Treaty of Shimoda
The Treaty of Shimoda of 1855, formally Treaty of Commerce and Navigation between Japan and Russia (日魯通好条約, later called 日露和親条約), was signed between the 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...

n Vice-Admiral Euphimy Vasil'evich Putiatin
Yevfimy Putyatin
Yevfimy Vasilyevich Putyatin was a Russian admiral noted for his diplomatic missions to Japan and China which resulted in the signing of the Treaty of Shimoda in 1855.-Early life:...

 and Toshiakira Kawaji of Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

 in the city of Shimoda
Shimoda, Shizuoka
is a city and port in Shizuoka, Japan.As of 2010, the city had an estimated population of 25,054 and a population density of 242 persons per square kilometer...

, Izu Province, Japan, on February 7, 1855. It marked the start of official relations between Russia and Japan.


The first contacts between Japan and Russia were made with the Matsumae clan
Matsumae clan
The was a Japanese clan which was granted the area around Matsumae, Hokkaidō as a march fief in 1590 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and charged with defending it, and by extension all of Japan, from the Ainu 'barbarians' to the north. The clan was originally known as the Kakizaki clan who settled...

 in Hokkaido
, formerly known as Ezo, Yezo, Yeso, or Yesso, is Japan's second largest island; it is also the largest and northernmost of Japan's 47 prefectural-level subdivisions. The Tsugaru Strait separates Hokkaido from Honshu, although the two islands are connected by the underwater railway Seikan Tunnel...

 by the merchant 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...

 in 1778 and by official envoy Adam Laxman in 1792.

The Russian expedition around the world 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 :...

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

Putiatin mission

A few years later, Russia learned that the U.S. was preparing an expedition to Japan. This expedition, under the lead of Commodore
Commodore (USN)
Commodore was an early title and later a rank in the United States Navy and United States Coast Guard and a current honorary title in the U.S. Navy with an intricate history. Because the U.S. Congress was originally unwilling to authorize more than four ranks until 1862, considerable importance...

 Matthew Perry, would provide more American influence in the Pacific region and Asia. Russia immediately recommenced its former plans to send a mission to the Far East. As was intended before, Putiatin was assigned as lead to the Russian mission. He left Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 with his squadron early in 1853. The order was to return only with a treaty at least as good as the Americans'. Also high on the agenda was a clear statement from the Japanese on what was Russian and what was Japanese in the Kurile Islands and Sakhalin. Putiatin was accompanied by famous Russian writer Ivan Aleksandrovich Goncharov, who served as his secretary. Goncharov was the author of Fregat Pallada (1858), in which he described the details of the voyage and the negotiations. It was a valuable description of how the Japanese received and processed foreign trade vessels and how the Russians viewed this.

Putiatin, having left in haste, saw his personal rival Perry reaching Japan before he himself would. Therefore, in the light of Perry's arrival, he proposed a partnership to Perry. The American Commodore rejected the Russian proposal. On July 8, 1853, Perry appeared in the Tokyo Bay
Tokyo Bay
is a bay in the southern Kantō region of Japan. Its old name was .-Geography:Tokyo Bay is surrounded by the Bōsō Peninsula to the east and the Miura Peninsula to the west. In a narrow sense, Tokyo Bay is the area north of the straight line formed by the on the Miura Peninsula on one end and on...

. The Japanese government was shocked and throughout the city of 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...

 there was a heavy commotion. At this very moment, Putiatin was well on his way to Nagasaki and was already between Hong Kong
Hong Kong
Hong Kong is one of two Special Administrative Regions of the People's Republic of China , the other being Macau. A city-state situated on China's south coast and enclosed by the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea, it is renowned for its expansive skyline and deep natural harbour...

 and the Bonin Islands. He carefully waited for the events to unfold and observed from a distance. Eventually, Putiatin landed in Japan on August 21, 1853. On this very day, Putiatin arrived in the harbor of Nagasaki with his squadron, composed of the mothership Pallada
Pallada is the name of two ships of the Russian navy.-Frigate:Pallada was a frigate and the flagship of Admiral Yevfimy Putyatin during his visit to Japan in 1853. During the expedition, she was commanded by Admiral Ivan Unkovsky...

 and four other vessels. He arrived in Japan only a few weeks after the departure of Perry's four American war vessels.
The appearance of the Black Ships
Black Ships
The Black Ships was the name given to Western vessels arriving in Japan in the 16th and 19th centuries.In 1543 Portuguese initiated the first contacts, establishing a trade route linking Goa to Nagasaki...

 of Perry in the Tokyo Bay would be the start of a new era in the history of Japan. Note that Putiatin's arrival and his own war vessels on the other side of Japan around the same time certainly contributed to the foreign pressure on Japan and its Sakoku. However, Perry and Putiatin were offered a clear "no". Records on how Putiatin and Japanese officials negotiated are rare and vague. Perry's negotiations were recorded and, for obvious historic reasons, well-preserved. Perry's negotiations are analogous with those of Putiatin and thus serve as a good comparison. Furthermore, the results of Perry's mission would benefit all future foreign delegations in securing treaties, including those of the Russians. In his visit, Perry handed over the demands of American President
A president is a leader of an organization, company, trade union, university, or country.Etymologically, a president is one who presides, who sits in leadership...

 Millard Fillmore
Millard Fillmore
Millard Fillmore was the 13th President of the United States and the last member of the Whig Party to hold the office of president...

 to the Bakufu, to the great discontent of Shogun Tokugawa Ieyoshi
Tokugawa Ieyoshi
Tokugawa Ieyoshi was the 12th shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan.He was the second son of the 11th shogun, Tokugawa Ienari, and appointed Mizuno Tadakuni to conduct the Tenpo reform....


Four days after the departure of Commodore Perry from Tokyo Bay, the Shogun died due to a sudden illness. The political scene in Japan now was an empty one. The Rōjū
The ', usually translated as Elder, was one of the highest-ranking government posts in Tokugawa Japan. The term refers either to individual Elders, or to the Council as a whole; under the first two shoguns, there were only two Rōjū...

 ("Elder") Abe Masahiro
Abe Masahiro
was the chief senior councillor in the Japanese government at the time of the arrival of Commodore Matthew Perry. Against the shogun's wishes, and the wishes of many other government officials, he worked to open Japan to the West, signing the Convention of Kanagawa in 1854, and other unequal...

, who in fact had all the political power within the Bakafu, surprisingly counseled the 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...

s, aristocrats and even the Imperial Court. This was not done, especially because the Bakufu never allowed any interference into their governing activities. It was perceived as a sign of incompetence and would be the beginning of the end for the mighty Bakufu who had reigned for hundreds of years. The aristocrats, daimyos, and emperor gave negative advice: to reject the demands of the Americans and to resist any foreign interference. And so this was also the case for the Russian proposals. Putiatin and Perry had a somewhat differing approach to negotiating with the Japanese. Perry stressed the power of the American marines and the possible consequences for Japan. Perry threatened the Japanese that if the Bakufu would give a negative answer, the 100 Kurobunes already on their way would force an opening of Japan. Putiatin chose a more diplomatic and strategic approach in the hopes of undermining the American efforts. Russia offered protection against the Americans in case of an American attack. There was only one condition, an agreement on trade. Putiatin stayed for three months in Japan, as opposed to the relatively short stay of Perry. Perry had left as quickly as he had come. Putiatin left Japan in November 1853 and sailed for Shanghai
Shanghai is the largest city by population in China and the largest city proper in the world. It is one of the four province-level municipalities in the People's Republic of China, with a total population of over 23 million as of 2010...

 with the same promise as the Americans. Namely, that he would return in the Spring to receive the answer of the Bakufu.
He kept his word and returned in January 1854 to continue his negotiations. At the end of February, he sailed to Okinawa and finally to 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...

, where he had to change flagships: from the Pallada to the Diana. The Russian delegation was back in Japan in late 1854, much later than the Americans. The Americans had succeeded in opening Japan with the Treaty of Kanagawa in early 1854. Furthermore, in 1854, the French and British were doing a manhunt in the Sea of Okhotsk
Sea of Okhotsk
The Sea of Okhotsk is a marginal sea of the western Pacific Ocean, lying between the Kamchatka Peninsula on the east, the Kuril Islands on the southeast, the island of Hokkaidō to the far south, the island of Sakhalin along the west, and a long stretch of eastern Siberian coast along the west and...

 and the Japanese Sea for Putiatin and his squadron in order to destroy it. To prevent a Russian treaty and Russian influence deep in Asia, the British approached the Bakufu to ask for Japanese neutrality should the British attack the Russians. Because of a bad translation, the British obtained an unintended Anglo-Japanese Friendship Treaty
Anglo-Japanese Friendship Treaty
The between Britain and Japan was signed October 14, 1854 in Nagasaki. The United Kingdom was represented by Admiral Sir James Stirling, with the governors of Nagasaki representing the Tokugawa shogunate ....

 in 1854. The French and British would never find Putiatin.

On December 23, 1854, the major Ansei Tokai Earthquake
1854 Ansei-Tōkai earthquake
The 1854 Ansei-Tōkai earthquake was the first of the Ansei Great Earthquakes . It occurred at about 09:00 local time on 23 December, 1854. It had a magnitude of 8.4 and caused a damaging tsunami...

 shook Japan and surroundings. It had an estimated magnitude of 8.4 on the Richter magnitude scale
Richter magnitude scale
The expression Richter magnitude scale refers to a number of ways to assign a single number to quantify the energy contained in an earthquake....

. A 7-meter-high wall of water destroyed 900 homes in Shimoda and even more along the Pacific coastline of Japan. Putiatin's ships, carefully hidden and docked in Shimoda, were also destroyed and the Diana badly damaged. The Russian delegation now found itself stranded in Japan. During the tsunami, before the ships were destroyed, the Russian vice-admiral Putiatin ordered his forces to rescue the Japanese from the water. However, the heavily damaged flagship Diana would eventually sink as she attempted to sail to Heda
Heda, Shizuoka
was a village located in Tagata District, Shizuoka, Japan on the Suruga Bay coast of Izu Peninsula. Stunning views of Mount Fuji can be seen from the village, which is a popular resort....

 for repairs.

Building of the ship Heda

In an attempt to study the Russian way of building vessels, the Tokugawa ordered Japanese carpenters to build a new ship with Russian help. And so Putiatin was able to sail back to Russia, on May 8, 1855, on board the Russian-Japanese vessel, baptised Heda (ヘダ号) after the city of Heda
Heda, Shizuoka
was a village located in Tagata District, Shizuoka, Japan on the Suruga Bay coast of Izu Peninsula. Stunning views of Mount Fuji can be seen from the village, which is a popular resort....

 where it was built. The ship was a schooner
A schooner is a type of sailing vessel characterized by the use of fore-and-aft sails on two or more masts with the forward mast being no taller than the rear masts....

, 24 meters in length, 7 meters wide, and with a draught of 3 meters. The complement was 48 sailors. Towards the end of the Sakoku
was the foreign relations policy of Japan under which no foreigner could enter nor could any Japanese leave the country on penalty of death. The policy was enacted by the Tokugawa shogunate under Tokugawa Iemitsu through a number of edicts and policies from 1633–39 and remained in effect until...

 period, Japan had started manufacturing Western-style ships on her own only slightly earlier, such as the 1854 Shohei Maru
Japanese warship Shohei Maru
Shōhei Maru was Japan's first Western-style warship following the country's period of seclusion. She was ordered in 1852 by the government of the Shogun to the southern fief of Satsuma in the island of Kyūshū, in anticipation of the announced mission of Commodore Perry in 1853.The ship was...


The significance of this event is found in the fact that, for the very first time in Japan's history, a long-term project was established with a European power comprising Russians and Japanese under a same cause. This was extraordinary in a time of Sakoku which obviously was coming to an end. In the early 17th century though, the English sailor William Adams
William Adams (sailor)
William Adams , also known in Japanese as Anjin-sama and Miura Anjin , was an English navigator who travelled to Japan and is believed to be the first Englishman ever to reach that country...

 had built ships with the Japanese (the San Buena Ventura
Japanese warship San Buena Ventura
San Buena Ventura was a 120 ton ship built in Japan under the direction of the English navigator and adventurer William Adams for the shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu....

), and the Spanish had helped the Japanese build the San Juan Bautista
Japanese warship San Juan Bautista
San Juan Bautista was one of Japan's first Japanese-built Western-style sail warships. She crossed the Pacific in 1614. She was of the Spanish galleon type, known in Japan as Nanban-Sen San Juan Bautista (“St. John the Baptist”) (originally called Date Maru, 伊達丸 in Japanese) was one of Japan's...


Soon, the Japanese government ordered 6 more ships to be built on the model of the Heda, thereby contributing to the development of western-style shipbuilding in Japan.

Treaty of Shimoda

Three days and one tsunami after the destruction of Putiatin's fleet, the Japanese and Russians continued with their negotiations. Russia wanted the treaty because it needed Japan to further develop Siberia. Russia had expanded its empire from Europe over Siberia and 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...

, all the way into northern California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

 on the American continent. In order to stimulate the development of these far away territories, it desperately needed an ideally situated country like Japan for local trade. Another, almost timeless reason was the USA. Russia wouldn't allow itself to lose any power to the Americans, who had obtained a treaty of friendship with Japan in early 1854 thanks to Commodore Perry. The Japanese found Putiatin to be a civilized and righteous man. Putiatin remarked to his Japanese colleague Tsutsui:
"If we would compare our age, you have the wise age of my father for I only have the age of your son. I offer my hand so I can serve my father and this way will not lose the way of trust."

On 7 February 1855, the long-awaited Russo-Japanese treaty of friendship was signed at the Chōraku-ji Temple
is a small Shingon sect Buddhist temple in Shimoda, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan. It is noteworthy in that it was the location of the signing of the Treaty of Shimoda in 1855, which officially established diplomatic relations between Bakumatsu Japan and the Russian Empire.-History:Chōraku-ji was...

 in Shimoda by Putiatin as Russian Imperial Ambassador and Japanese representative Controller Toshiakira Kawaji. The treaty was based on mutual trust and understanding and would be the start of relations between the two countries. The treaty comprised a trade agreement which opened three Japanese harbors to Russia, one more than the Americans had. Article V stipulated that trade would be performed through the harbors of Hakodate, Nagasaki, and Shimoda. These harbors would provide goods and reparations. Also worth mentioning is Article VI, allowing Russia to appoint consuls in Hakodate and Shimoda. Furthermore, the treaty also partially defined the northern borders of Japan. The Northern Territories
Northern Territories
Northern Territories may refer to several geographic locations:, a term used by the Japanese to refer to the territory disputed with Russia. See Kuril Islands dispute...

 were a great burden in Russian-Japanese relations.

The Russo-Japanese border in the Kurile Islands was drawn between Etorofu and Urup
Urup is an uninhabited volcanic island near in the south of the Kuril Islands chain in the Sea of Okhotsk in the northwest Pacific Ocean. Its name is derived from the Ainu language word for salmon trout.-Geography and climate:...

pu. Everything north of this line was Russian, and everything south was Japanese (Etorofu, Kunashir, Shikotan
Shikotan, in Russian , Japanese , or シコタㇴ), is one of the bigger islands of the Kuril Islands, which are controlled by Russia. It is one of the four southernmost islands which Japan maintains a claim for...

 and the Habomais).

Both parties also agreed to consider Sakhalin subject to both Russian and Japanese influence. Russia would therefore destroy its military base in Ootomari in the south of Sakhalin.

The Treaty of Saint Petersburg (1875) would attribute all the chain of the Kurils to Japan, while Russia obtained full recognition of its possession of Sakhalin
Sakhalin or Saghalien, is a large island in the North Pacific, lying between 45°50' and 54°24' N.It is part of Russia, and is Russia's largest island, and is administered as part of Sakhalin Oblast...


Even though the treaties defined an agreement concerning the Kuriles, it remains a point of contention to the present day, after Russia invaded most of the chain of the Kurils at the closing of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 at the time of the surrender of Japan
Surrender of Japan
The surrender of Japan in 1945 brought hostilities of World War II to a close. By the end of July 1945, the Imperial Japanese Navy was incapable of conducting operations and an Allied invasion of Japan was imminent...


See also

  • Relations between the Empire of Japan and the Russian Empire
    Relations between the Empire of Japan and the Russian Empire
    The Relations between the Empire of Japan and the Russian Empire were mostly hostile due to the conflicting territorial expansions of both empires. Diplomatic and commercial relations between the two empires were established from 1855 onwards...

  • History of Japan
    History of Japan
    The history of Japan encompasses the history of the islands of Japan and the Japanese people, spanning the ancient history of the region to the modern history of Japan as a nation state. Following the last ice age, around 12,000 BC, the rich ecosystem of the Japanese Archipelago fostered human...

  • History of Russia
    History of Russia
    The history of Russia begins with that of the Eastern Slavs and the Finno-Ugric peoples. The state of Garðaríki , which was centered in Novgorod and included the entire areas inhabited by Ilmen Slavs, Veps and Votes, was established by the Varangian chieftain Rurik in 862...

  • Convention of Kanagawa
    Convention of Kanagawa
    On March 31, 1854, the or was concluded between Commodore Matthew C. Perry of the U.S. Navy and the Tokugawa shogunate.-Treaty of Peace and Amity :...

External links

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