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Hokkaido From Edo Samurai to Reiwa Japan: The Challenge of Preserving History

Keiko Nakamura explains that Edo period samurai risked their lives to protect Hokkaido. That history could be lost if the propaganda is not addressed.



Hokkaido scenery near Lake Toya with Mount Youtei in the background. The scene is near the site of the 2023 G7 climate, energy and environment ministers' meeting. (©Keiko Nakamura)

Hokkaido native Keiko Nakamura stands at the forefront of the fight to protect and communicate the true history of Hokkaido

To that end, the author published The Edo Shogunate's Defense of the Northern Territories (Heart Publishing, February 2022, in Japanese). It is an extraordinary work of depth and analytic insight. In the book, Nakamura examines the Edo shogunate's measures to protect Japan from foreign influences. She also introduces the true history of Hokkaido and the Northern Territories.

During a two-hour telephone interview for JAPAN Forward, Nakamura spoke candidly about her motivation for writing the book.

First of three parts

Second part: Hokkaido in Edo Japan: Defining Its Boundaries and Creating Prosperity

Last part: Hokkaido: Embracing and Defending the Jomon Heart of Japan

Erasing Edo History

"There is a wealth of historical data and archaeological sites. And police and Ministry of Foreign Affairs documents that prove that Hokkaido has been a Japanese territory since before the Meiji Era," Nakamura explains.

"The defense and administration of Ezochi," she continues, using the name for Hokkaido current during the Edo period, "and the Northern Territories, comprising Karafuto and the Chishima Islands, were highly significant achievements. These achievements should be credited to the Edo shogunate and to the local administrative authority that governed Ezochi, Karafuto, and the Chishima Islands.

Nakamura explains further. "This governing body comprised the Matsumae clan and the Tsugaru, Nanbu, Aizu, Sendai, Akita, and Shonai clans in the adjacent Tohoku area. The most important of these clans was the Matsumae."


While the above sketch of Ezochi — Hokkaido — political history is accurate, Nakamura says that the historical timelines of many museums and local archives in Hokkaido fail to mention the rule of the Edo shogunate and the Matsumae clan in Ezochi and the Northern Territories. In many cases, she says, the entire Edo period in Ezochi has been renamed the "Ainu period."

"It is unacceptable to rewrite history in an attempt to erase what the Japanese rulers did to defend Ezochi and the Northern Territories," Nakamura emphasizes. "That is why I have decided to record and communicate the historical facts myself."

The Showa Emperor and General Douglas MacArthur, head of the Allied Occupation of Japan.

Book-Burning GHQ and History-Twisting Marxists

Nakamura points to the role played by the post-World War II Allied Occupation in distorting the facts of Hokkaido's history. The Allies' General Headquarters (GHQ) was largely made up of members from the New Deal Washington faction.

GHQ employed tricks to prevent the Japanese from ever becoming a strong nation again." Nakamura explains this during our interview. 

"One was the ongoing indoctrination of the Japanese people through education and media reports. This propaganda makes Japanese people believe that Japan is a bad country. This is, the so-called 'self-flagellating view of history.' This is still being carried out by those who are said to have benefited from the war and their associates.

"As part of this, shortly after the war GHQ ordered the burning of 7,769 books that they did not want Japanese people to read."

But book-burning New Dealers are not the only ones to blame for the erasure of true Edo history.

"There was a second element behind this warped historical perception," Nakamura continues. "It was the class struggle-based conception of the relationship between the Edo shogunate and the Ainu perpetuated by Marxists. [They presented] the Japanese as the exploitative rulers and the Ainu as the persecuted minority. 

"This framework depicts the Japanese as villains and the Ainu as the oppressed. But it neglects to mention that the 1669 Shakushain Revolt and the 1789 Menashi-Kunashiri Rebellion by the Ainu both began with the slaughter of several hundred and dozens of Japanese, respectively."

Disinformation Continues Today

In addition to the censuring Americans and the truth-twisting Marxists, Japan faces yet another challenge to truth. Namely, Japan has no anti-spy law. 

There is speculation that agents from China, the Korean Peninsula, and Russia are playing a malicious role in falsifying Japan's history. Bad actors from abroad could be infiltrating related organizations, universities, government administration, and the political arena.


An attempt to divide Hokkaido and Okinawa from Japan and seize Japanese territories has been decades in the making. For example, books attest to the fact that adherents of North Korea's Juche ideology have penetrated the heart of the Ainu Association. This is exposed in Ainu Propaganda Debunked: Protecting Our Children from the North Korean Juche Ideology (Tendensha Publishing, Japanese, 2020). 

Author and researcher Mitsuaki Matoba exposes the connections between the Hokkaido Ainu Association and Pyongyang in the book. Association Chairman Yupo Abe, for example, is an official of the 21st Century Independence Forum. That is a non-profit organization that espouses North Korean propaganda.  

Blue skies over a quiet lake show off the beauty of Hokkaido. (©Keiko Nakamura)

Naive Politicians Harming Japan

Others with similar anti-Japan backgrounds have targeted supplementary social studies textbooks used by children throughout Japan. Agents put into these textbooks the propaganda that Hokkaido belonged to the Ainu. They add that it was unilaterally incorporated into Japan's territory during the post-Meiji period. 

This has effectively lured many Japanese people into believing that Hokkaido belonged to the Ainu in the Edo period.

Moreover, the influence of this propaganda has spread throughout Japan. So much so that in 2008, a "resolution on the Ainu indigenous people" was passed under the leadership of a shortsighted politician, Muneo Suzuki. It was supported by Diet members who are still influenced by the propaganda and ignorant of the correct history. 

Suzuki also has a bewildering tendency to side with Russia in debates concerning its war of aggression against Ukraine. This has been a major point of contention within the Japan Innovation Party. 

Setting the Record Straight

Nakamura recounts how this masochistic and Marxist view of history, in conjunction with the operatives, has created a narrative that the exploitative Japanese divested the powerless Ainu of their land, Ezo. And thus they must return it to them. 

One sees this narrative reflected in the long clandestine change of the chronology of the Edo period to the "Ainu period" in local archives and museums in Hokkaido. One sees such distortions at work also in the manipulation of the Ainu. This is a divide-and-conquer tactic that lays the groundwork for stealing Hokkaido from Japan, explains Nakamura.

She explains that the samurai of the Edo period risked their lives to protect Hokkaido. If the propaganda is not addressed, she says, that history would be lost. So, she has systematically compiled the facts about who ruled Ezochi and the northern territories during the Edo period. Namely, the Edo shogunate and the Matsumae clan. 

Nakamura's book, The Edo Shogunate's Defense of the Northern Territories, is the fruit of this painstaking historical research.

Book cover: "The Edo Shogunate's Defense of the Northern Territories" (©Keiko Nakamura)

The Long History of Ezochi

Historical research about what is today called Hokkaido took Nakamura deep into the records of the past. She found, for example, that this history is "described in Nihon Shoki (720)." 

"Abe Hirafu (575-664) established a county in Shiribeshi in the Yotei region of Ezochi in 659 during the Asuka period (592~710). Pit graves with abundant ironware were discovered in central Hokkaido (Ezochi), including Eniwa, Chitose, and Yoichi," Nakamura says.


Japan's presence in Ezochi, she adds, continued from these very earliest recorded beginnings.

For example, Nakamura explains that "'Hokkaido-style burial mounds' existed in Ebetsu, Eniwa, and Chitose during the Heian period (792-1185). These burial mounds contained more extravagant funerary items than those in the pit graves. Researchers found Sue ware (a type of unglazed pottery), clay spindle wheels, straight swords, Warabiteto (swords with bracken-shaped grip), and magatama jewelry.

"The discovery of these items and the high ownership rate of Warabiteto," Nakamura continues, "suggests that people cultivated fields, farmed, used iron products, weaved, and smithed."

Continues in part 2: Hokkaido in Edo Japan: Defining Its Boundaries and Creating Prosperity


Interview by: Daniel Manning

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