The Development Commission (開拓使)
The Development Commission was a local government established between July 8, 1869 and February 8, 1882 to reclaim lands of Ezo (present-day, Hokkaido, a northern island of Japan).
It was called the Hokkaido Development Commission from February 13, 1870 to August 7, 1871 during which period the Sakhalin Development Commission was also activated. Before the Hokkaido Development Commission was established, Hakodate-fu (Hakodate Prefecture) undertook all the administrative matters of Hokkaido. After the abolition of the Hokkaido Development Commission, Sapporo Prefecture, Hakodate Prefecture and Nemuro Prefecture were created.
A period from Naomasa NABESHIMA to Michitomi HIGASHIKUZE
The Hokkaido Development Commission was one of the central government organs and ranked with a ministry. It reflected the government's focus on the development of the northern island, but the reclamation of Ezo did not work for the first few years due to the inadequate system and it was not until 1871 that the government effort finally paid off. The first chief of the Hokkaido Development Commission was Naomasa NABESHIMA who claimed the importance of Ezo even before the bakufu era ended, but he resigned before embarking on the practical reclamation work. The post was assumed by Michitomi HIGASHIKUZE, who headed for Hokkaido (Ezo) with his magistrates in September 1869.
Although Hakodate (Hakodate City) where Hakodate-fu was established played a central role in Ezo in terms of population and industry, it was planned to establish a new head office in central Hokkaido because Hakodate was positioned far south. A leading magistrate and former feudal retainer of the Saga clan, Yoshitake SHIMA, who accompanied the chief of the Development Commission, established a temporary office in Zenibako (present-day, Zenibako, Otaru City) and started the designing of the urban district of Sapporo City and the construction of a head office in Sapporo. The reclamation project designed by SHIMA, who was later called 'The father of Hokkaido Reclamation', was so grand, but he was blamed and confronted by the chief for spending too much budget in a short period of time during severe winter and got fired without seeing the completion of the project. SHIMA's replacement, Michitoshi IWAMURA, took over the construction work of Sapporo City and the head office, and the Development Commission's office was moved in to Sapporo in May 1871.
When the Hokkaido Development Commission was first inaugurated, the financial base of the central government was weak and could not afford to govern the entire Hokkaido. Therefore, the central government called for feudal domains, organizations and individuals to reclaim a portion of lands in Hokkaido and gave them the control over such areas in return. The efficiency of land allocation varied with places, but most did not work well due to the lack of experience. The land allocation system was terminated on August 20, 1871 and the Hokkaido Development Commission was established to directly govern the island except Date Prefecture (the former Matsumae domain).
The era of Kiyotaka KURODA
Sakhalin was overseen by Kansuke OKAMOTO since Hakodate-fu was set up. However, Japanese government felt a strong sense of crisis over Russia which sent more soldiers and immigrants to Sakhalin and pushed Japan into an inferior position, and established the Sakhalin Development Commission in 1870, and the vice chief of the Commission, Kiyotaka KURODA, was assigned to oversee the administrative matters of Sakhalin. After making an inspection of Sakhalin, KURODA prepared a serious report that Sakhalin would be overtaken by Russia within three years unless the current situation changed, and claimed the importance of development of Hokkaido to gain more competing powers against Russia. Based on this claim, the government passed a large-scale budgetary program, a so-called 'ten-year program for the Development Commission', on August 19, 1871, which earmarked as much as 10 million yen for ten years.
In October 1871, when the chief of the Hokkaido Development Commission, HIGASHIKUZE, resigned, KURODA took over the work as vice chief in Tokyo. In October 1872, the control of four counties, Fukushima County, Tsugaru County, Hiyama County and Nishi County, all of which belonged to Oshima Province, were transferred from Date Prefecture of Matsumae Domain to the Development Commission as shown in a chronological table in and after the modern history of Aomori Prefecture. Although KURODA became the chief of the Hokkaido Development Commission in 1874, he delivered commands from Tokyo without moving in to Hokkaido. KURODA also invited "employed foreigners", such as an American, Horace Capron, to take advice on policies and technological knowledge from them. Although the Development Commission was allocated with a huge budget to promote various land reclamation projects, the money was still short to complete all the works in an enormous area like Hokkaido. Therefore, the government gave up basic undertakings such as land survey and road construction in early stage and shifted their focus to industrial development.
KURODA thought that as the reclamation of Hokkaido was not going smoothly, it was too much work for the government to develop Sakhalin as it was under more severe natural conditions. The resignation of OKAMOTO who opposed the KURODA's thought on Sakhalin almost stalled the reclamation project of Sakhalin. As a result, the Japanese government gave up Sakhalin based on the Treaty of Saint Petersburg signed in May 1875. When the land exchange took place based on the treaty, Japanese government forcibly transferred the Ainu in Sakhalin to Hokkaido. Juro MATSUMOTO, a senior magistrate of the Hokkaido Development Commission, who headed the main office in Sapporo, objected to the forced migration and later resigned to take responsibility. With the resignation of MATSUMOTO, there remained almost no senior officials from the early era of the Hokkaido Development Commission, and a government dominated by the Satsuma Domain, with KURODA positioned as its head, took control of the Commission.
In 1881, when the ten-year project was drawing to an end, KURODA decided to sell the facilities and equipment owned by the government to junior officials in order to continue the operation of the Development Commission. However, it was uncovered by newspaper companies and the media attacked Tomoatsu GODAI, a Satsuma businessman with political ties, as a leading player of the matter. This was so-called 'disposal of government-owned property by the Development Commission', which was one of the major bribery scandals in the Meiji Period. The Hokkaido Development Commission was abolished in 1882 and Hokkaido was divided into Hakodate Prefecture, Sapporo Prefecture and Nemuro Prefecture.
Policies in each area and Hokkaido under the Development Commission
Kanzoku of the Hokkaido Development Commission
Kanzoku of the Hokkaido Development Commission referred to a person who belonged to the Commission to be engaged in reclamation work but did not have to give up his or her social status as a warrior class and even given necessary funds for relocation.
The former Morioka Domain and others had a face value of 13 thousands koku crop yield (real value of 18 thousands koku crop yield), but it was not enough for feeding 7,500 vassals. In addition to that, a risk of uprising was mounting due to an extremely poor harvest in 1869.
For these reasons, there was an increasing momentum among people to move in to Hokkaido, but there was no way to raise funds as they had to move at their own expense.
In February 1871, the prefectural governor and chief councilor of Kakuda City acknowledged the distress that former Shiraishi feudal retainers suffered, and reported the situation to the central government after consultation with the Development Commission. On March 17, Daijokan (Grand Council of State) appointed 600 retainers of the Katakura clan, who resided in Kakuda City, as Kanzoku of the Hokkaido Development Commissioner.
The first immigration policy the Development Commission took was to send immigrants recruited by the government to Hokkaido and made them settled. Also, an aid system was created to provide rice, money and agricultural tools to new immigrants. However, as the aid was not effective compared to the costs incurred, the government stopped recruitment and preferential treatment for new immigrants and shifted its support to already settled immigrants. In 1873, the government started a farmer-soldiersystem in which a farmer-soldier doubled the tasks of northern-territory security and land reclamation. Most of the early immigrants were of a warrior class from Tohoku region. In later years, the mainstream of immigrants was shifted to commoners, the most populous social class, from Tohoku and Hokuriku regions.
The chiefs and vice chiefs of the Hokkaido Development Commission
Offices and chief magistrates of the Hokkaido Development Commission
Detached offices of the Hokkaido Development Commission
1869 - May 1871
The Hokkaido Development Commissioner Agency
Established in July 1869. Renamed the 'Tokyo detached office of the Hokkaido Development Commission' on Leap October 9, 1870.
Chief magistrate: Takeshiro MATSUURA
The detached office of the Hokkaido Development Commission (Hakodate)
September 30, 1869 - May 1871
Chief: Michitomi HIGASHIKUZE
Chief magistrate: Michitoshi IWAMURA (transferred to Otaru temporal office in 1870).
Zenibako Temporary Office
October 1869 - April 1870
The office was closed when SHIMA was transferred and its function was taken over by the Otaru temporary office.
Chief magistrate: Yoshitake SHIMA (transferred to the central government in April 1870).
Otaru Temporary Office
April 1870 - May 1871
The office was closed when the Sapporo head office was set up.
Chief magistrate: Michitoshi IWAMURA
Nemuro detached office of the Hokkaido Development Commission
October 1869 - June 1870 (taken over by Tokyo-fu)
The control of the detached office was restored to the Hokkaido Development Commission in October 1870.
Chief magistrate: Juro MATSUMOTO
Soya detached office of the Hokkaido Development Commission
October 1869 - January 1870
Chief magistrate: Shinjun TAKEDA
The formal name unknown (Sakhalin)
The Sakhalin office had been run by OKAMOTO since Hakodate Court was established. The Sakhalin Development Commission office was established in February 1870.
Chief magistrate: Kansuke OKAMOTO
Sapporo agency and other detached agency of the Hokkaido Development Commission
May 1871 - September 14, 1872
Tokyo detached office of the Hokkaido Development Commission
Chief magistrate: Takeshiro MATSUURA
Hakodate detached agency of the Hokkaido Development Commission
Nemuro detached agency of the Hokkaido Development Commission
Chief magistrate: Juro MATSUMOTO
Sapporo head office and branch offices
September 14, 1872 - February 8, 1882
Sapporo head office of the Hokkaido Development Commission
The jurisdiction for Urakawa branch office was incorporated on May 14, 1874.
The jurisdiction for Rumoi branch office was incorporated on March 12, 1875.
The jurisdiction north of the Uruppu Island, which became the Japan's property in exchange for Sakhalin, was transferred to the Sapporo head office on December 2, 1875.
The jurisdiction north of the Uruppu Island was transferred to the Nemro branch office on August 7, 1878.
Michitoshi IWAMURA: dismissed in January 1873. Juro MATSUMOTO: doubled as chief magistrate of the Nemuro branch office since October 1872. Returned to the Sapporo headquarter in July 1872. Resigned in September 1876.
Moroi HORI: September 1876 - December 1877 (resigned)
Hirotake ZUSHO: December 1877 -
Hakodate branch office of the Hokkaido Development Commission
Makoto SUGIURA: resigned in January 1877.
友卿 YANAGIDA: February 1877 - December 1877 (resigned)
Tamemoto TOKITO: December 1877 -
Nemuro branch office of the Hokkaido Development Commission
The jurisdiction over the Chishima Islands, north of Uruppu Island, was transferred to the Nemuro office on August 7, 1878.
Juro MATSUMOTO: transferred to Sapporo headquarter in July 1873.
Heinai ORITA: 1873 -
Soya branch office of the Hokkaido Development Commission
The office was moved to Rumoi region and renamed as 'Rumoi branch office of the Hokkaido Development Commission' on February 25, 1873.
Abolished on March 12, 1875. Its jurisdiction was taken over by Sapporo headquarter.
Urakawa branch office of the Hokkaido Development Commission
Abolished on May 14, 1874.
Supernumerary government official (七等出仕):Kiyoatsu MIYOSHI
Sakhalin branch office of the Hokkaido Development Commission
Abolished in accordance with the Treaty of Saint Petersburg on November 20, 1875.
Tokyo detached office of the Hokkaido Development Commission
Chief and vice chief: Kiyotaka KURODA
The badge of the Hokkaido Development Commission had a shape of a red polar star. This badge was displayed in all places associated with the Hokkaido Development Commission. Buildings in Hokkaido established while the Hokkaido Development Commission governed it still bear the mark of a red polar star. The clock tower in Sapporo City (a former theatrical hall of the Sapporo Agricultural School) is one of them. Also, the former trademark of Sapporo Breweries Ltd. was a red polar star, although the current mark is a gold star, as the company was grown from a brewery started by the Hokkaido Development Commission (Kaitakushi Bakushu Jozojo).