Tondenhei (屯田兵)

Tondenhei refers to a soldier or a troop that undertook the guard and reclamation of Hokkaido in the Meiji period.. This institution was established in 1874, executed the next year, and abolished in 1904.

Beginning of Tondenhei

The idea of executing the Tondensei (Duntian system) in Hokkaido had arisen in various lines since the first year of the Meiji period. The idea might be first suggested by Takeaki ENOMOTO: He thought of moving surviving retainers of the Tokugawa Clan to Hokkaido and letting them undertake the guard and reclamation of the northern territory, and holding up this plan, fought the Battle of Hakodate against the new government.

The first proposal of the government was made by the Hokkaido Development Commissioner in November, 1870. Then, Takamori SAIGO advocated from 1871 to 1873 that the northern territory should be guarded and reclaimed by shizoku (family or persons with samurai ancestors). SAIGO resigned his public post before seeing his plan carried out, but Kiyotake KURODA, an undersecretary for reclamation projects, under SAIGO's influence, proposed a Duntian system to the Dajokan (Grand Council of State) in November, 1873. His proposal was that Shakhalin and Hokkaido should need military forces and cost for them, therefore, "on the model of the Duntian system they should move people there for farming and defense to get the advantages of reclamation and defense of the border ". KURODA's idea was also based on utilization of shizoku, but he considered shizoku in poverty in former Matsumae Domain and Tohoku Domains.

The Dajokan agreed to his proposal and set up Tondenhei Regulations in 1874. In May, 1875, the first tondenhei settlement was built in Kotoniheison in the suburbs of Sapporo.

History of the Early-Period Tondenhei Settlements

The initial tondenhei recruitment was, as a rule, limited to shizoku. In order to fill the requirements of social status and age, adoptions were arranged: Those children were called Tonden Adopted Children. In fact, these adoptions caused no problems because the recruitment authorities had no intention to reject commoners. In later years with the repeal of the shizoku-only principle, the social status ratio of new soldiers became almost equal to that of the population. Therefore, the history is sometimes divided into the first half period, Shizoku-tondenhei Settlements, and the latter half, Commoner- tondenhei Settlements.

Tondenhei settlements first developed in Ishikari areas in the vicinity of Sapporo City, and gradually expanded to the inland and Doto areas (eastern part of Hokkaido). Tondenhei formed a heison (tondenhei village) as a unit of a troop of about two hundred families. Several troops were combined into one battalion, but the organization of battalion levels was often changed. At first tondenhei were placed under the tonden jimu-kyoku (bureau) (later tonden jimu-gakari [bureau]) of the Hokkaido Development Commissioner. It was transferred to the Ministry of Army when the Hokkaido Development Commissioner was abolished. Under the Ministry of Army the presiding organizations of tondenhei were renamed Tondenhei Headquarters, Tondenhei Command Center and became more similar to the formation of general military units. Takeshiro NAGAYAMA served as Tondenhei Director-general, Tondenhei Commander, and the later-established Dainana Shidan (Seventh Division) Chief.

Tondenhei were unique in that they were long-term volunteers in the then Japan under the draft system. Legislatively, there were no regulations on the promotion from heisotsu (solidier) to shikan (officer), but actually some soldiers were promoted to top officials of the late Tondenhei settlements.

Since the participation in the Seinan War in 1818, tondenhei had fought a series of battles. At that time, tondenhei reservists were formed for reinforcement, but because the war ended during their training, they did not experience actual battles. After the war, tondenhei reservists remained as they were, as soldiers who usually did their jobs, but were called up for service only during wars and in the annual training. The reservists were abolished in 1881.

Development of Late Period Tondenhei Settlements

After the abolition of the Hokkaido Development Commissioner, Kentaro KANEKO, a Dajokan great secretary, performed research of actual conditions in Hokkaido under orders of Hirobumi ITO. KANEKO proposed the expansion of tondenhei in the report of "Inspection Tour in Three Prefectures of Hokkaido". Aritomo YAMAGATA and Kaoru INOUE also inspected Hokkaido and got an impression that they should give greater importance to todenhei. Takeshiro NAGAYAMA, the director-general, examined the Cossac soldier system in Russia, and set up concrete measures of the tondenhei expansion on this model. NAGAYAMA, who returned to Japan, assumed the post of governor of the Hokkaido government concurrently serving as Tondenhei Director-general on June 15, 1888, the reformation/expansion program of tondenhei was rapidly improved.

The program of increasing 20 troops by 1893 was announced in February, 1889. After several act amendments an institution that would guarantee the future and rights of the soldiers was introduced. With the changed recruitment method, former shizoku were no longer preferentially employed. The land given to a tondenhei became 1.5 times larger than that in the past, and, besides, the public land for shared use was prepared. Their service term was twenty years including three years for geneki (active service), four years for yobieki (reserve duty), thirteen years for kobieki (duty after reserve duty) with age limit of forty. In each heison (tondenhei village) a heison-kai (heison society) consisting of elected soldiers was set up.

In the late tondenhei settlements, unlike the early settlements, the emphasis was shifted from the Sapporo vicinity to Kamikawa and Sorachi. Under favorable conditions such as accumulated past experiences, favorable land choices and a large number of former farmers, the management of the late-period tondenei settlements gained good results.

Abolition of Tondenhei

At the time of the late tondenhei settlements Hokkaido had been reclaimed to a great extent and the land suitable for large-scale immigration had been scarce. And also about that time the population of Hokkaido was reaching a level at which it was possible to recruit soldiers under the conscription system, which led to the foundation of the Dainana Shidan (Seventh Division). New immigration ended in Kamikawa and Shibetsu in 1899, and the tondenhei institution was abolished in 1904 when they entered kobieki.

Life and Duty

Tondenhei immigrated with their families and were given a heioku (soldier's house), which had been built and prepared before their immigration, and undeveloped land. Each heioku was a separate house built in a standard set up in every village. Each house had two tatami-floored rooms, an itanoma (room with a wooden floor) equipped with a fire pit, a doma (dirt floor), a lavatory and a sink placed in the itanoma or doma. Its room arrangement is said to have been far from luxurious, but better than that of the ordinary people at that time. However, in a heioku in Fukagawa-mura (now Fukagawa City) in about 1901, it was easy to catch 50 to 60 anopheles (mosquitoes that mediate malaria parasites) in July and August. In a word, the heioku was a house into which many anopheles could invade at nighttime.

Heison in their form were different from villages in general, and functioned as an independent village in a village because people entered it as a group and followed one discipline. A shubansho (later renamed a chutai-honbu or troop headquarters), a drill court and a rifle range were attached to each heison. In addition, each heison had vast communal land.

Tondenhei had to observe strict living regulations. They had to get up and start working at fixed times, and report to their upper officers when they went to places far from their villages. They engaged not only in military training and farming, but also in constructing roads and waterways, keeping watch on streets and particular buildings and helping victims of disaster. They also played a role in growing various domestic and foreign crops in an experimental farm. In peacetime they were regulated to be organized into toho-kenpei (military foot policemen) (Tondenhei Regulations).

War Service

Tondenhei fought in wars such the Seinan War, the Sino-Japanese War, and the Russo-Japanese War.

Seinan War

All tondenhei were mobilized into the Seinan War, and took part in pursuit battles in the Hitoyoshi region. Tondenhei reservists were organized for reinforcement, but were dismissed during training in Tokyo because the war was expected to end.

In February, 1877 when the Seinan War broke out, the Tondenhei Bureau sent a tondenhei platoon to the Hakodate port by orders of KURODA Reclamation General. Lieutenant YASUDA in the First Troop with his 30 subordinates went there to assume the duty of watching ships for about a month. His troop left the port when it was confirmed that there would be no revolt expansion.

On April 10, General KURODA gave orders to the Tondenhiei Daiichi Daitai (First Battalion) or all the Tondeihei troops to go to the war. Tondenhei, leaving the Otaru port and arriving at Hyakkan in Kumamoto Prefecture, quartered in Kojima-cho. It was decided on April 27 that they would belong to Betsudo Daini Ryodan (Independent Second Brigade) and one troop for the Chindai (garrison) and several snipers were arranged. Thereafter, tondenhei joined marching from Yashiro to Hitoyoshi and fought a series of battles. There were many former shizoku from Tohoku Domains among noncommissioned officers, and therefore, they were spurred to fight against shizoku in Kagoshima Prefecture, who were enemies in the Boshin War. However, some officers, natives of Kagoshima Prefecture had little will to fight: A certain army officer who watched the battle at the Ichisegawa river remarked that "it was not officers, but noncommissioned officers who were fighting". With the end of the war in sight, Tondenhei received the order to go home on August 16. In the war Tondenhei suffered damage of seven soldiers who died in action, twenty soldiers who died from disease and twenty injured soldiers.

Tondenhei returned to Sapporo on September 30 via Miyakonojyo, Kobe, and Tokyo. On the way back tondenhei and reservists were reviewed by the Meiji Emperor and given words of thanks from him. The postwar grant of honors was greater to officers, native to Kagoshima Prefecture who were targets of criticism and smaller to those from other domains who fought bravely, which caused one officer to commit seppuku for protest.

Sino-Japanese War

In the Sino-Japanese War, tondenhei were mobilized to Tokyo and just when their organization was finished, peace was made.

After the war began tondenhei together with kobihei soldiers (soldiers in service after reserve duty) remained in Japan for the first time. On March 4, 1896, an order was given to organize a temporal Dainana Shidan (Seventh Division) centering on todenhei, and all soldiers were mobilized. To begin with, they gathered in Otaru, traveled to Aomori by steamship, and reached Tokyo by train; after vacancies being filled up, they were organized into the First Army. However, they were given orders of demobilization without leaving for battle fronts because peace negotiations were started on May 15. They returned to Hokkaido in June, and the Temporal Seventh Division was dismissed on June 22.

Russo-Japanese War

In the Russo-Japanese War, tondenhei were assigned to the Seventh Division as kobihei soldiers and went through fierce battles in Lushun and Hoten. Tondenhei were abolished during the war, but stayed in the army and got free of military service after the war.

When the Russo-Japanese War broke out in February, 1904, all tondenhei were out of active service, on the verge of becoming kobihei soldiers. The Seventh Division whose headquarters was in Asahikawa, waiting and seeing what move Russia would make, did not mobilize tendenhei for the time being.

Mobilization was ordered on August 4, and tondenhei were summoned for filling up vacancies. The Open-Battle Seventh Division was completed on August 17, and Lieutenant General Naoharu OSAKO became a divisional commander. The Seventh Division, unlike other divisions, arranged in each regiment about one platoon of dragoons to act as messengers. These dragoons were chosen from tondenhei. The Rusu (Absence) Seventh Division was placed in Hokkaido on October 26, which engaged in training and filling up vacancies.

When transportation began on October 21, the Seventh Division gathered in Tairen and belonged to the Third Army under the command of Maresuke NOGI. They participated in the Lushun siege warfare, and suffered enormous damage when capturing Lushin. They participated in Hoten battles after Lushun had surrendered. They returned to Japan in March, 1906, the next year when peace negotiations began.

The damage of the whole Seventh Division reached 3142 deaths and 8222 injuries (damage not including tondenhei alone).

Related Acts

Tondenhei Reisoku (regulations) enacted in October, 1874
Tondenhei Yobihei (reservists) Regulations enacted in December, 1877
Abolition of Tondenhei Yobihei Regulations in February, 1881
Tondenhei Jorei (ordinances) enacted on May 5, 1885
Tondenhei Headquarters Gaisoku (general regulations) enacted on October 16, 1885
Revision of Tondenhei Jorei in July, 1889
Revision of Tondenhei Jorei in August, 1890
Tondenhei Tochi (land) and Kyuyo (salary) Regulations in September, 1890
Notification of the Ministry of Army Concerning Recruitment in October, 1890
Abolition of Tondenhei Jorei in September 8, 1904

Jurisdiction of Tondenhei

Hokkaido Development Commissioner
Tondenhei Settlement Jimu-kyoku (Bureau) (set up in March, 1875)
Tonden Settlement Jimu-gakari (Bureau) (renamed in July, 1881)
Ministry of Army
Tondenhei Settlement Jimugakari (transferred in January, 1882
Tondenhei Headquarters (renamed in May, 1885)
Tondenhei Command Center (renamed in July, 1889)
Temporal Seventh Division (organized in March, 1895)
Seventh Division (formally set up in May, 1896/abolition of Tonden Command Center)

Hokkaido Inheritances

"Tondenhei Villages and Heioku" were selected for Hokkaido inheritances on October 22, 2004.