Port of Hakodate
Review and History

The Port of Hakodate lies on the southern shores of Hokkaido, Japan’s second largest and northernmost island. Built on a rocky promontory, it has an excellent sheltered harbor. The main industries in the Port of Hakodate are salmon- and seaweed-processing and tourism. The Port of Hakodate is the capital of the subprefecture of Oshima. Its streets are clean and wide, but its houses are made of wood, but they have stone roofs due to the windy conditions of the city. In 2005, over 294 thousand people live din the Port of Hakodate.

Port History

Usukeshi, an Ainu fishing village stood on the site of the Port of Hakodate before it was founded in 1454 when Kono Kaganokami Masamichi built a large manor house there. The house was barricaded, making it look like a box, thus giving the city its name, “box mansion” or Hakodate.

When Masamichi died, his family was driven from the Port of Hakodate into nearby Kameda, and the area fell into darkness for about a century. Throughout the Oshima peninsula area, constant low-level conflicts with the Ainu led to the uprising of 1669-1672 when the Ainu were defeated.

The Port of Hakodate grew quickly in the early 18th Century, with many new temples appearing. In 1741, the Matsumae clan moved its magistracy to Hakodate, further enriching the village.

When the Tokugawa shogunate took control of the Port of Hakodate in 1779, the area began to develop quickly. Merchant Takadaya Kahei founded the Port of Hakodate and started trade operations. Kahei is recognized for turning the former trading outpost to a busy city.

During the Meiji restoration, the Port of Hakodate partially opened to provision foreign ships. In 1859, it was one of three Japanese ports opened to foreign trade under the Treaty of Amity and Commerce with the United States. A member of Admiral Perry’s fleet was the first US citizen buried in Japan, and he was buried in Hakodate’s foreigners’ cemetery.

In 1861, Thomas Blakiston (a naturalist, merchant, and spy from Britain) moved to the Port of Hakodate, establishing a saw mill and exposing the town to western ways. In the three years he was in Hakodate, he equipped a weather station, documented the local environment, and ran guns to rebels.

Because it was one of few Japanese point of contact with the world, the Port of Hakodate soon hosted several consulates. The Russian consulate had a chapel that introduced Eastern Orthodox Christianity to Japan in 1861. In that neighborhood were other missions representing Anglican and Catholic churches.

The Port of Hakodate was an important player in the Boshin War after Perry’s opening of the country to the west. The war between the Tokugawa shogunate and the Meiji Emperor saw the shogunate rebel, Enomoto Takeiki, escaping with the remains of his navy and a few French advisors to the Port of Hakodate in 1866. They formed the Republic of Ezo there, trying without success to get international recognition. The used the European-style Goryokaku Fort as their base in Hokkaidō, but the Meiji defeated them in 1869 in the Battle of Hakodate.

The Port of Hakodate received city status in 1922. The city escaped most of World War II due to the surrounding fortifications and restricted access. As many as ten internment camps were established in the Port of Hakodate during the war, and many prisoners of war were kept there. In 1945, Allied bombs destroyed about 400 homes and killed about 400 people aboard the Aomori-Hakodate Ferry.

In 2004, the Port of Hakodate grew substantially when the nearby towns of Minamikayabe, Tio, Esan, and Todohokke were merged into Hakodate.

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