The Transformation of Hokkaido from a Penal Colony to a Homeland Territory
journal contributionposted on 18.05.2018, 09:37 by Minako Sakata
This article focuses on penal transportation to Hokkaido and considers the role of convict transportation in nation-state building and empire-building in Japan. In the course of its discussion the fluidity of the status of the new Japanese territory of Hokkaido will be examined along with continuities of transportation and incarceration. Although Hokkaido was officially incorporated into Japan only in 1869, many Japanese politicians and intellectuals had believed ideologically that it had been a Japanese territory since the early modern period. Depending on the domestic and diplomatic matters confronting them, the Japanese modified the status of Hokkaido and their policy towards it. For example, to secure their borders with Russia the Japanese introduced penal transportation on the French model in 1881, but the Japanese Ministry of Justice later shifted their legal system to the German model and articles concerning transportation were deleted from the penal code. Nonetheless, the Japanese government continued to send long-term prisoners to Hokkaido, which was reframed as incarceration in a mainland prison.