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date: 18 April 2019

Japanese Empire in Hokkaido

Summary and Keywords

The temporal span of the Japanese Empire is most commonly given as 1895–1945, from the acquisition of Taiwan following Japan’s victory in the First Sino-Japanese War to Japan’s defeat in the Second World War. Within this interpretation, the Japanese Empire was largely a reaction to the advances of the Western colonial powers during the 19th century. This “orthodox” narrative of the empire rests on a key assumption: the current borders of the Japanese state demarcate the inherent territory of Japan. But when viewed from Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido, a second story of the Japanese Empire emerges. Before 1869 Hokkaido was known to Wajin (ethnic Japanese) as Ezo. While the Japanese considered Ezo to be within their sphere of influence and there was a Japanese zone (Wajinchi) in the southern tip of Ezo from the 16th century, Ezo was a foreign land inhabited by the Ainu people. Hokkaido was only fully incorporated into the Japanese state in 1869 following the Meiji Restoration (1868), after which Japanese settlers colonized the island beyond Wajinchi. The indigenous Ainu people were dispossessed of their land and forced to assimilate.

Rather than Taiwan, therefore, the story of the Japanese Empire begins with the colonization of the peripheries of the modern state: Hokkaido, and also Okinawa. Seeing imperial history from the vantage point of Hokkaido sheds light on some of the assumptions and oversights of much writing on Japan’s 19th- and 20th-century history. It reveals how the legacies of empire affect Japanese people today in those spaces where the colonizers and colonized continue to coexist. And it gives insights into how official and popular narratives of empire and war have been formulated at local and national levels in the postwar era.

Keywords: Japan, Hokkaido, empire, imperialism, colonialism, colonization, settler colonialism, border studies, Ainu


Archaeological evidence shows that the history of human habitation on the island now called Hokkaido goes back as far as any other part of the Japanese archipelago. In a cultural or ethnic sense, however, Wajin (Japanese) history is much shorter in Hokkaido than in the heartlands of Yamato/Japanese culture, such as Kyoto and Nara. Unlike some of the festivals in Honshu, such as the Gion Festival in Kyoto, which dates back to the 9th century, the oldest Japanese (Wajin) festivals in Hokkaido date from the late 16th century. However, the default practice of modern history is for national history to be defined in terms of the history that occurred within the borders of the contemporary state, or the actions of people deemed to be of that nationality. So, when a 3,500-year-old “Hollow Clay Figure” representative of Jomon-period culture was found near Hakodate in 1975 and subsequently became Hokkaido’s first cultural artifact to be designated a National Treasure in 2007, it became “Japanese” history, even though no such thing recognizable as “Japan” in the area around Hakodate existed 3,500 years ago.

Viewed favorably, this is simple pragmatism, and the Japanese state acted responsibly to protect an ancient cultural treasure; viewed unfavorably, this is emblematic of Hokkaido’s (ongoing) colonization process, whereby archaeological discoveries are used to solidify retrospective claims to the land and cement in the public mind the idea that the Hokkaido earth in which the figure was found and all other history that took place on it are “Japanese.” A figure of this antiquity, however, is a provocative example because it would also be inappropriate to call this particular archaeological discovery part of Ainu history for precisely the same reasons. Since 2008 the Ainu have been recognized as an indigenous people of Japan, but as the periodization of Hokkaido history indicates, the Ainu culture emerges around the 13th and 14th centuries. The figure predates their culture, too.

Such issues of the origins of culture and who owns the land (or the right to inhabit the land) underpin all discussions of Hokkaido history. Today, Hokkaido is an island with a population of 5.4 million people (see The Geography of Hokkaido), where the colonizers and colonized—and many descendants born there who had no say in colonial matters and cannot think of anywhere else as their furusato (hometown)—continue to live together. Imperial history is woven into the fabric of day-to-day life in ways that are not always obvious but always there. Even the island’s name is an imperial construct. It was proposed by explorer Matsuura Takeshirō and means “Northern Sea Road.” The final character “” refers to the Heian-period concept that highways lead to the imperial capital. The name Hokkaido, therefore, denoted both the restoration of imperial power and the connection of this new territory to the Meiji state.1 The Ainu people, by contrast, call their homeland Ainu Moshir (also spelled Mosir), but that too was a construct of a particular age as the Ainu culture emerged from the earlier Satsumon culture. In such discourses of culture and imperialism, contemporary politics revolve around how far back the oldest claims to ownership of the culture and the land can be made. In such situations, history is never neutral.

Japan’s Shifting Borders

Throughout history Japan’s borders have moved and remained contested. At the time that the ancient capitals of Nara and Kyoto were founded in the 700s, the Yamato people (the ancestors of the Japanese) had a territory concentrated in the modern Kansai region in the west of Honshu. By 1603, when the political unification of Japan had been achieved, the territory of Japan ruled by the Tokugawa shogun extended from Satsuma (modern-day Kagoshima) in the south to Wajinchi (the Japanese enclave at the southern tip of Hokkaido) in the north. By 1879, both Okinawa and Hokkaido had been incorporated into the Meiji state. During the early 20th century, Japan gained a land border with Russia on the island of Sakhalin when it obtained Karafuto (the southern half of the island) as spoils of the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905), and land borders with China, Russia, and Mongolia via its continental possessions of Korea (after 1910) and Manchuria (after 1931). Japan’s borders only achieved their present form in 1945—strictly speaking 1972 after the reversion of Okinawa. However, even today, Japan’s borders remain in a state of flux because there are ongoing territorial disputes concerning the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands (administered by Japan but claimed by China/Taiwan), Dokdo/Takeshima Islands (administered by South Korea but claimed by Japan), and the Southern Kuril Islands/Northern Territories (administered by Russia but claimed by Japan).

While Japan might seem to be an island nation with clear maritime borders, Japan’s borders have always been evolving and encroaching onto territories inhabited by non-Japanese. The questions become, therefore, at what point did Japanese expansion become “imperialism” or “colonialism,” and when did the Japanese Empire begin?

Some Definitions

The assumption inherent within the “orthodox” periodization of the Japanese Empire (i.e., 1895–1945) is that Hokkaido and Okinawa may be excluded from these discussions.2 However, comparing definitions of five keywords—empire, imperialism, colonialism, colonization, and settler colonialism—with what was happening in Hokkaido before 1895 clearly indicates that the Japanese Empire has deep roots going back to the 16th century, and Hokkaido was absolutely central to this history. There are various definitions of these keywords, and some scholars even avoid giving clear definitions. However, below are five useful working definitions cited from Stephen Howe’s Empire: A Very Short Introduction.3

  • Empire: a large, composite, multi-ethnic or multinational political unit, usually created by conquest, and divided between a dominant centre and subordinate, sometimes far distant, peripheries.

  • Imperialism: the actions and attitudes which create or uphold such big political units—but also less obvious and direct kinds of control or domination by one people or country over others.

  • Colonialism: systems of rule by one group over another, where the first claims a right (a “right” again usually established by conquest) to exercise exclusive sovereignty over the second and to shape its destiny. Usually, this political domination is “long-distance.”

  • Colonization: large-scale population movements, where the migrants maintain strong links with their or their ancestors’ former country, gaining significant privileges over other inhabitants of the territory by such links.

  • Settler Colonialism: involves the settlers entirely dispossessing earlier inhabitants, or instituting legal and other structures which systematically disadvantage them.

There are other terms used in relation to Japan’s empire, too. A distinction is sometimes made between “formal” and “informal” empire, and Hokkaido is sometimes called an “internal colony.”4 However, these terms tend to be used as a way of softening the language used to refer to pre-1895 imperialism. The advantage of Howe’s definitions is that they are not formulated specifically with respect to Japan or Hokkaido, and they therefore constitute a yardstick for international comparison. When any of the above phenomena are observed in a Hokkaido context, they can simply be referred to using the above terminology.

Six Phases of Japanese Empire and Imperialism

The history of Japan’s empire may be divided into six phases.5 These phases sometimes overlap and do not necessarily begin or end at a specific date. The important feature of Japanese imperialism is that it is continually evolving, sometimes quietly or slowly, and sometimes at great speed and amid much violence.

Phase 1: The Seeds of Empire

This is the period up to the mid-16th century during which the seeds of empire were sown. Yamato/Japanese people had various contacts with empires throughout their early history, primarily the Chinese Empire (which had tremendous cultural influence on early Japan), the Mongol Empire (which tried twice to invade Japan in the 13th century), and the seaborne European empires (which had just started arriving at Japanese shores by the end of this phase). As already noted, the boundaries of Yamato/Japanese territory and influence had been expanding up to the Middle Ages. However, in this period before the political unification of Japan, expansion was not driven by a national policy, so talk of a “Japanese” empire is problematic. Nevertheless, Japanese (Wajin) had already reached and settled in Ezo. The first recorded conflict between Ainu people and Wajin in Ezo was in 1456, when Ainu rebelled against the Japanese presence following the murder of a young Ainu by a Wajin blacksmith.6 Eventually a separation of living spaces was agreed in 1550. Even so, in the absence of direction from a unified political center, such events are better characterized as inter-ethnic clashes in a frontier area than imperialism.7

Phase 2: Pre-modern Imperialism in Japan’s “Near Overseas”

The unification of Japan under first Oda Nobunaga and then Toyotomi Hideyoshi in the late 16th century is a critical turning point. With the emergence of a unified government under a single ruler of Japan, one of the key definitional prerequisites of imperialism is met, namely the existence of a national policy formulated at the political center. Unified Japan’s first imperial ventures were the invasions of Korea in 1592 and 1597, which had an explicit imperial objective in Toyotomi’s desire to reach the Chinese capital.8 These ventures collapsed upon Toyotomi’s death, rendering them imperialism (actions and attitudes) without empire (foreign territories under Japanese control). However, Satsuma domain’s invasion of the Ryukyu Kingdom (Okinawa) in 1609 resulted in Satsuma’s influence being exerted over the independent and culturally distinct kingdom.9 Furthermore, direct political rule was imposed by Satsuma on the Amami Islands.10 Today the Amami Islands remain part of Kagoshima prefecture, all but forgotten as the first territorial acquisition via conquest sanctioned by the rulers of post-unification Japan.

In Ezo, meanwhile, there was no military invasion, but in 1604 the Matsumae domain was given a monopoly on trade in Ezo by the shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu. Trading posts around the coastline of Ezo procured trade goods such as furs and seaweed that could be sent to Honshu and the merchant capital of Osaka. Trading practices amounted to exploitation and colonial domination. By forcing Ainu men to work at a distance from their homes, Wajin trade regimes had a destructive effect on Ainu society: families were separated, communities were disrupted, and Ainu women were exposed to predatory advances by Wajin men.11 This continued for centuries. In his memoir Our Land Was a Forest, Kayano Shigeru describes an “Ainu-hunting” trip in 1858 during which his grandfather, who was only eleven years old at the time, was taken away for forced labor.12

Faced with such exploitation, there were major rebellions against Wajin in 1669 and 1789. In 1669 an Ainu leader called Shakushain led an armed uprising against Matsumae that ended when he was killed at a banquet supposedly to celebrate a peace settlement. In 1789 Kunashiri Menashi Ainu rebelled and killed a number of Japanese, but their leaders were rounded up and executed. However, neither of these events was simply Wajin versus Ainu. Colonialism and imperialism are often enabled by divide and rule, and during both uprisings Wajin relied on the support of Ainu who saw their interest in backing Wajin domination.13 Conversely, some Wajin sympathized with the Ainu uprisings.

In short, Wajin actions in Ezo resembled the actions of a number of the European seaborne trading empires. The relationship between culturally distinct groups started out as a trading relationship, but as the relationship became more exploitative, political and military force became increasingly necessary. Ultimately, the relationship slipped into full-blown colonial rule.

Phase 3: Exploration and Delineating Borders

The third phase also has echoes of European imperialism in the 17th to 19th centuries. During this age of exploration, cartographers sought to map the world, and adventurers laid claim to distant lands. In 1800, Kondo Juzo laid claim to the island of Etorofu in the Southern Kurils,14 and in 1808, Mamiya Rinzō embarked on a famous journey to determine whether Sakhalin was an island or a peninsula.15 These adventures, particularly laying claim to inhabited lands, are indicative of an unfolding imperial project. Imperial Russia, meanwhile, was also conducting its own explorations and laying claim to territory in the areas around Ezo.16 The Russian threat persuaded the Tokugawa shogunate to place Ezo under direct bakufu control from 1799 to 1821. This placement of a foreign land under the direct rule of the political center meets the definition of colonialism, although it is rarely referred to as such.17 The Russian threat receded, and the shogunate returned management of Ezo affairs to Matsumae. However, when Japan and Russia concluded their first treaty in 1855 (Treaty of Commerce and Navigation Between Russia and Japan, or, the Shimoda Treaty), they decided the fate of both Ezo and Sakhalin without any regard for the rights or claims of the indigenous peoples of those lands. This was a classic treaty between empires and reminiscent in nature (albeit perhaps not scale) of other treaties in the late 19th century in which the imperial nations carved up territory among themselves.

Phase 4: Gunboat Diplomacy and Expansionism

From the mid-19th century, Japan began in earnest to imitate the imperial techniques that it had seen used by the Western imperial powers. In the decade following the Meiji Restoration of 1868, Japan annexed both Ezo (1869, renamed Hokkaido) and the Ryukyu Kingdom (1879, renamed Okinawa). The Taiwan Expedition of 1874 was a punitive expedition against Taiwan to avenge the killings of Ryukyu sailors by indigenous Taiwanese. Japan’s policies toward Korea were modeled on the gunboat diplomacy of the West, and the Treaty of Kanghwa (1876) was an unequal treaty of the sort imposed on Japan in the 1850s. In 1875, Japan signed the Treaty of St. Petersburg with Russia, which gave Sakhalin Island to Russia and the Kurils to Japan. This treaty also disregarded indigenous peoples. The Karafuto Ainu were the biggest losers. They were forcibly moved to Hokkaido and resettled in Tsuishikari (near Sapporo), where many died of disease. The survivors were only able to return to Sakhalin after the southern half of the island was given to Japan after the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–1905.18 By the time Taiwan became a Japanese colony in 1895, therefore, Japan had already been through three phases of imperial behavior, and Ezo/Hokkaido had played a key role in all three phases.

Phase 5: The Empire of Japan and the Great East Asian Co-prosperity Sphere

Phase five is essentially the orthodox periodization of the empire, 1895–1945, also called the period of Japan’s “formal empire.” Following the annexation of Taiwan and Japan’s assistance in suppressing the Boxer Rebellion in 1900, Japan had earned the respect of the most powerful empire of the day: Britain. The two nations signed the Anglo-Japanese Alliance in 1902. Japan annexed the Korean Peninsula in 1910, and during the First World War, Japan sided with Britain and its Allies, took German possessions in Shandong and Micronesia, and sat with the victors at Versailles. However, the Twenty-One Demands made against China in 1915 and increasingly heavy-handed rule in Korea placed doubts in the minds of the British about the alliance, which unraveled during the postwar naval treaty negotiations in the 1920s. Thereafter, Japan was on a collision course with the United States and United Kingdom, culminating in war in 1941.

During this phase up to the geographical zenith of the Japanese Empire in 1942, there were three main types of imperial possession. First, there were the settler colonies of Hokkaido, Karafuto, and Manchuria, where significant Japanese populations moved to the territories to settle the land, and existing inhabitants were disempowered and dispossessed. Second, there were the colonies, which were annexed and brought under the rule of Tokyo. There was limited settlement by ethnic Japanese, and the key groups were expatriate colonial administrators rather than migrant settlers. These territories included Okinawa, Taiwan, and Korea. The populations of all these territories were subjected to cultural-assimilation policies, particularly regarding the daily use of the Japanese language. Third, there were the territories invaded and occupied in the period 1937–1945, such as China, Malaya, and Indonesia. The period of military occupation was not really long enough to institute any longer-term colonial policies.

What is important to note, therefore, is that while the length of time Hokkaido and Okinawa were considered to be within the Japan’s “sphere of influence” is centuries longer than the other territories, they were nevertheless considered “foreign territories” outside the Japanese state until they were annexed in 1869 and 1879, respectively. What really separates Hokkaido and Okinawa from the other colonies is not that they were “informal” rather than “formal,” or “internal” rather than “external.” It is that the length of time they were subjected to imperialism was long enough for the colonization process to “succeed.” These imperial acquisitions have been accepted as Japanese territory by the international community ever since 1945.

Phase 6: Decolonization, Repatriation, and Lingering Territorial Disputes

The final phase was the period following Japan’s defeat. In the month after the emperor’s radio address on August 15, 1945, announcing Japan’s acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration, Hokkaido was where the nascent Cold War hung most in the balance. The Soviet Union had declared war on Japan on August 8. Operations to occupy Karafuto continued until August 23, and the occupation of the Kuril Islands continued until September 5, even after the instrument of surrender had been signed.19 Stalin had plans for the Soviet Army to occupy sections of Hokkaido, too, but in the face of stiff opposition from President Harry S. Truman, these plans were never carried out. Japan and Hokkaido narrowly avoided partition in the manner of Germany and the Korean Peninsula. Hokkaido, therefore, is central to one of the key debates regarding the timing of and reasons for Japan’s surrender: whether it was the atomic bombs or the Soviet declaration of war that was more decisive in forcing Japan to surrender.20

Millions of Japanese stranded overseas at the end of the war were repatriated. People in Karafuto repatriated to Hokkaido, and the Soviet Union deported the inhabitants of the Southern Kurils to Hokkaido by 1947. In Hokkaido, therefore, the end of the war precipitated another burst of settlement as most of these displaced people settled in Hokkaido as near as they could be to their prewar homes. As the empire was dismantled, Japan’s imperial acquisitions were returned, liberated, or given independence, with the exception of Hokkaido and Okinawa.

However, some issues remain unresolved. Japan’s three territorial disputes (Senkaku Islands/Diaoyu, Takeshima/Dokdo, and the Northern Territories/Southern Kurils) all have their roots in the colonial era. The disputes with China/Taiwan and South Korea effectively revolve around national pride and maritime resources as the disputed islands are barely fit for human habitation (Japan keeps the Senkaku Islands uninhabited, and South Korea maintains a small military outpost on Dokdo). However, the Northern Territories/Southern Kurils are large, inhabitable islands. The Japanese population in 1945 was 17,000, and a similar number of Russians inhabit the islands today. The Soviet/Russian and Japanese governments both make historical claims to be the legitimate owners of the islands, but the history of treaty negotiations and conflict over the Russo-Japanese border zone in the period 1855–1945 over a wide geographical area stretching from Manchuria through Sakhalin to the Kurils reveals that the rights and claims of the indigenous peoples of the Russo-Japanese border zone have always been ignored. It was the Soviet Union left sitting in the Southern Kurils when the music stopped in 1945, thereby ending the game of imperial musical chairs.

The Ainu: An Indigenous People of Japan

If the conclusion of the previous section is that the story of the Japanese Empire cannot be understood without reference to Ezo/Hokkaido, then the conclusion must equally be that the colonized people of Hokkaido, the Ainu, are pivotal to that history.

In June 2008, the Japanese government declared the Ainu people to be an indigenous people of Japan.21 This momentous decision was the culmination of a long campaign of resistance against Wajin colonization of their territory.22 However, on closer inspection the declaration of indigeneity did not offer as much as it first seemed. Despite the important role of United Nations networks of indigenous peoples for enabling the change in Japanese government policy, the Japanese government did not accept UN understandings of indigeneity that include provisions for self-determination and collective rights. Furthermore, in a subsequent 2009 report drafted by a panel of experts to assess the 2008 resolution, the Ainu were positioned as “citizens of Japan,” which deflected calls for decolonization and constituted de facto affirmation of colonization policies and Hokkaido’s status as an inherent part of Japan.23 The declaration of indigeneity, therefore, was at most only a partial retreat from the stance of the government regarding the Ainu and the colonization of Hokkaido since the mid-19th century.

During the Edo period, shogunal policy was to treat the Ainu as “foreign,” and the Matsumae domain’s trading monopoly was based on the premise that the Ainu were not Japanese.24 However, as Japan sought to use Ezo as its northern line of defense against the Russian threat, the Meiji state annexed Ezo, renamed it Hokkaido, and then settled and militarized it throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Assimilationist policies were introduced, and the Ainu were categorized as “a dying race.”25 The change from exclusionist to assimilationist policy was largely about territorial claims. The Meiji state coveted the land, but if the Ainu people who lived in Hokkaido were “foreign,” then Hokkaido was simply a foreign colony, and Japan’s claim to Hokkaido would be no stronger than that of its imperial nemesis, Russia. But, if the Ainu became Japanese, then Ainu homelands also became Japanese.

This logic continues to underpin the Japanese government’s claims to the disputed Northern Territories today. The Northern Territories are described in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website as “an inherent part of the territory of Japan, which have never been held by foreign countries.” The last phrase, “never been held by foreign countries,” confirms that the Japanese government, to this day, considers the Ainu to be assimilated as Japanese citizens and that Ainu lands retrospectively belong within the Japanese state. In the wake of the 2008 declaration of indigeneity, this stance was undermined somewhat. The Ainu, after all, were considered ethnically distinct as they had been up until the mid-19th century. The government’s position can still hold, however, if the Ainu homeland did not qualify to be called a “country.”

Ainu social and political structures, however one terms them, were adapted to the needs of life in a large, sparsely populated area with an often inhospitable subarctic environment. The chronology of Ainu history produced by the Ainu Association of Hokkaido states that Ainu culture emerged from Satsumon culture in around the 12th century. There was a period of Ainu expansionism during the 13th century (indicating political and military organization) before the Wajin presence in the south of the island precipitated the first conflicts as discussed above. Trade networks with continental mainland peoples, Sakhalin, and the Kuriles indicate Ainu histories of seafaring, diplomacy, and surplus production for export.26 By the 18th century, the Ainu lived in three main areas known collectively as Ainu Moshir (see a map here). The groups are now referred to as the Sakhalin (Karafuto) Ainu, the Hokkaido Ainu, and the Kurile (Chishima) Ainu. These communities were spread across an area covering thousands of kilometers and possessed varying political/social structures and linguistic, intangible, and material culture.

The Ainu increasingly fell prey to Japanese imperialism, not only because of relative military and economic weakness, but also because they failed to meet the criteria of a “civilized people” within the imperial attitudes of the time. They had a rich oral tradition, including the yukar epic tales, but lacked a written language; they had political structures but not state structures such as formalized national bureaucracies; while Japan had urbanized centers and Edo was one of the largest cities in the world in the 19th century, Ainu kotan (villages) seemed rural and small; the Ainu had a territory they considered home, but in the cartographic mindset of the era, the borders were not clearly demarcated or protected (except with the Wajinchi zone in the southern tip of Hokkaido). All these factors fed into the Japanese imperial attitude that when Hokkaido was eventually colonized after 1869, the large open spaces of Hokkaido were “virgin land” rather than Ainu Moshir, the Ainu homelands.

Japanese settlement in the years after the Meiji Restoration dealt an almost fatal blow to Ainu communities and society. The Ainu may not have faced the genocidal military campaigns that other empires around that time inflicted on peoples deemed “primitive” or simply “in the way” on fertile land, but the assimilation of the Ainu was tantamount to cultural genocide, the intentional policy of extinguishing a culture. By the time the 1899 Hokkaido Former Natives Protection Act had been repealed and replaced with the 1997 Ainu Cultural Promotion Act, much of the damage had already been done. Today the Foundation for Research and Promotion of Ainu Culture attempts to revive Ainu traditional lifestyles and promotes learning of the Ainu language. But traditions are hard to revive when Ainu people have suffered decades of discrimination prompting many to conceal their Ainu ancestry, and the language has all but ceased to be a mother tongue, with most Ainu speakers learning it as a second language after Japanese.27

Many Ainu people today cherish and preserve the connections with their ancestral pasts through the study and practice of traditional culture,28 and others have developed 21st-century Ainu culture and pride by blending traditional and modern cultural forms (for example, the band Ainu Rebels, who combined Ainu songs/dance with hip hop). The reality, however, is that for most people outside Ainu communities, Ainu culture has become a museum exhibit to be consumed as a tourist. The touristification of Ainu culture is a complex issue and arouses many emotions. Proponents note the economic benefits to Ainu communities and opportunities for cultural preservation, while detractors lament the objectification of Ainu and fossilization of culture.29 Kayano Shigeru sums up poignantly the dilemmas Ainu face: “Many Ainu are offended by fellow Ainu who participate (or are forced to participate) in such activities at these tourist traps. But having worked as a tourist attraction, I understand the feelings of ‘display Ainu’ so well that my heart aches. I cannot one-sidedly castigate them.”30 Regardless of the rights and wrongs of the touristification of Ainu culture, it has become a primary method of official cultural revitalization efforts. One of the key sites, the Ainu Museum, Poroto Kotan in Shiraoi, is scheduled for a major overhaul in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and will include a new national museum.

Settlers, Popular Culture, and the Development of Hokkaido

The discussion thus far has prioritized the narratives of those being colonized. But what about the colonizers—the settlers who moved to Hokkaido after 1869?

The Settler Narrative

As already noted, there was a Wajin presence at the southern tip of Hokkaido from at least the 15th century. After 1869, Japanese settlements spread over the whole island. The settlers were often samurai from those domains that had fought on the losing side during the Boshin War (1868–1869), which marked the final military defeat of the Tokugawa loyalists opposing the Meiji Restoration. Those people who went to Hokkaido in the earliest days of the settler colony, therefore, did not think of themselves as invaders. They had been defeated in war, and becoming a settler was their penance for having backed the wrong side. Left to fend for themselves in a vast land and often harsh climate, the settlers started their new lives by cutting down the trees to make clearings for their settlements and farmland. This is the narrative of the big-budget film Year One in the North (2005) about settlers from Awaji domain who move to Hokkaido.31 The film blends fact and fiction in an epic drama that juxtaposes moments of warmth and humor with the pathos of the hardships faced by the settlers. In this rendition the settlers are stoic heroes rather than invaders.

This view of the settlers was chiseled into the official narrative of Hokkaido during events to mark the centenary of Hokkaido. The Centennial Memorial Tower was opened in 1970 in Nopporo Park near Sapporo, and its plaque includes the following inscription: “We have observed remarkable progress in the fields of industry, economy and culture since the commencement of Hokkaido’s development. But unforgettable and beyond our imagination are the hardships that our ancestors suffered exploiting the primeval forests and enduring severe winters. The present status of Hokkaido was achieved solely by the incessant efforts of its pioneers.” Conspicuous by their absence from this narrative are the Ainu. This erasure of the Ainu around the centenary sparked protests,32 but it was emblematic of how the Ainu were “written out” and Japanese were “written in” to the story of Hokkaido as depicted in literature and other forms of popular culture.33

Yet in more recent years (mirroring trends in historiography, described below), the Ainu have been included slightly more in popular culture. Whereas Ainu had only made fleeting appearances in Year One in the North, in the remake in Hokkaido settings of Clint Eastwood’s 1992 Western Unforgiven (Yurusarezaru mono, 2013), Ainu had greater and more sympathetic roles, their sufferings at the hands of ruthless colonial settlers were depicted, and there was a less idealized vision of colonial settler society. And the manga Golden Kamui by Noda Satoru, serialized in Shukan Young Jump since 2013, has received awards and accolades for its accurate and detailed depictions of Ainu culture. The indications are that in the 2010s, while what Michele Mason has termed the “dominant narratives of colonial Hokkaido” remain in place, a more complex depiction of the settlement of Hokkaido is emerging in Japanese popular culture, somewhat analogous with shifts in depictions of the settlement of the American west in films such as Dances with Wolves.

Securing Hokkaido as Part of Japan

In addition to its economic importance, Hokkaido was and remains an important first line of defense against the northern Russian threat. From 1875 to 1904, a total of 7,337 tondenhei (farmer-soldiers) and their families settled in thirty-seven settlements across Hokkaido as part of Japan’s military defense. Their material contribution to Hokkaido’s development and defense was far less significant than their symbolic importance.34 Furthermore, their first action was not against Russia, but against fellow Japanese as they fought in the Meiji government forces that put down the Satsuma rebellion of 1877. The tondenhei system was eventually phased out as the defense of Hokkaido was assigned to the Seventh Division of the Imperial Japanese Army based first in Sapporo and then from 1902 in Asahikawa, which grew into Hokkaido’s second city around the divisional headquarters.35 To this day, Hokkaido remains an important military region and hosts 40 percent of the total personnel of the modern Ground Self-Defense Force.

The settlers also worked to incorporate the landscape of the new colony into Japan. Hokkaido has a different ecosystem to the other Japanese islands, and for zoologists the Tsugaru Straits that separate Hokkaido and Honshu are also known as Blakiston’s Line, after the English explorer Thomas Blakiston, who first documented the straits’ zoological significance. Growing rice was deemed impossible in Hokkaido’s sub-arctic climate until in 1883 Nakayama Kyūzō succeeded in wet rice cultivation. Now, Hokkaido is one of Japan’s most important rice-growing regions. As Vivian Blaxell writes, “transformed from other to self by the practices of space, the colony exports the identity of the center back to its origins and the imperial transaction is complete; a transaction begun with Nakayama Kyūzō’s transformation of rural space in Hokkaidō into rice cultivation space, from foreign to domestic.”36

Colonial architecture also transformed the landscape, the most famous examples being Akarenga (the former Hokkaido Government building), Hōheikan, and the buildings clustered in the Historical Village of Hokkaido. Many of these buildings are in a Western style, emblematic of the importance of the foreign advisors such as Horace Capron, Dr. William Clark, and Edwin Dun, who assisted in the early colonization of Hokkaido. Other attempts to secure the landscape for Japan used traditional architectural styles. As communities emerged and developed, Shinto shrines were built, and the land came under the protection of Shinto deities selected by the Meiji emperor himself when Hokkaido Jingu Shrine (until 1964, Sapporo Jinja) was established in 1871.


In building a new society in Hokkaido, a Hokkaido identity emerged known as dosanko, literally “child born in Hokkaido.” According to a Hokkaido government pamphlet, dosanko are “more open minded and easier-going” than people from other prefectures, and these characteristics are thought to come from “Hokkaido’s historical path since the Meiji era, as the prefecture was developed by people relocating from so many different prefectures.” The historical efforts of the settlers are not described in the language of imperialism or colonization, but their virtues stemming from the hardships of the colonial experience combine with the positive language of development. This language infuses all government publications. For example, the website of the Hokkaido Bureau within the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism employs exclusively the language of development.

Interpretations of Imperial History

Within Japanese society today, there are various interpretations of war and imperial history. Mirroring the discourses regarding war responsibility, a range of moral judgments can be seen regarding imperial history. In very simple terms, nationalists affirm all Japanese imperial actions, conservatives acknowledge some acts as aggressive but broadly defend Japanese imperial actions and laud the stoic sacrifice of ordinary people, people with progressive-leaning views are broadly critical but prioritize the sufferings of ordinary people and fall back on qualifying arguments such as “Japan was behaving according to international norms of the time,” while progressives condemn Japanese colonial aggression.37

Official History

What makes Hokkaido interesting as a local case study of war and imperial responsibility issues is the fact that the colonizer and colonized groups coexist within the same society today, so debates take place within an entirely local or domestic setting. This is in contrast to war/imperial responsibility debates regarding Japanese actions in China, for example, which generate parallel and largely unconnected national discourses, barring the periodic diplomatic spats and transnational academic attempts to forge common Sino-Japanese views of history. In Hokkaido, however, the colonized people, the Ainu, are treated as Japanese citizens and occupy the same mediatized/geographical spaces as Wajin. Their voices require representation in local official narratives alongside majority Wajin voices. The important official versions of history in Hokkaido, therefore, engage both Ainu and Wajin narratives. This is evident in official sources such as the prefectural-government-run Portal Site of Hokkaido’s History and Culture, Akarenga, where there is an entire section on Ainu history. It is instructive reading this government website alongside the websites of the Ainu Association of Hokkaido and the Foundation for Research and Promotion of Ainu Culture to see how Ainu and official Hokkaido histories have converged, particularly in recent years.

Such evidence of convergence in the virtual world also exists in the physical world of museums. The exhibits in the prefecturally funded Hokkaido Museum contain a major exhibit about Ainu culture and history. This museum is a microcosm of how public and official awareness of colonial issues has changed in Hokkaido since the 1970s. The museum was originally opened in 1971 as the Hokkaidō Kaitaku Kinenkan (literally, Hokkaido development commemoration hall). It was part of a series of projects to commemorate the centenary of Hokkaido’s incorporation into Japan in 1869, and, as its name suggests, it focused mainly on settler history. At its first renovation in 1992, new exhibits about the Ainu and war/postwar periods were added in response to criticisms that the previous exhibits were lacking. When the museum underwent its second renovation in 2015, the contentious words “kaitaku” (development) and “kinen” (commemoration) were removed from the name, and it is now the Hokkaidō Hakubutsukan. The change from being a kinenkan (commemoration hall) to being a hakubutsukan (museum) is a significant indicator of a shift from being a politicized site to a site of scientific research. Furthermore, the merger of the museum with the Hokkaido Ainu Culture Research Center placed Ainu voices at the heart of the museum’s administration. The current exhibits are a bold attempt to balance more conservative narratives sympathetic to the settlers and their contribution to the development of Hokkaido, and more progressive narratives sympathetic to the Ainu, who saw their lands and way of life decimated by colonialism.

Northern History and People’s History

Such shifts in official narratives of empire have resulted from the tireless efforts of many local historians. In Japanese, historians working on Hokkaido and the broader region of northeast Asia tend to refer to themselves as researchers of hoppōshi, northern history.38 They have avoided the term “Hokkaido history” because much of their work discusses events occurring beyond the current boundaries of Hokkaido, and their work ranges from more conservative histories largely supportive of Japanese colonial ambitions in Hokkaido to more critical histories.

A subset of the northern history movement, and one with an explicit ideological aspect, is “people’s history” (minshūshi). Hokkaido was a pioneering region for people’s history. Its primary characteristic is that history is viewed from the point of view of the people rather than the government, which effectively means “the oppressed” rather than “the oppressors.” The movement began in the early 1970s with the Okhotsk People’s History Workshop. The leader of the movement was a school teacher, Koike Kikō, and he and likeminded activists painstakingly unearthed the darker stories behind Hokkaido’s development: the use of prisoner and indentured labor to build Hokkaido’s road infrastructure, forced labor of Koreans and Chinese during the war years, discrimination against the Ainu and other indigenous peoples such as the Uilta, and the repression of labor activists.39 The Okhotsk People’s History Workshop inspired the formation of other groups within Hokkaido and throughout Japan, such as the Sapporo Society for the Unearthing of Local History and the Sapporo Research Society of Women’s History, which have both published many books on Hokkaido history from a progressive standpoint.

For the activists involved in such movements, the need to unearth and confront painful history clarified sharp divisions between oppressors and victims. For many activists, the “unearthing” was literal as they took part in excavations to find victims’ remains and other evidence. However, the members of these groups face criticism and, on occasions, obstruction or intimidation by nationalists who oppose the people’s history groups’ attempts to highlight the stories of those victimized during Japan’s imperial project. Their activities have also drawn criticism from historians who are not apologists for Japan’s empire. Scholars of Ainu history such as Iwasaki Naoko and Tajima Toshiya, for example, have sought to release Ainu history from a simplistic narrative of Ainu victimhood. As David L. Howell explains, “the point of the revisionist stance is to argue that scholars’ preoccupation with denouncing abuse blinds them to the structures that bound Ainu communities internally and governed their relations with one another and with the Matsumae domain and its agents.”40 In other words, it is important to recognize Ainu agency in Ainu history. As with any other occupied people, Ainu had options: they could collaborate, by-stand, or resist, but it is difficult from a temporal and spatial distance to judge what they could or should have done.

All these issues continue to be the subject of debate within Hokkaido. What can be said with certainty, however, is that the activities of local historians and scholars have, over time, forced the writers of official history to incorporate more diverse arguments, including very progressive ones, into the official narrative. This is clear in how sites, both virtual and physical, narrate official Hokkaido history today.

Concluding Remarks

This essay has focused on why studies of Japanese Empire should incorporate Hokkaido in order to gain a holistic picture of the evolution of and practices within the Japanese Empire. Ultimately, viewing the Japanese Empire from Hokkaido stimulates thought about other empires, too. Hokkaido’s imperial history invites comparisons with other settler colonies (such as the American west), or the neighboring colonies across a narrow strait (particularly British Ireland), or the seaborne trade empires of Europe, or the steps that nations have taken worldwide to compensate indigenous peoples for their losses under colonialism. A Hokkaido-based view of Japanese imperialism is not, therefore, an exercise in the localization and trivialization of Japan’s imperial history. It is a means by which to connect discussion of that history with the broader global history of empires in the modern era.

Discussion of the Literature

The literature on Hokkaido is a relatively small subfield within Japanese studies. Hokkaido scholars have typically sensed Hokkaido’s links with much broader issues and therefore asserted the significance of Hokkaido within Japan’s modern history. Outside this circle of researchers, however, Hokkaido is often overlooked. This situation perhaps helps explain why in both English and Japanese the literature addressing the Japanese Empire divides into two main groups: first, those works expressing the “orthodox” position (consistent with the Japanese government’s line and more conservative views in Japan), which gloss over Hokkaido’s role and consider the acquisition of Taiwan in 1895 as the beginning of Japan’s imperial expansion; and second, those works (including this essay) that consider the practices of colonial expansion into and colonization of Hokkaido as absolutely key to understanding the Japanese Empire.

Within the Japanese literature, the orthodox position is available in numerous government documents/websites and publications without a Hokkaido focus. Challenges to the orthodoxy began in earnest within the people’s history movement in the 1970s and are outlined in the essay “Unearthing the history of minshū in Hokkaido” by Oda Hiroshi. Oda has compiled a comprehensive online bibliography of “northern history” and “people’s history”, which is an essential resource for those embarking on Japanese-language research in this area. Oguma Eiji is one of the most important researchers considering issues of empire and national identity, and his work, including A “Genealogy of “Japanese” Self-Images (and a review by the translator David Askew), has been published extensively in English.

In English-language scholarship, representative texts presenting the “orthodoxy” include Myers and Peattie’s The Japanese Colonial Empire, 1895–1945 and W. G. Beasley’s Japanese Imperialism, 1894–1945. An early (albeit somewhat controversial) critique of the position in these works was Donald Calman’s The Nature and Origins of Japanese Imperialism. Thereafter, a literature on Hokkaido emerged, mainly in history and cultural studies. The work of Richard Siddle, Brett Walker, Tessa Morris-Suzuki, David Howell, Michele Mason, Philip Seaton, and others provides an implicit, but on occasions explicit, critique of works that have overlooked Hokkaido’s importance. Ann Irish’s book, Hokkaido, is a readable general history, albeit slightly limited by her reliance on English-language sources only. Hokkaido has also fitted into works on broader themes such as multicultural Japan (for example, the edited volumes by Michael Weiner and Richard Siddle) and border studies (Paichadze and Seaton).

Ainu studies has a long and difficult history given the agendas and techniques used by anthropologists, particularly in the prewar years. Beyond Ainu Studies, edited by Mark Hudson, ann-elise lewallen, and Mark Watson, brings together the latest issues, and the bibliography is the best recent resource on the state of scholarship on Ainu issues. Kayano Shigeru’s autobiography Our Land Was a Forest remains the most important book written by an Ainu person available in English translation.

Finally, in terms of work in progress, Vivian Blaxell’s ongoing project titled “Undead Empire” features Hokkaido heavily. A key premise of Blaxell’s work is that while the imperial past cannot be argued to be directly causing certain issues today, the imperial past does indeed have an unseen but identifiable effect on the present. This work will be another major contribution to Hokkaido scholarship when it is eventually published.

Primary Sources

Primary sources on Hokkaido are concentrated in Tokyo and Sapporo. In Tokyo, there are the National Diet Library and Hokkaido Bureau, which is part of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism (Hokkaido is unique as a prefecture in that it has its own bureau within a ministry, and the Hokkaido Regional Development Bureau is the Sapporo branch office of the Hokkaido Bureau).41 Mark K. Watson’s Japan’s Ainu Minority in Tokyo demonstrates how ethnographical work related to Hokkaido may be done outside Hokkaido.42 For the most part, however, sources are concentrated in Sapporo.

The official Archives of Hokkaido are located in Akarenga (the former Hokkaido Government Building and now a popular tourist site). The Sapporo City Archives are in Odori Park. A wealth of economic, demographic, and other statistical data produced by the Hokkaido government are available in Shin Hokkaidō shi (A New History of Hokkaido). This vast official history in nine volumes, each around a thousand pages long, was published between 1969 and 1981. This and other local official histories produced by municipalities (primarily in the 1970s and 1980s) are available in most local libraries. The biggest are the Hokkaido Prefectural Library in Ebetsu (about 40 minutes by car from central Sapporo) and the Sapporo Chuo (Central) Library. The Hokkaido Museum and the Hokkaido Museum of Northern Peoples are the major, publicly-funded museums (hakubutsukan). Hakubutsukan are research centers as well as displays, and they have reading rooms open to the public, employ researchers, and publish research findings in in-house journals.

Hokkaido University, one of Japan’s leading research-intensive universities, has extensive collections of original materials in its Northern Materials Collection and also in the Center for Ainu and Indigenous Studies. Research relating to the Ainu should also involve contacting the Ainu Association of Hokkaido and the Foundation for Research and Promotion of Ainu Culture. Ainu people have been subjected to various anthropological surveys in the past that caused and continue to cause great pain and resentment. For example, Hokkaido University has faced a long legal battle over the return of human remains, which researchers obtained in the prewar period via grave robbing and other research methods now deemed completely unethical.43 All researchers embarking on a project relating to the Ainu should be aware of the sensitivities regarding previous research.

There are specialized collections of materials relating to Hokkaido history held by organizations representing a particular group, for example, the All Japan Federation of Karafuto (representing returnees from what is now Sakhalin) and Hokuchin Kinenkan museum (about the Imperial Japanese Army and modern Self-Defense Force).

All these organizations and more are listed in the links to digital resources section below.

Ainu Organizations

Ainu Association of Hokkaido (main organization representing the Ainu people).

Ainu Museum Poroto Kotan (open-air museum in Shiraoi).

Akan Ainu Kotan (performing-arts center in eastern Hokkaido).

Foundation for Research and Promotion of Ainu Culture.


Archives of Hokkaido (government historical archives in Sapporo).

Hokkaido Prefectural Library (about 40 minutes from the center of Sapporo).

Hokkaido University Northern Studies Collection (the largest university collection relating to Hokkaido history).

Hokkaido University Center for Ainu and Indigenous Studies.

National Diet Library (in Tokyo).

Sapporo City Archives.

Sapporo Chuo (Central) Library (the major municipal library with resources on Hokkaido history).

Government Sites

Hokkaido Bureau (part of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism).

History of Development in Hokkaido (an article of Hokkaido’s administrative history in the Hokkaido Bureau website).

Hokkaido Government (general information about Hokkaido for residents and visitors).

Hokkaido Regional Development Bureau (local branch of the Hokkaido Bureau).

Northern Territories Issue (Ministry of Foreign Affairs site outline Japan’s claims to the Russian-occupied islands).

Portal Site of Hokkaido’s History and Culture, Akarenga (government site presenting an overview of Hokkaido history and culture).

Organizations and Societies

All Japan Federation of Karafuto (a Hokkaido-based organization for former residents of Karafuto/Sakhalin, many of whom reside in Hokkaido, Japanese only).

Hokkaido Gokoku Shrine (a shrine that commemorates the military dead from Hokkaido from the Meiji period to World War II).

Hokkaido Heritage (fifty-two sites designated as regional cultural treasures, Japanese only).

Hokkaido Tonden Club (a club for those interested in tondenhei farmer-soldiers, in Japanese only).

Jomon Japan (a site introducing ancient archaeological heritage in Hokkaido and Northern Tohoku).

People’s History and Hokkaido Studies bibliography (from the website of Hokkaido University professor Oda Hiroshi, Japanese only).


Abashiri Prison Museum (a museum documenting the harsh conditions faced by prison laborers in the 19th century).

Historical Village of Hokkaido (an open-air museum containing many colonization-period buildings).

Hokkaido Museum (large, general history museum funded by prefectural government).

Hokkaido Museum of Northern Peoples (a museum presenting indigenous cultures in Hokkaido and beyond).

Hokkaido University Museum (a general science and history museum).

Hokuchin Memorial Museum (history of the military in Hokkaido from the tondenhei to the present-day SDF, Japanese only).

Sapporo Virtual Peace Museum (an online museum about wartime Hokkaido).

Other Tourist Sites

A Journey into the History and Culture of Hokkaido (booklet listing historical tourist sites produced by Hokkaido government).

Good Day Hokkaido (Hokkaido’s official tourism-promotion site).

Hōheikan (a colonial period building in Nakajima Park, Sapporo).

Further Reading

Beasley, W. G. Japanese Imperialism, 1894–1945. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987.Find this resource:

Blaxell, Vivian. “Designs of Power: The ‘Japanization’ of Urban and Rural Space in Colonial Hokkaido.” The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus 7.35.2 (2009).Find this resource:

Calman, Donald. The Nature and Origins of Japanese Imperialism: Reinterpretation of the Great Crisis of 1873. Abingdon, U.K.: Routledge, 2013.Find this resource:

Howell, David L. Geographies of Identity in Nineteenth Century Japan. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005.Find this resource:

Hudson, Mark J., ann-elise lewallen, and Mark K. Watson, eds. Beyond Ainu Studies: Changing Academic and Public Perspectives. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2014.Find this resource:

Irish, Ann B. Hokkaido: A History of Ethnic Transition and Development on Japan’s Northern Island. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2009.Find this resource:

Kayano, Shigeru. Our Land Was A Forest: An Ainu Memoir. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1994.Find this resource:

lewallen, ann-elise. “Indigenous at last! Ainu Grassroots Organizing and the Indigenous Peoples Summit in Ainu Mosir.” The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus 6.11 (2008).Find this resource:

Mason, Michele M. Dominant Narratives of Colonial Hokkaido and Imperial Japan: Envisioning the Periphery and the Modern Nation-State. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.Find this resource:

Mason, Michele M., and Helen J. S. Lee, eds. Reading Colonial Japan: Text, Context and Critique. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2012.Find this resource:

Morris-Suzuki, Tessa. “Creating the Frontier: Border, Identity and History in Japan’s Far North.” East Asian History 7 (1994): 1–24.Find this resource:

Myers, Raymon H., and Mark R. Peattie, eds. The Japanese Colonial Empire, 1895–1945. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1987.Find this resource:

Oda, Hiroshi. “Unearthing the History of Minshū in Hokkaido: The Case Study of the Okhotsk People’s History Workshop.” In Local History and War Memories in Hokkaido. Edited by Philip A. Seaton, 129–145. London: Routledge, 2016.Find this resource:

Oguma, Eiji. A Genealogy of “Japanese” Self-images. Melbourne: Trans Pacific Press, 2002.Find this resource:

Paichadze, Svetlana, and Philip A. Seaton, eds. Voices from the Shifting Russo-Japanese Border: Karafuto/Sakhalin. London: Routledge, 2015.Find this resource:

Seaton, Philip A., ed. Local History and War Memories in Hokkaido. London: Routledge, 2016.Find this resource:

Siddle, Richard M. Race, Resistance and the Ainu of Japan. Abingdon, U.K.: Routledge, 1996.Find this resource:

Siddle, Richard M., ed. Critical Readings on Ethnic Minorities and Multiculturalism in Japan. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2013.Find this resource:

Walker, Brett L. The Conquest of Ainu Lands: Ecology and Culture in Japanese Expansion, 1590–1800. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006.Find this resource:

Weiner, Michael. Japan’s Minorities: The Illusion of Homogeneity. London: Routledge, 2009.Find this resource:


(1.) Michele M. Mason, Dominant Narratives of Colonial Hokkaido and Imperial Japan: Envisioning the Periphery and the Modern Nation-State (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), 24.

(2.) Discussion of Okinawa is beyond the scope of this ORE essay, although many of the issues are similar.

(3.) Stephen Howe, Empire: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 30–31.

(4.) Mason, Dominant Narratives of Colonial Hokkaido and Imperial Japan, 16–18.

(5.) For a more detailed exposition of these phases, see Philip A. Seaton, “Grand Narratives of Empire and Development,” in Local History and War Memories in Hokkaido, ed. Philip A. Seaton (London: Routledge, 2016), 36–49.

(6.) Together with the Ainu: History, The Foundation for Research and Promotion of Ainu Culture.

(7.) David L. Howell, Geographies of Identity in Nineteenth Century Japan (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005), 132–133.

(8.) Marius B. Jansen, The Making of Modern Japan (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002), 19.

(9.) Andrew Cobbing, Kyushu, Gateway to Japan: A Concise History (Folkestone, U.K.: Global Oriental, 2009), 175–176.

(10.) Megumi Takarabe and Akira Nishimura, “Amami Island Religion: Historical Dynamics of the Islanders’ Spirit,” in The Islands of Kagoshima, eds. K. Kawai, R. Terada, and S. Kuwahara (Kagoshima, Japan: Kagoshima University Research Center for the Pacific Islands, 2013), 14, 16.

(11.) ann-elise lewallen, The Fabric of Indigeneity: Ainu Identity, Gender, and Settler Colonialism in Japan (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2016), 16.

(12.) Shigeru Kayano, Our Land Was A Forest: An Ainu Memoir (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1994), 30.

(13.) Regarding Shakushain’s war, see Brett L. Walker, The Conquest of Ainu Lands: Ecology and Culture in Japanese Expansion, 1590–1800 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006), 66–71; regarding the Kunashiri Menashi Uprising see Walker, The Conquest of Ainu Lands, 173–174; and David L. Howell, “Is Ainu History Japanese History?,” in Beyond Ainu Studies: Changing Academic and Public Perspectives, eds. Mark J. Hudson, ann-elise lewallen, and Mark K. Watson (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2014), 111.

(14.) There is a display commemorating Kondo’s claim in the exhibits about the Northern Territories Issue in Akarenga, Sapporo.

(15.) Brett L. Walker, “Mamiya Rinzō and the Japanese Exploration of Sakhalin Island: Cartography and Empire,” Journal of Historical Geography, 33 (2007): 283–313.

(16.) Paul Richardson, “Russia’s ‘Last Barren Islands’: The Southern Kurils and the Territorialization of Regional Memory,” in Voices from the Shifting Russo-Japanese Border: Karafuto/Sakhalin, eds. Svetlana Paichadze and Philip A. Seaton (London: Routledge, 2015), 158–174.

(17.) An exception is Susan C. Townsend, who explicitly links imperialism back to this period of direct rule over Ezo. Susan C. Townsend, Yanaihara Tadao and Japanese Colonial Policy: Redeeming Empire (Richmond, U.K.: Curzon, 2000), 71.

(18.) Howell, Geographies of Identity, 186–189; and Philip A. Seaton, “Memories Beyond Borders: Karafuto Sites of Memory in Hokkaido,” in Voices from the Shifting Russo-Japanese Border: Karafuto/Sakhalin, eds. Svetlana Paichadze and Philip A. Seaton (London: Routledge, 2015), 127–130.

(19.) David M. Glantz, The Soviet Strategic Offensive in Manchuria, 1945: “August Storm” (London: Routledge, 2003), 301–306.

(20.) See Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, ed., The End of the Pacific War: Reappraisals (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2007).

(21.) ann-elise lewallen, “Indigenous at last! Ainu Grassroots Organizing and the Indigenous Peoples Summit in Ainu Mosir,” Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus 6.11.0 (2008).

(22.) Richard Siddle, Race, Resistance and the Ainu of Japan (Abingdon, U.K.: Routledge, 1996).

(23.) Mark K. Watson, ann-elise lewallen, and Mark J. Hudson, “Beyond Ainu Studies: An Introduction,” in Beyond Ainu Studies: Changing Academic and Public Perspectives, eds. Mark J. Hudson, ann-elise lewallen, and Mark K. Watson (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2014), 2.

(24.) Howell, Geographies of Identity, l40.

(25.) Siddle, Race, Resistance and the Ainu of Japan, 76–112.

(26.) Walker, The Conquest of Ainu Lands.

(27.) Kirsten Refsing, “From Collecting Words to Writing Grammars: A Brief History of Ainu Linguistics,” in Beyond Ainu Studies: Changing Academic and Public Perspectives, eds. Mark J. Hudson, ann-elise lewallen, and Mark K. Watson (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2014), 198.

(28.) See for example ann-elise lewallen, The Fabric of Indigeneity, about Ainu women and the culture of cloth.

(29.) See Tessa Morris-Suzuki, “Tourists, Anthropologists, and Visions of Indigenous Society in Japan,” in Beyond Ainu Studies: Changing Academic and Public Perspectives, eds. Mark J. Hudson, ann-elise lewallen, and Mark K. Watson (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2014), 45–66. Tourism issues are also referred to extensively in Siddle, Race, Resistance and the Ainu of Japan.

(30.) Kayano, Our Land Was A Forest, 119.

(31.) Mason, Dominant Narratives of Colonial Hokkaido and Imperial Japan, 162–168.

(32.) Siddle, Race, Resistance and the Ainu of Japan, 163.

(33.) Michele M. Mason, “Writing Ainu Out/Writing Ainu In: The ‘Nature’ of Japanese Colonialism in Hokkaido,” in Reading Colonial Japan: Text, Context, and Critique, eds. Michele M. Mason and Helen J. S. Lee (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2012), 33–54.

(34.) Mason, Dominant Narratives of Colonial Hokkaido and Imperial Japan, 35.

(35.) Philip A. Seaton, “Commemorating the War Dead at Hokkaido Gokoku Shrine,” in Local History and War Memories in Hokkaido, ed. Philip A. Seaton (London: Routledge, 2016), 165–166.

(36.) Vivian Blaxell, “Designs of Power: The ‘Japanization’ of Urban and Rural Space in Colonial Hokkaido,” The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus 7.35.2 (2009).

(37.) Seaton, “Grand Narratives of Empire and Development,” 51.

(38.) Howell, “Is Ainu History Japanese History?” 103.

(39.) Hiroshi Oda, “Unearthing the History of Minshū in Hokkaido: The Case Study of the Okhotsk People’s History Workshop,” in Local History and War Memories in Hokkaido, ed. Philip A. Seaton (London: Routledge, 2016), 129–145.

(40.) Howell, “Is Ainu History Japanese History?” 113.

(41.) For a structural summary, see Administrative Framework.

(42.) Mark K. Watson, Japan’s Ainu Minority in Tokyo: Diasporic Indigeneity and Urban Politics (London: Routledge, 2014).

(43.) ann-elise lewallen, “Bones of Contention: Negotiating Anthropological Ethics Within Fields of Ainu Refusal,” Critical Asian Studies 39.4 (2007): 509–540.