l. 153b.

[12] Ibid. L. 153g-153d.

[13] Tsuko ichiran. P. 85-86.

[14] Russkiie ekspeditsii. P. 195.

[15] An'ei hachinen roshiajin osetsugaki.

[16] Russkiie ekspeditsii. P. 193.

[17] Ibid. P. 151.

[18] Kora Susanne コラー・スサンネ (S. Koller). An'ei nenkan no ezochi ni okeru nichiro kosho to chishima ainu 安永年間の蝦夷地における日露交渉と千島アイヌ (Japanese-Russians negotiations in Ainu lands in 1778-1779 and Kuril Ainu) // Hokudai shigaku 北大史学, №42, 2002. P. 69-70;

[19] Ibid. P. 71.

[20] Russkiie ekspeditsii. P. 197.

[21] Polonskii. Op. cit. P. 460.

[22] Ibid. P. 461.

[23] Kikuchi Isao 菊池勇夫. Juhasseikimatsu no ainu hoki: Kunashiri Menashi no tatakai 十八世紀末のアイヌ蜂起: クナシリ・メナシの戦い (Ainu uprising in the late 18th century: the battle of Kunashir and Menashi). Sapporo 札幌: Sapporodo shoten サッポロ堂書店, 2010. P. 38-45.

[24] Kawakami Jun 川上淳. Juhasseiki jukyuseiki shoto no chishima ainu to chishima koeki ruto 十八世紀~十九世紀初頭の千島アイヌと千島交易ルート (Kuril Ainu and Kuril trade route in 18 and early 19 centuries) // Menashi no sekai メナシの世界 (The world of the East). Sapporo 札幌: Hokkaido shuppan kikaku senta 北海道出版企画センター, 1996. P. 158-238.

[25] Kudo Heisuke. Op. cit. P. 11.

[26] Russkiie ekspeditsii. P. 168.

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