Japanese Journal of Human Geography
Online ISSN : 1883-4086
Print ISSN : 0018-7216
The Advancement of Japanese to the Senkaku Islands and Tatsushiro Koga in the Meiji Era
Akitoshi HIRAOKA
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JOURNALS FREE ACCESS

2005 Volume 57 Issue 5 Pages 503-518

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Abstract

The Senkaku Islands are made up of five uninhabited islands scattered about 170km north of the Yaeyama Islands of Okinawa Prefecture. In recent years the territorial claims on these islands made by China and Taiwan have increased since it was found that under that area there is a lot of petroleum and natural gas. No one has ever sufficiently examined why Japanese people in the Meiji Era started going to these islands made only of rocks. This study discusses the Japanese advance into and the development of the Senkaku Islands. The following is its summary;
The territorial possession of the uninhabited Senkaku Islands started with the exploration by the Okinawa Prefectural Government in 1885, and the exploration report says that a large flock of albatross was found there. In the 1890's, the Japanese advance into the Senkaku Islands was accelerated in order to get the albatross plumage and the great green turban. In those days the Okinawa Prefectural Government had to plead with the Meiji Central Government again and again to put national landmarks on the islands because it was not clear whether the islands were actually Japanese or Chinese territory. Finally in 1894, the Meiji Government permitted to put the national landmarks. In 1895 the Senkaku Islands were placed under the jurisdiction of Okinawa Prefecture. In the same year, Tatsushiro Koga, who was a powerful and wealthy shellfish merchant, asked the Meiji Government to lease Kuba Island for the purpose of catching albatross because of the rapid decrease of the great green turban. His business changed from shellfish to albatross. In 1896, the Government not only leased Kuba Island to him but also granted him the lease of another four Senkaku Islands for 30 years.
In 1897 Koga started his business in the Senkaku Islands, but albatross, his main resource of business, decreased devastatingly in only three years. Therefore, he diversified his business into stuffed birds, bonito fishing, guano, and phosphate rocks and managed to make an immense profit. But his business didn't last long because he mismanaged the natural resources on the islands. Koga Village, founded in Uotsuri Island with a huge investment of money, disappeared in about 30 years and around 1937 the Senkaku Islands again became uninhabited with no change since then.

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