Sakhalin Development Commissioner (樺太開拓使)

Sakhalin Development Commissioner is an authority arranged for the Sakhalin reclamation from February 13, 1870 to August 7, 1871. Although it was established in isolation from the Hokkaido Development Commissioner, it was abolished and combined again in a little more than one year.

Sakhalin, where the Japanese and the Russians lived under the treaty between the Russian Empire and the Empire of Japan signed between Edo bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) and the Russian government, was initially controlled by Hakodate District Court and Hakodate-fu after the Restoration of (Japanese) Imperial Rule, and later, by the Hokkaido Development Commissioner. Kensuke OKAMOTO performed public administration from the time of the Hakodate District Court and managed about 500 Japanese settlers who immigrated from 1868 and 1869. OKAMOTO provided hospitality of tax-free condition and food supply for the Sakhalin settlers; nevertheless, the settlement did not progress easily.

During this period the speed of migration and development of Russia exceeded the Japan side, and also disputes with Japanese people occurred frequently. This was partly caused by the stance of Okamoto, who defied the effect of the treaty between the Russian Empire and the Empire of Japan, regarded the island as indigenous to Japan, and in principle refused the development of the island by the Russians. OKAMOTO thought that since a vassal of the Tokugawa family without the right of conclusion of a treaty contracted the treaty between the Russian Empire and the Empire of Japan, the border must be determined anew at the period of direct rule by the emperor. This view was different from that of the Japanese government which stood on recognition of having took over the treaty of the shogunate era.

OKAMOTO came up to Tokyo to report the urgency of the state of affairs. Hearing the report and sensing of danger, the government removed the administration of Sakhalin from the Hokkaido Development Commissioner and established the Sakhalin Development Commissioner on February 13, 1870. The independent budget was made, and the Kogisho (the lower house) located in Kushunkotan was changed to the Sakhalin Development Commissioner, but there were no substantial changes. Then on Saturday, May 9, Kiyotaka KURODA was appointed as an undersecretary of the Hokkaido Development Commissioner (he was not an undersecretary of the Sakhalin Development Commissioner.) and considered as the executive managing director of Sakhalin. KURODA went to Sakhalin for inspections and arrived there in August. KURODA negotiated with the Russian authority according to the principle that the Japanese and the Russians lived together, and after solving the present disputes, he returned to Tokyo. OKAMOTO resigned in this October.

After returning to Tokyo, KURODA warned that the country would lose control over Sakhalin within 3 years if the situation continued, and submitted a proposal to the government emphasizing the necessity for full Kitakata reclamation. This brought a budget plan called Ten-Year plan for Hokkaido Development Commissioner. Although the development of Hokkaido was accelerated on the budget of the Ten-Year plan, the situation of Sakhalin did not change basically. No high officers were dispatched to Sakhalin nor appointed since then, and Sakhalin Development Commissioner was abolished on August 7, 1871.