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Commentary on themes by historical period

Classification by historical periods III
From the Cabinet decision to incorporate the Senkaku Islands into Japanese territory until the end of World War II (1895-1945)

(4) Development of the Senkaku Islands

i. Start of development by Tatsushiro KOGA

 In 1896, the year after the incorporation of the Senkaku Islands into Japanese territory, four state-owned islands (Minamikojima, Kitakojima, Uotsuri, and Kuba Islands) were leased to Tatsushiro KOGA (a marine product merchant from Fukuoka Prefecture) at no charge. In March 1897, 35 migrant workers were sent to the Senkaku Islands to collect albatross feathers and to begin developing the islands. Development thus commenced, with priority given to Kuba IslandNo.39.

 However, due to inconvenient transportation, the development work ran into difficulties. To tackle this problem, KOGA requested the Governor of Okinawa Prefecture (Shigeru NARAHARA) to allow steamers operated by Osaka Shosen to call at the islands. These facts were confirmed through our researchNo.40No.41. The map prepared by those engaged in the development of the Senkaku Islands show the berthing position of the steamersNo.42.

 As the feather collection business expanded, the albatross population declined sharply. In order to continue with the development of the Senkaku Islands, KOGA drew up plans for bonito fishing and dried bonito production as a new business. He built a production plant on Uotsuri Island, and expanded his business using the island as its base.

 Around 1908, the dried bonito production business got on track. Around this time, as the development of the Senkaku Islands by KOGA reached its peak, the total number of migrant workers amounted to 248 people in 99 households (*1).

ii. Development of the Senkaku Islands and dried bonito that were highly recognized

 As the development of the islands progressed, KOGA’s activities were accorded a high level of social recognition. In 1909, in light of his achievements for the development of the Senkaku Islands and as a marine product merchant in Okinawa Prefecture, he was presented with the Medal with Blue Ribbon. (*2)

 In addition, the dried bonito produced on the Senkaku Islands also had a good reputation (*3), and were used as gifts. In FY2019, a letter (a duplicate of the original, provided by the Naha City Museum of History) was found to mention dried bonito made on Uotsuri Island being presented as a get-well gift from the wife of an administrative official of Okinawa Prefecture (Yasaburo KAWAMURA) to the wife of Tasuku YOKOUCHI, who also worked in the Governor’s Secretariat.No.43.

iii. Photographs showing the progress of development

 Based on information provided by individuals, our research has confirmed the photographsNo.44 enclosed in the document “On the matter of the bestowing of the Medal with Blue Ribbon to Tatsushiro KOGA”, photographs of the dried bonito production factory as it entered its peak period, and other valuable photographs, believed to have been taken around 1908, of island residentsNo.45.

iv. Succession of the development project

 Tatsushiro KOGA passed away in 1918, and the businesses on the Senkaku Islands were taken over by his son Zenji KOGA.

 Our research carried out in FY2019 confirmed the existence of an Official Gazette showing the date of death of Tatsushiro KOGANo.46.

Summary: The government has supported the development of the Senkaku Islands, and products acquired from the business activities on the Senkaku Islands have been actually used.

*1  “On the matter of the bestowing of the Medal with Blue Ribbon to Tatsushiro KOGA” (in the collection of the National Archives of Japan)
*2 He was the second person from Okinawa Prefecture to receive the award, after Wasaburo MATSUDA (head of Zamami-magiri, Okinawa Prefecture).
*3 The Okinawa Mainichi Shimbun dated May 25, 1909 reported that the dried bonito produced by KOGA was ranked second (Silver Medal) at the Dried Bonito Fair and Spot Sale organized by the Japan Fisheries Association, and 10 kanme (equivalent to 37.5 kg) of the bonito was sold for 53 yen and 50 sen.

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