Military Review

Prison and hard labor in Hokkaido

Prison and hard labor in Hokkaido

How under the guise of reform and modernization was the development of the Japanese north by the hands of exiles and prisoners

The development and development of the colonial frontier in many countries was organically intertwined with the emergence of the practice of mass use of forced labor. The place of exile and further forced labor of prisoners were both the American colonies, and Australia with New Zealand, and, of course, Russian Siberia. Japan, embarking on the path of modernization after the restoration of imperial power and the abolition of the shogunate in 1868 (events known as the “Meiji Restoration”) readily embraced the experience of the “developed” powers in this area.

Hokkaido is the northernmost of the four main islands of Japan (the other three are Honshu, Kyushu and Shikoku). Its area is 83,5 thousand square kilometers, and the population is just over five and a half million people. Now it is perceived by an absolute majority of the country's inhabitants as an integral part of it, but until the middle of the 19th century, the presence of the Japanese there was extremely limited and the territory to be controlled by the shogun was only a small principality of Matsumae on its southern tip. Even the diaries of Europeans who traveled around the island in the second half of the 19th century (for example, Isabella Bird's very fascinating notes “Unmarried paths of Japan”) testify to the predominance of the indigenous population there - Ainu, who also live on Sakhalin, the Kuril Islands and even the continental Far East.

The assimilation of Hokkaido was in fact the first colonial experience of Japan, which, under the conditions of the then dominant imperialist policy, saw its expansion as a completely normal and natural process. On the northern island they hoped to find minerals, the acute shortage of which was another incentive for expanding the country's borders, and fears about a possible Russian threat only added fuel to the fire.

Very quickly, however, the settlement of Hokkaido began to play another important role - the island became an ideal place for all unnecessary and dangerous elements of society. In the first years of the new system, they were ruined after social and economic upheavals, peasants and petty samurai, who were offered to go to a kind of “military settlements” (tondenbey) with the aim of simultaneously developing agriculture and repulsing a possible enemy. Later they were joined by prisoners, the number of which abruptly went up after numerous riots against the new government and social upheavals.

A rough idea of ​​how large-scale this problem was is given by the dynamics of the number of all those in prison in Japan (that is, including those awaiting trial in temporary isolators and other places of detention): if in 1876, their number was about 22 thousand, then for six years (in the 1882 year) it doubled, and in 1885, almost 80 thousand people reached it! With a population of approximately 40 million people (that is, three times less than now), the number of all prisoners was then twice as large as, for example, in the 1999 year (46 thousand people).

Ainu group in traditional costumes, 1863 year.

The idea of ​​sending prisoners to Hokkaido was not the discovery of a new administration. At the end of the 18th century, when the Japanese began to fear the expansion of Russians from the north and began to think about strengthening their presence in Ezo (the then name of Hokkaido), the shogunate officials offered to send all the exiles to the settlement. However, at that time, the central government did not have sufficient resources to carry out such a large-scale program, and the development of Hokkaido was slow, and there was simply no one to control the prisoners.

The first person to propose to replace all forms of references to forced labor in Hokkaido was Ivakura Tomomi, a reformer who lived in the Meiji era (1868 — 1912).

The need to make Hokkaido the center of prison reform was also supported by one of the authors of the first Japanese constitution, the most influential politician of that time, Ito Hirobumi. “I am convinced that criminals should be sent to Hokkaido. Hokkaido’s climate and natural conditions are unlike the rest of the islands (Japan), but there are hundreds of kilometers of land, and criminals can be sent to clear this land or work in a mine. On days when it will be too cold, they can be provided with the necessary work in the premises. And then, when the exiles and those sentenced to hard labor will be released upon completion of the term, they may remain there to cultivate the land or be involved in production, with the result that they will have children, and all this will contribute to the growth of the Hokkaido population, ”he said. .

This idyllic picture was naturally a lot corrected in reality, but the project itself was approved by the State Council in 1880. The following year, construction began on two new correctional facilities in Hokkaido - Kabato (near the city of Tsukigatati), and then Sorati, specially chosen because of the presence of coal deposits nearby in Horonai.

Horonai mines, the development of which began in the 1883 year, were sent from 800 to 1200 to prisoners annually, and their total share among all workers soon began to be up to 80%.

Working conditions there were far from ideal. A description of this is given by the description made by the professor at Tokyo University Okada Asataro: “Drinking water is dirty, it is rotten and unsuitable for consumption. Because of this, many prisoners have a digestive system illness, chronic indigestion, diarrhea ... There is no separation between places for serving natural needs and for eating. Where prisoners work, they constantly breathe coal dust and air with impurities of harmful gases from the mine. Therefore, many lung diseases. " As a result, mortality was very high: only in 1889, 265 people died in the mines of Horonai.

Coal mines Horonai, 1885 year.

The Horonai and Miike mines in Kyushu (also used by prisoners from the prison built in 1883) were acquired by Mitsui, which later became one of the largest Japanese corporations. According to the contract concluded with the government, the labor of prisoners from nearby prisons continued to be used in the mines, which was naturally very beneficial for the company.

The successful development of the mines in Horonai served as an example for opening a new prison in Kushiro (1885 year) in the eastern part of the island near the town of Sibet, where a sulfur deposit was discovered. From the very beginning it was owned by a private company, but it also used prisoners from Kushiro as employees. In 1887, its owner was the founder of the conglomerate "Yasuda" Yasuda Zenziro, under whose leadership the production has tripled in the first year and in the same - in the next. About 500 prisoners worked directly in the mine and even more on related projects - laying the railway from the mine to the city, telephone lines, and so on. More than half of the workers received injuries associated with the production, blinded by sulfur dioxide poisoning. In the first six months of the mine’s operation, 42 people died there.

The government did not feel sentimental feelings about the life of prisoners. The Secretary of the State Council and the approximate face of Ito Hirobumi Kaneko Kentaro, who was sent to Hokkaido with an inspectorate in 1885, directly stated on the basis of his mission: “When the number of hardened criminals is as large as it is now, the state’s costs for prisons increase immensely. So if we send prisoners to the necessary work, and they will not cope with the harsh conditions and die, then reducing their number can be viewed as a positive measure in reducing the cost of prisons. ”

He could be quite pleased with the implementation of his brutal program - between 1884 and 1894 for a year in prisons throughout Japan, about 44 thousands of people died.

In total, the 1893 contained 7230 people in the Hokkaido correctional facilities — Kabato, Sorati, Kushiro, Abashiri, and Tokati; The number of prisoners in various temporary labor camps in Hokkaido is estimated at a few thousand more. By that time, they had built about 700 kilometers of roads, bridges, power lines and other infrastructure necessary for the settlement of the island.

In conditions of low population density and the absence of established management structures, prisons in Hokkaido often became the administrative and political center of the locality. For example, the prison director Kabato Tsukigata Kiyoshi also held the post of chief of the postal service of this region, thanks to which communication with the central government was carried out through him. The local residents went to see a prison doctor, and separate rooms were used as a school for their children.

Abasari Prison Museum. Photo: museum press service

Prison director Sorati Watanabe Koreaki, after finding unsatisfactory water quality, organized - also using prisoners' labor - searching for a source of water of decent quality and then led her to the village. Thus, in 1888, Ikitsiri village was the second place in Japan after Yokohama, where a modern water conduit was laid. Of all the 2832 people who inhabited the village at that time, more than half, namely 1630 people, were prisoners.

The prison in the city of Abashiri on the north coast of the island is a peculiar symbol of the new penitentiary system and has gained notoriety in Japanese popular culture as a place where it is clearly better not to fall. Thanks to a series of feature films about prisoners of this institution, the prison name became a household name, and with the closure of the old complex and the creation of the museum in its place, the Abashiri museum became one of the tourist attractions of Hokkaido.

The appearance of this prison was due to the need to pave the road from the central city of Sapporo to the Sea of ​​Okhotsk. Hokkaido Governor Takeshiro Nagayama, who observed the construction of the Trans-Siberian Railway during the official visit to the Russian Empire and experienced strong concerns about the Russian threat, commissioned the construction of the Central Road to Kushiro Ohnoуэou Tehrutika prison in 1890. He personally inspected the coast of the Sea of ​​Okhotsk on the island and chose the Abashiri village for the launch point. A young officer of the Kushiro Arima Syrosuke prison was appointed in charge of this project.

In order to build a temporary prison, the first 1890 prisoners from Kushiro prison were sent there in 50, then their number was replenished every month. Initially, their place of detention was called “Abashiri Syuto Gayakus” - “The external place of detention (or simply the camp) of the prisoners in Abashiri”. About a third of the prisoners were serving a life sentence, while the rest had at least 12 years of hard labor. However, it is impossible to speak about the prevalence among them of hardened criminals and gangsters. The Japanese Criminal Code provided for such punishments not only for serious violent crimes, but also for political and anti-state ones. The victims of political repression were, in particular, many representatives of the “Movement for People’s Rights” (Minken undo).

Upon the completion of the prison construction, the arriving prisoners immediately began road works in an emergency mode, which to a large extent was due to the ups and downs of Russian-Japanese relations.

29 April 1891 was the year of the infamous incident in Otsu, an attempt on the life of Tsarevich Nikolai Alexandrovich, committed by policeman Sandzo Tsud. The Tsarevich, as is known, survived, and Tsuda was sentenced to life imprisonment (he was appointed to serve him in Kushiro, where he died of pneumonia in the same 1891 year). And although the problem seemed to have been settled by diplomatic methods, and not by the military, many in Japan feared that Russia was about to launch an attack on their country.

Arima decided that it was necessary to complete the construction of the road as soon as possible, despite any obstacles. Forced to work almost around the clock, the conditions were extremely difficult. In the summer, because of the rains, an outbreak of beriberi was observed, and in the fall and winter, prisoners suffered from cold. The 163 kilometer road was eventually laid in record time — eight months — but cost the life of an 211 prisoner, or one-sixth of all workers; most of them were buried there.

In terms of a thousand people, these figures correspond - with all possible reservations - to mortality rates in the most difficult period in the GULAG (1938 year - 91 people per thousand, 1942 year - 176 people per thousand).

This tragic incident cooled the heat of the leadership, and Arima himself began to regularly write to the government about the need to impose a ban on the use of forced labor of prisoners, at least outside the prison. In 1894, the Japanese parliament granted this request, but the further industrial development of Hokkaido required a large amount of cheap labor, which led to the emergence of a separately deserving phenomenon of the “such-as-before:” labor forced labor under slave conditions of ordinary employees.
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  1. JoylyRoger
    JoylyRoger April 8 2014 10: 35
    In general, the Japanese are still bastards. One of their detachment 731 is worth something. No prison in Hokkaido beats. Well, and a film on the topic - "People behind the sun.
    1. yulka2980
      yulka2980 April 8 2014 10: 50
      Yes, Japanese bastards, if only because they look askance at our Kuril Islands tongue
      1. JoylyRoger
        JoylyRoger April 8 2014 10: 57
        Yes, this alone is enough)))
    2. Bi_Murza
      Bi_Murza April 8 2014 11: 09
      The Japanese live like spiders in a bank of 120 million people on small islands. The mother’s rivalry is why they don’t know pity, especially to strangers.
      An example of how the Japanese organized a genocide against the Chinese
  2. johnsnz
    johnsnz April 8 2014 10: 56
    Their grapes do not favor
  3. sanek0207
    sanek0207 April 8 2014 11: 02
    They look askance at our islands and still want to chop them off!
  4. Orc-xnumx
    Orc-xnumx April 8 2014 11: 17
    The original population of Hokkaido and Sakhalin - the Ainu (Indo-European people) are similar in appearance to the Russians.
  5. siberalt
    siberalt April 8 2014 11: 26
    After the end of the Second World War, the USSR government considered the question of separating Hakaida from Japan. But it should be. Now there would be no problems with the Kuril skeletons.
  6. pts-m
    pts-m April 8 2014 12: 07
    and they look askance at other nations from NATURE! They still think that the USSR dropped bombs on them, their friends do not sleep and endow them with: true: information!
  7. Bersaglieri
    Bersaglieri April 8 2014 16: 08
    Fun fact: penal servitude and prisons in Hokkaido (Japan) and Sakhalin (the Russian Empire) were created almost simultaneously.
    1. voliador
      voliador April 8 2014 21: 34
      They were only created for various reasons and for different purposes.
  8. JoylyRoger
    JoylyRoger April 9 2014 13: 24
    One example.
    During the Russo-Japanese War of 1905, under the threat of the Japanese landing (like somewhere in Kamchatka), even prisoners were given weapons to defend the Japanese in the local zone, knowing what threatened the narrow-eyed landing.