Matsumae clan
The was a Japanese clan which was granted the area around Matsumae, Hokkaidō
Matsumae, Hokkaido
is a town located in Matsumae District, Oshima, Hokkaidō, Japan. The former home of the Matsumae Han, it has an Edo period castle, Matsumae Castle, the only one in Hokkaidō, and Ryūun-in.The total area of the town is .-Geography:...

 as a march fief
A march or mark refers to a border region similar to a frontier, such as the Welsh Marches, the borderland between England and Wales. During the Frankish Carolingian Dynasty, the word spread throughout Europe....

 in 1590 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi
Toyotomi Hideyoshi
was a daimyo warrior, general and politician of the Sengoku period. He unified the political factions of Japan. He succeeded his former liege lord, Oda Nobunaga, and brought an end to the Sengoku period. The period of his rule is often called the Momoyama period, named after Hideyoshi's castle...

, and charged with defending it, and by extension all of Japan, from the Ainu
Ainu people
The , also called Aynu, Aino , and in historical texts Ezo , are indigenous people or groups in Japan and Russia. Historically they spoke the Ainu language and related varieties and lived in Hokkaidō, the Kuril Islands, and much of Sakhalin...

 'barbarians' to the north. The clan was originally known as the Kakizaki clan who settled Kakizaki, Kawauchi
Kawauchi, Aomori
was a town located in Shimokita District in northern Aomori Prefecture, Japan.Kawauchi Village was founded in 1889 from the merger the hamlets of Kawauchi, Hinokigawa, Shukunohe, and Kakizaki. It was elevated to town status on October 31, 1917...

, Mutsu
Mutsu, Aomori
is a city located in northeastern Aomori in the Tōhoku region of Japan. As of 2009, the city had an estimated population of 61,205 and a density of 70.09 persons per km²...

 of the Shimokita Peninsula
Shimokita Peninsula
The Shimokita Peninsula is the remote northeastern cape of the Japanese island of Honshū, stretching out towards Hokkaidō. Administratively the area is a part of Aomori Prefecture....

. Claiming descendence from the Takeda of Wakasa province
Wakasa Province
was an old province of Japan in the area that is today southern Fukui Prefecture. It is also known as or .The province's ancient capital was at Obama, which continued to be the main castle town through the Edo period.-Neighboring Provinces:...

, the family later took the name Matsumae. In exchange for their service in defending the country, the Matsumae were made exempt from owing rice to the shogunate
Tokugawa shogunate
The Tokugawa shogunate, also known as the and the , was a feudal regime of Japan established by Tokugawa Ieyasu and ruled by the shoguns of the Tokugawa family. This period is known as the Edo period and gets its name from the capital city, Edo, which is now called Tokyo, after the name was...

 in tribute, and from the sankin kōtai
Sankin kotai
was a policy of the shogunate during most of the Edo period of Japanese history. The purpose was to control the daimyo. In adopting the policy, the shogunate was continuing and refining similar policies of Toyotomi Hideyoshi. In 1635, a law required sankin kōtai, which was already an established...

system, under which most daimyo
is a generic term referring to the powerful territorial lords in pre-modern Japan who ruled most of the country from their vast, hereditary land holdings...

 (feudal lords of Edo period
Edo period
The , or , is a division of Japanese history which was ruled by the shoguns of the Tokugawa family, running from 1603 to 1868. The political entity of this period was the Tokugawa shogunate....

 Japan) were required to spend half the year at Edo
, also romanized as Yedo or Yeddo, is the former name of the Japanese capital Tokyo, and was the seat of power for the Tokugawa shogunate which ruled Japan from 1603 to 1868...

, while their families were, essentially, held hostage to prevent rebellion, spending the entire year at Edo.

Due to their location, and their role as border defenders, the Matsumae were the first Japanese to negotiate with Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 in any semi-official way. They might very well have been the first Japanese to meet Russians at all, within Japanese territory. In 1778, a merchant from Yakutsk
With a subarctic climate , Yakutsk is the coldest city, though not the coldest inhabited place, on Earth. Average monthly temperatures range from in July to in January. The coldest temperatures ever recorded on the planet outside Antarctica occurred in the basin of the Yana River to the northeast...

 by the name of Pavel Lebedev-Lastoschkin
Pavel Lebedev-Lastoschkin
Pavel Sergeyevich Lebedev-Lastochkin was a Russian merchant from Yakutsk who, in the late 18th century, became one of the first Russians to make contact with the Japanese...

 arrived in Hokkaidō with a small expedition. He offered gifts, and politely asked to trade. The Matsumae official tried to explain that he had no authority to agree to trade on behalf of the shogun and that they should come back the following year. The following September, the Russians did just that, according to some accounts misinterpreting what had been said, and expecting to trade. Their gifts were returned to them, they were forbidden to return to the island, and were advised that foreign trade was only allowed at Nagasaki, a port on the southern-most of Japan's home islands. In 1790, a massive earthquake struck Hokkaidō, and a forty-two-foot tsunami
A tsunami is a series of water waves caused by the displacement of a large volume of a body of water, typically an ocean or a large lake...

 lifted the Russian ship out of the sea, depositing it a quarter-mile inland. The merchant Lebedev thus gave up on Hokkaidō.

The Matsumae clan's fief had extensive contacts with the Ainu of Hokaido, and had exclusive rights to trade with the Ainu communities of the island's and to guarantee the security of Japanese interests in the area. The Matsumae relations with the Ainu was conflictive at times, demonstrating that their power was not absolute in the region. In 1669 what started as a fight for resources between rivaling Ainu clans developed into a rebellion against the Matsumae control of the region until 1672 when Shakushain's Revolt
Shakushain's Revolt
was an Ainu rebellion against Japanese authority on Hokkaidō between 1669 to 1672. It was led by Ainu chieftain Shakushain against the Matsumae clan, who represented Japanese trading and governmental interests in the area of Hokkaidō then controlled by the Japanese .The war initially began as a...

 was finally put down. The last serious Ainu rebellion was the Menashi-Kunashir Rebellion
Menashi-Kunashir Rebellion
or Menashi-Kunashir Battle was a battle in 1789 between Ainu and Japanese on the Shiretoko Peninsula in northeastern Hokkaidō. It began in May, 1789 when Ainu attacked Japanese on Kunashir Island and parts of the Menashi District as well as at sea. More than 70 Japanese were killed. The Japanese...

 in 1789. Kakizaki Hakyō
Kakizaki Hakyo
was a samurai artist from the Matsumae clan. His first success was a group of 12 portraits called the Ishu Retsuzo. The portraits were of 12 Ainu chiefs from the northern area of Ezo, now Hokkaido....

 painted the Ishū Retsuzō, a series of portraits of Ainu chiefs, in order to prove to the Japanese populace that the Matsumae were capable of controlling the northern borders and the Ainu. The 12 paintings of Ainu chiefs were displayed in 1791 in Kyoto.

At roughly the same time, in 1789, Finnish
Finland , officially the Republic of Finland, is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of Northern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden in the west, Norway in the north and Russia in the east, while Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland.Around 5.4 million people reside...

 professor Erik Laxman, of the Russian Academy of Sciences, came across several Japanese castaways in Irkutsk
Irkutsk is a city and the administrative center of Irkutsk Oblast, Russia, one of the largest cities in Siberia. Population: .-History:In 1652, Ivan Pokhabov built a zimovye near the site of Irkutsk for gold trading and for the collection of fur taxes from the Buryats. In 1661, Yakov Pokhabov...

. Like several other Japanese before them, they had been found in the Aleutians, off the coast of Alaska
Alaska is the largest state in the United States by area. It is situated in the northwest extremity of the North American continent, with Canada to the east, the Arctic Ocean to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south, with Russia further west across the Bering Strait...

, by Russian sailors and had asked to be brought back to Japan. Like those before them, these castaways had been transported instead across Siberia
Siberia is an extensive region constituting almost all of Northern Asia. Comprising the central and eastern portion of the Russian Federation, it was part of the Soviet Union from its beginning, as its predecessor states, the Tsardom of Russia and the Russian Empire, conquered it during the 16th...

 on their way to St. Petersburg
Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg is a city and a federal subject of Russia located on the Neva River at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea...

. Laxman saw this as an opportunity to work towards the opening of Japan, and suggested this to Catherine the Great who agreed. In 1791 she appointed the professor's son, Lt. Adam Laxman, to command the voyage to return these castaways to Japan, and to open discussions of a trade agreement.

The expedition reached Hokkaidō in October of 1792, and found the Japanese surprisingly hospitable. The Russians were allowed to spend the winter, and their forms were sent to the bakufu in Edo. However, Professor Laxman insisted on bringing the castaways to Edo, and that he would sail there himself even against the Shogun's desires. The bakufu sent an envoy to the Matsumae, requesting that the Russians make their way to the town of Matsumae by land; sensing a trap, the Russians refused, and were eventually allowed to make port in Hakodate, escorted by a Japanese vessel. They were given a guest house near Matsumae castle, and were, unusually, allowed their Western customs (they did not deny their Christianity, remove their boots indoors, nor bow to the Shogun's envoys), with little or no negative repercussions. They were given by the Japanese envoys three swords and a hundred bags of rice.

They were informed that the Shogun's rules remained unchangeable: foreigners could trade at Nagasaki only, if they came unarmed. All other ships would be subject to seizure. Due to his purposes in returning castaways, Laxman was granted a pardon in this instance, but he refused to relinquish the castaways until given something in writing answering his request for trade. The envoys returned three days later with a document, restating the rules regarding trade at Nagasaki, and the laws against the practice of Christianity in Tokugawa
Tokugawa shogunate
The Tokugawa shogunate, also known as the and the , was a feudal regime of Japan established by Tokugawa Ieyasu and ruled by the shoguns of the Tokugawa family. This period is known as the Edo period and gets its name from the capital city, Edo, which is now called Tokyo, after the name was...

 Japan. The Russians never did establish any regular system of trade at Nagasaki, and historians today still disagree as to whether the document given to Professor Laxman was an invitation to trade, or an evasive maneuver on the part of the shogunate. The Russian expedition led by Adam Johann von Krusenstern
Adam Johann von Krusenstern
Adam Johann Ritter von Krusenstern , was an admiral and explorer, who led the first Russian circumnavigation of the globe.- Life :...

 and Nikolai Rezanov
Nikolai Rezanov
Nikolay Petrovich Rezanov was a Russian nobleman and statesman who promoted the project of Russian colonization of Alaska and California. One of the ten barons of Russia, he was the first Russian ambassador to Japan , and participated in the first Russian circumnavigation of the globe ,...

 stayed six months in the port of Nagasaki in 1804-1805, failing to establish diplomatic and trade relations with Japan.

Since the Matsumae land was a march, a frontier land used as the border defense against the Ainu, the remainder of Hokkaidō, then called Ezo
is a Japanese name which historically referred to the lands to the north of Japan. It was used in various senses, sometimes meaning the northern Japanese island of Hokkaidō, and sometimes meaning lands and waters further north in the Sea of Okhotsk, like Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands...

, essentially became an Ainu reservation. Although Japanese influence and control over the Ainu gradually grew stronger over the centuries, at that time, they were left to their own devices and were not considered part of Japanese territory by the shogunate. It was only during the Meiji Restoration
Meiji Restoration
The , also known as the Meiji Ishin, Revolution, Reform or Renewal, was a chain of events that restored imperial rule to Japan in 1868...

 in the late 19th century that the march was dissolved and Hokkaidō formally annexed by Japan.

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