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1877 – Different Japanese Views on Matsushima

June 28th, 2007 . by Gerry-Bevers
The following document was prepared by Tanabe Taichi, who was the head of the Communications Bureau in the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1877. The document summarizes the different views in the ministry on what to do about the petition by Japanese businessman Mutoh Heigaku (武藤平学) to open up an island referred to as Matsushima. As you can see in the document, the Japanese were not sure which island was Mutoh’s Matsushima. Some believed it to be Joseon’s Ulleungdo; some believed it to be Ulleungdo’s Usando, and others believed it to be some uninhabited island, as was summarized in an 1878 letter written Watanabe Kouki (渡辺洪基), who was the Director of the Bureau of Docouments in the Japanese Foreign Ministry at the time.    

The document was probably written in 1877 or 1878, but it was included in the last volume of a 3-volume set of books entitled “A Study of Historical Evidence of Takeshima” (竹島考証), which was an 1881 compilation of documents related to Takeshima (Ulleungdo). Here is the translation of the document:

“Arguments on the Pros and Cons of Inspecting Matsushima”

Tanabe Taichi, the Head of Communication Bureau

Opinion A (甲): Whether the island should be opened can be discussed another time, but today we should debate the merits of an inspection. I have heard that Japanese use the name “Matsushima,” but the actual name is “Usan,” which is part of Joseon’s Ulleungdo (蔚陵島). Concerning Joseon’s ownership of Ulleungdo (蔚陵島), there was a dispute during the old government (Tokugawa) when, after exchanging several documents to support our claims, we agreed to give it up, a fact that is permanently written in our two histories. To dispatch someone to inspect without any reason is like counting another’s treasure, and trespassing into a neighbor’s territory.

Although Japan and Korea have just begun exchanges, there is still some animosity and suspicion, so people who are trying to develop relations will probably be against something like this since it could cause, in one stroke, a gap to reappear. Moreover, they would probably like it even less if we hired an English or Russian ship to take us to the island. Even if the island is not Korean territory, wise people say that it was clearly a mistake to open up the uninhabited islands in the south and make them a part of Ryukyu County. What we need to strive for now it stabilizing our country, and we will gain nothing by upseting Joseon and causing disorder. We cannot and should not open up Matshushima. To inspect it while knowing how useless it would be, would be extremely unbeneficial. Moreover, it would cause harm later.

Opinion B (乙): We cannot decide to open up the land until we have inspected it. When discussing territory, we must physically see it. It is wrong to believe something based on just a piece of paper. Moreover, the island is located near our shore. It is an important route for our people when they sail to the Korean mainland or to Russian locals, so it would be negligent of us to make a decision without without investigating all the details of the land and its situation. Therefore, we should inspect not only the island in question (Matsushima), but also Takeshima (Ulleungdo). We need to know all the details of its current situation. An inspection is needed, but, needless to say, it would be stupid to hire an English or Russian ship, anchor there for only a day or half a day, and allow only one or two officials to land and inspect it. Also, it is not necessary that we do it right away. When the Navy is free, after the Seinan war (a local war inside Japan), we should dispatch naval officers who are experts on surveying and drafting and government officials who are experts on production an product development and let them inspect the island. After that, we can compare writings, maps, and documents to finally determine if Matsushima is a part of Ulleungdo (蔚陵島), if it is Usan, or if it is an ownerless island. Then we can consider the benefits of cultivating it. Therefore, since it is impossible to decide whether to open up the island before we inspect it, we have no choice but to inspect Matsushima. At any rate, it would be regrettable if we accept arguments like Mr. Sewaki’s, who says we should not dare do this.

Opinion C (丙): There was a theory in a Bristish newspaper that said the UK needed a naval base in the northern Pacific to stop Russia’s eastward expansion, so they may take notice of an island like Matsushima. Also, I have heard that a British government ship named Sylvia made a voyage from Nagasaki to Korea. We do not know the route they took, as there was no Japanese interpreter onboard, so there is a chance they passed the island. If a UK minister or someone else asks about the island in question, it would not only be embarrassing to say we have no idea, it could cause trouble. Therefore, let’s not debate opinions A and B, on whether we should open the island, since our most urgent task is to determine the status of the island in question.

If there is someone willing to inspect the island or anchor near the island, regardless of the ship he uses, we should permit him and hire him to do so. Even if we achieve only what has been mentioned so far, it will naturally cost something. After determining how much it is worth to get the task done soon, we should give Mr. Sewaki a predetermined amount of money and have him do the task within that budget. Although we cannot rule out the possibility that the Korean government will become more suspicious if a Japanese arrives on a foreign ship, since the Korean people on the island cannot differentiate Japanese and other foreigners, I do not believe it will hurt the friendship with our neighbors.

As you can see from the above document, the Japanese were unsure of where Matsushima was, but one opinion was that it was Ulleungdo’s Usando. Some Korean historians claim that the Japanese believed Usando to be Liancourt Rocks (Dokdo), but all Japanese maps showing “Usando” (于山島) showed it as a neighboring island of Ulleungdo, not Liancourt Rocks. In fact, some Japanese maps even showed it to the west of Ulleungdo, which means it could not have been Liancourt Rocks. Liancourt Rocks are ninety-two kilometers southeast of Ulleungdo.

The following are Japanese maps showing Usando (亐山島 or 于山島):

1873 – 朝鮮国細見全図 – 染崎延房編著

1873 – 朝鮮全図 – 海軍水路寮

1877 Aug – 原版朝鮮全国之写 – 陸軍編纂

1894 – 明治二十七年 朝鮮全図 – 柴田源三郎編

“You’re So Rock” – Japanese fans crazy for Harry Potter

June 28th, 2007 . by Matt

harry potter

Japanese fans have been going crazy over Harry Potter, who is become an unlikely sex symbol, if the photo above is to be believed.

Japanese teens in wizard costumes went into a frenzy at the premiere of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix on Thursday, cheering actor Daniel Radcliffe whose coming of age is a big story on- and off-screen.

Dressed in a white suit, Radcliffe – who will turn 18 next month and has played boy wizard Harry since 2001 – looked distinctly grown-up at the red carpet event in Tokyo.

The Order of the Phoenix sees Harry reach greater maturity as he takes a leading role in the fight against the evil Voldemort and experiences his first kiss at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Radcliffe’s own rite of passage has not been quite as dramatic: earlier this year he played a disturbed stable hand in the play Equus on the London stage, in a break with his child actor image.

Speaking to reporters before a crowd of screaming Japanese fans holding “We love Harry” signs, Radcliffe shrugged off suggestions that the Potter saga defined his adolescence.

“I don’t see myself as having grown up on screen. I simply see myself as having grown up. So it’s probably stranger for people who have watched all the films,” he told Reuters.

The success of the Potter film franchise is one reason why Radcliffe’s growing up is a big deal, at least for the movie industry and millions of fans.

Went to the first Harry Potter movie with my one and only Korean girlfriend. I slept through the whole thing.

Korea to withdraw from Iraq

June 28th, 2007 . by Matt

The Korean forces in Iraq are set to withdraw and return to Korea.

South Korea’s Defence Ministry on Thursday submitted a plan to parliament for the complete pullout of its troops from Iraq, ending what once had been the third-largest deployment of foreign troops in that country.

The ministry said in a statement it expected to make a decision by September on when to withdraw its soldiers.

South Korea had earlier said it planned to end its troop deployment in Iraq when parliament’s approval expires at the end of the year.

The presence of Korean soldiers in Iraq in a non-combat role was largely symbolic support for an ally. In this sense Korea has fulfilled whatever obligations it has in regards to the alliance with the US, and withdrawal from the Iraq disaster is a good idea.

Why are Korean cartoonists such insensitive A-holes?

June 27th, 2007 . by Gerry-Bevers

On Monday, twenty-two people, including thirteen Koreans, died in a plane crash in Cambodia. On Wednesday, No-cut News runs the following cartoon by Korean cartoonist Kwon Beom-chul. Is it just a coincidence or is this Korean cartoonist just an insensitive asshole?


President Roh is flying a plane on which is written “Public Education.” In the lower right-hand corner of the cartoon is written “Low-cost Package Product.”

Cabin Attendant: “Next stop on our itinerary is ‘private education’ shopping. Please get your ‘high school records’ in order.”

It seems that Korean cartoonists have few or no qualms about using tragedy to make some kind of political statement, as the above cartoon seems to do. A Korean cartoonist did the same thing in April after the Virginia Tech killings. You can see that cartoon HERE. Also, didn’t Korean cartoonists also take advantage of the 9-11 tragedy?

Did Korean cartoonists breath in too much yeontan gas when they were kids or do other cartoonists around the world do the same thing? I don’t know, but I do not find anything amusing about these kinds of cartoons.

UPDATE: Another cartoon, HERE, using the crash tragedy to make a political statement:

UPDATE 2: Here is the“Hankyoreh” newspaper cartoon taking advantage of the plane crash:

Japanese student says she was sexually harassed

June 26th, 2007 . by Matt

Junko Sagawa
Student Junko Sagawa says she was sexually harassed

Robert from the Marmots Hole is reporting about a Japanese student that appears on a talk show Korea claiming to have been sexually harassed by a Korean teacher.

And from the Ministry of Complete Tabloid Crap, we have this tale — the Ilgan Sports reports that on Sunday’s episode of KBS’s talk show “The Beauties’ Chatterbox,” Japanese college student Sagawa Junko caused a stir by claiming that one of her Korean university professors offered to give her a good grade in return for sex.

During the episode, in which the ladies were discussing incidents of sexual harassment they’d experienced in Korea, Junko said that in her freshman year, she’d missed several classes in one of her courses. She then received a call from the professor of the class, who told her that Japanese women are better in the sack then Korean women, and that if she slept with him, he wouldn’t penalize her for her missed classes. Or so she claimed.

Viewers were shocked.

She followed up her admission by claiming that said professor had propositioned other foreign students from Asia, including another Japanese student, in a similar fashion.

Go and read the rest at the Marmots Hole, where I am commenting under my nom de plume, shakuhachi.

Democratic Senator Mike Gravel

June 25th, 2007 . by Matt

Mike Gravel
Mike Gravel, the Democratic Party’s Jiminy Cricket.

Democratic Senator and Presidential candidate Mike Gravel has promised to open up the files on the invasion of Iraq, and punish wrong doing in regards to it, if he were elected President.

The inability to admit a mistake and assume responsibility is not just a morally bankrupt way to walk through life; it is a dangerous and deadly way to lead a nation. When I am president, I will open up all secret files relating to the Iraq war and expose all officials who lied to the public in promoting it. (That’s right, Dick, your files too.) My Justice Department will prosecute everyone who lied under oath or ripped off the American taxpayer by exploiting the Iraq reconstruction effort. And I will pardon to no one.

In the article he also attacks Hillary Clinton and the other democratic candidates. Read the rest on your own.

Chinese tourists ripped off in Sydney

June 24th, 2007 . by Matt

Chinese tourists are being ripped off in Sydney, paying $100 to walk the public Bondi Beach.

TENS of thousands of Chinese tourists to Australia are being fleeced by rip-off travel companies and rogue traders every year, consumer groups have warned.

The situation is so bad that tourist industry officials fear Australia could be damaged as a brand and the massive economic benefits of the boom in travel from China could disappear.

Scams uncovered in Sydney include:

* Charging tourists $100 to walk on Bondi Beach or to have their photograph taken at the Opera House;

* Locking tourists in shops and confiscating passports until they spend big on overpriced goods;

* Unfulfilled promises of luxury central business district accommodation;

* Travellers crammed into minibuses and denied free time for their own shopping and sightseeing.

Choice consumer group spokeswoman Indira Naidoo said: “A few years ago it was the Japanese who were being ripped off but now it is the Chinese. They are perfect victims; they are not used to international travel and can be quite naive, and many of them have little or no English, so if someone tells them that a sign on the beach says it costs $100 to walk on it, then they will believe them.

“Culturally, also, the Chinese are reluctant to create a fuss and complain so they will go along with what they are being told.

“We are already receiving thousands of complaints every year from Chinese tourists who are unhappy and we think that is the tip of the iceberg.

“We estimate that only about 10 per cent of those who are unhappy actually make a complaint, so in reality, tens of thousands of tourists are being ripped off.”

China is Australia’s fastest-growing inbound tourism market and annual numbers have soared by 280percent to more than 300,000 in the past seven years, making it the fifth biggest in terms of visitors and economic benefit. By 2015, almost 1million Chinese visitors are expected to visit Australia each year.

The recent increase comes despite a survey of Chinese visitors by the Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources that found 40percent were dissatisfied with their experiences here.

Both Choice and the Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC) have received reports of tourists being held under virtual detention from the moment they arrive in Australia, with no free time.

Some are bussed directly from the airport to suburban warehouses which they are told are duty-free shops. “They are told they can’t shop in normal shops in Sydney because Australians don’t like the Chinese or the goods are overpriced,” Ms Naidoo said.

“We have had anecdotal reports of people being locked in a shop and their passports taken off them until they have spent a certain amount on very shoddy goods.”

The article does not say so but I would be very surprised if the shady tour operators were not Chinese themselves. It just would not occur to Australians to commit this particular form of crime. The only authentic traditional Australian form of crime I can think of is the form of criminal known as the ‘standover man’.

Whoever is doing it, I hope the authorities are able to crack down before the nations reputation is destroyed and many holidays ruined.

1878 – Watanabe said Liancourt Rocks were Japanese

June 22nd, 2007 . by Gerry-Bevers
The following letter was written by Watanabe Kouki (渡辺洪基), who was the Director of the Bureau of Documents in Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1878. The letter summarizes the ongoing debate in the ministry over exactly what island was being referring to in the petition submitted to the ministry by Mutoh Heigaku (武藤平学), who wanted to develop Matsushima. You can seen Mutoh Heigaku’s petiton HERE.

Mr. Watanabe said that if the Matsushima being referred to in the petition was Ulleungdo, then it belonged to Joseon (Korea), but if it was not Ulleungdo, then it belonged to Japan. Mr. Watanabe urged that a survey ship be sent to the area to clear up the mystery, which is what the Japanese government eventually did in 1880. The survey determined that the Matsushima being referred to in the petition was, in fact, Ulleungdo.
The following is a translation of Mr. Watanabe’s letter, which can be found as Item No. 11 in the third and last volume of the 1881 text, “A Study of Historical Evidence of Takeshima” (竹島考証):

There are several brief descriptions of Takeshima (Ulleungdo) in past records, but there are no discussions of Matsushima. However, these days people are talking a great deal about Matsushima. There are various views. Some say that it is two islands, and some say that it is one island with two names, but I have not heard that it has been decided either way.

The (mentioned) “Takeshima” is considered to be Chosun’s Ulleungdo, which the Shogunate ended up entrusting to them (Koreans) as a convenient quick fix, without considering future implications. Therefore, if the “Matsushima” being talked about here is Takeshima (Ulleungdo), then it belongs to them. If the Matsushima is not Takeshima, then it must belong to Japan. It is still inconclusive.

The location of Matsushima (Songdo) is considered important because it is situated between Joseon and Japan. It is on sea routes between Nagasaki and Vladisvostok and between Shimonseiki and Wonsan, so this is a critical location, where English and Russian warships are frequently seen. So we should be very careful. Even if it is part of Joseon, we still have to protect it. As things stand now, we have no answers to give if other countries ask us about the island. This means the island is ownerless.

Many records say that “Argonaut,” which is the Western name for Takeshima (Ulleungdo), does not exist, and that “Dagelet,” which refers to Matsushima, is actually Takeshima (Ulleungdo). So what we call “Matsushima” (Liancourt Rocks) is called “Hornet Rocks” by Westerners. Foreign maps show Hornet Rocks to be Japanese territory, but there is still no agreement among countries concerning the other two islands.

We do not have the answers either, so the area should be surveyed to determine under whose jurisdiction it belongs. Therefore, we should first contact Shimane Prefecture and investigate their relationship up to now. At the same time, we need to dispatch a ship to do a survey of the area. If Chosun has already started, we need to determine their progress and consider our options. I respectfully urge that this matter be dealt with as soon as possible.

Watanabe Kouki, Director of the Bureau of Documents

Well you don’t see this every day

June 21st, 2007 . by Matt

No comment.

1876 – “Argument for the Development of Matshushima”

June 20th, 2007 . by Gerry-Bevers

I would like to share this very interesting translation that Pacifist posted at http://dokdo-or-takeshima.blogspot.com/. It is related to the Dokdo/Takeshima debate.


The period between between 1870 and 1880 was a decade of confusion for the new Meiji government in regard to Takeshima (Ulleungdo) and Matsushima (Liancourt Rocks). The reason for the confusion was partly that Japan had just recently emerged from almost two centuries of isolationism and was in the beginning stages of reassessing her territory, but the main reason for the confusion was a 1789 mapping error of Ulleungdo made by a British ship, which mapped the island much farther northeast than its actual position. The British called the island Argonaut. Previously, the French had also mapped Ulleungdo at its correct position and called it Dagelet. This resulted in Western maps showing two Ulleungdo’s, one real and the other non-existent, as can clearly be seen from the maps of that period. The new Meiji government referred to these inaccurate western maps when making their own maps and often mislabeled the non-existent island of Argonaut as “Takeshima,” and Ulleungdo as “Matsushima,” which was the name the Japanese had been using for Liancourt Rocks. 

In 1876, a Japanese businessman named Mutoh Heigaku (武藤平学) proposed to the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs that the government allow him to develop “Matsushima,” which he knew to be Japanese territory; however, the island he assumed was Japan’s Matsushima was actually Ulleungdo, which the Tokugawa shogunate had previously given to Korea. Mutoh apparently believed that the non-existent island of Argonaut was Korea’s Ulleungdo and the real Ulleungdo was Japan’s Matsushima.

Mutoh’s 1876 proposal to the Meiji government was entitled “Argument for the Development of Matsushima” (松島開拓之議). The document, which is translated below, started a Japanese government investigation to determine exactly where Mutoh’s Matsushima was. The investigation continued until 1880, when Japan finally sent a ship to survey the area. The Japanese ship finally determined that Mutoh’s Matsushima was actually Ulleungdo.

Here is a translation of Mutoh Heigaku’s letter to Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

Argument for the Development of MatsushimaI humbly say this. I am from the countryside and of humble birth. I am not talented, so I am not a man who considers national affairs or national policy, which makes me unsure of whether I should talk about something I do not know well. I have hesitated to write about this, but since it may help to strengthen our nation, I cannot refrain from talking about it. It involves an island called Matsushima, which is located northwest of our country. I have traveled to Vladivostok three or four times in the past three years, and I have seen the island from a distance whenever I go there. Although it looks to be just a small island, it could be profitable for the Japanese Empire since it is more significant than Ogasawara island in the south. Nevertheless, the island has no residents or arable land. Naturally, foreigners take profits from the island, but I cannot stand this. Foreigners are already freely cutting down trees, and I have heard that they sometimes carry the logs away by ship, so here I submit a petition with a summary.

Matsushima, which is located north of Onshu (Oki island), is an isolated island about five or six ri (20 to 24 km) long from north to south and two to three ri (8 to 12 kilmeters) wide from east to west. [The map to the right shows Ulleungdo labeled as “Matsushima” and the non-existent island of Argonaut labeled as “Takeshima, 大日本四神全図 – 1870年、橋本玉蘭著] No houses can be seen from the sea. Matsushima and Takeshima exist between Japan and Joseon. Takeshima is closer to Joseon, while Matsushima is closer to Japan. On the northwest coast of Matsushima stands a wall of rock stands and there is a precipitous cliff several hundred jo (1 jo equals 3.03 meters) high. No one can get close except flying birds. On the southern coast, the mountains gradually decrease in height sea level. There is a cascade of flat land about 30 to 40 percent of the way down from the mountains, where it would be possible to cultivate fields. There are small inlets at various places along the shoreline, which should be convenient for mooring boats. The island is full of pine trees which make the island look dark green.People also say there could be a mine on the island. I have already heard from an American named Cobel, who is staying in Vladivostok. He said, “There is an island that belongs to Japan called Matsushima, which Japan has not started developing yet.” If Japan allows some other country to possess an island under the jurisdiction of Japan, it means Japan is giving away Japanese treasure to another country. The island has a mine, huge trees, and there should be large amounts of fish.

If you could lend me the island, I would make a big profit from it each year. I think the fishing would be profitable, but there would be more profit than just from fishery. This man, Mr. Cobel, is living in a huge residence in Vladivostok. He is a famous merchant, and few of the merchants could surpass him, but he is not only engaged in trade; he also gives his undivided attention to mining. He operates a mine that uses many Manchurians. He asserts that there should be a metal mine on Matsushima.

I have seen Matsushima three times or four while traveling back and forth by ship over the past two or three years. Although it is not apparent from the appearance, there could be a mine. The island is full of huge pine woods with some barren hills, which mining specialists say should hold a mine. However, since I haven’t heard of a judgment about a mine, I will not argue more about it. I would like to cut down large trees on the island for export to Vladivostok, where a new harbor has just been opened, or I could sell them in Shimonoseki for profit. If there is a mine, I would start a mining project while also developing fishery and agriculture, which will benefit our empire.

Since Japan has already concluded a treaty with Joseon, we could trade with each other if a harbor is opened somewhere in Hamgyeong Province. Matsushima is an important island located in the main sea route. When our ships or their ships are in trouble in a storm or needed firewood or water, it would be convenient for them to anchor at the island. As the harbor at Vladivostok becomes prosperous, ships from other countries will travel to and from Vladivostok to trade. They will also have to take shelter at the port of this island if they met a storm or need firewood or water. Therefore, we have to open a harbor and build a lighthouse to show that the island is ours. The sailors of other nations would feel relieved and respect the thoughtful policy of our empire. This would be like killing two birds with one stone; that is, treating outsiders with humanity and making profit for ourselves. More show of love and humanity between Japan and Korea would not only benefit the two countries but will also firmly build the respect and friendship for our empire from the people of other countries.

I hope you will open this island, bring in fishermen and farmers, and try to harvest its products. I have taken three or four voyages past the island over the past two or three years, and whenever I look at the island, I always think that a port of the island should be opened. Especially, when I visited Vladivostok in November 1875 (the 8th year of Meiji), we had a storm off the southern coast of the island. We feared we would run aground at Matsushima, and all the passengers on the ship had a hard time. At night, the storm changed to a snowstorm, and we could not see the island. All the passengers worried silently, so I would like to request that a lighthouse be built there as soon as possible.

July 1876
(the 9th year of Meiji)

Mutoh Heigaku (武藤平学)

Mutoh Heigaku (武藤平学) also wrote the following, which showed his concern that Korea might try to claim Matsushima:

Some say that if Japan touches Matsushima, Joseon will claim it, but Matsushima is nearer to Japan, and it has belonged to Japan since ancient times. It has also been shown as Japanese territory on Japanese maps. It is Japan’s land. As for Takeshima, a dispute arose in the medieval period of Tokugawa, and it was given to Joseon, but there was no argument about Matsushima, so it clearly belongs to Japan. If Joseon tries to claim it, we should admonish them and use various evidence to prove that it is a Japanese island. It is not only in a critical location for traffic between Japan and Joseon, but it is also in a critical location for travel to countries to the north. Also, it is urgent that a lighthouse be built at good harbors in Japan and Joseon, which will benefit all countries.

The text was found in the third volume of a 3-volume set of documents entitled, “A Study of Historical Evidence on Takeshima” (竹島考証), which was published by Ministry of Foreign Affairs Secretary Kitazawa after the investigation of the islands around Ulleungdo by the warship Amagi in 1880. Here are scans of the original Japanese documents:

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