Unfinished Translation of an 1878? Document

The following document was written in either 1877 or 1878 by Watanabe Kouki (渡辺洪基), who was the director of the Bureau of Documents in the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It was including in the last volume of a 3-volume set of books entitled. "A Study of Historical Evidence of Takeshima" (竹島考証), which was an 1882 compilation of related to Takeshima (Ulleungdo). In the document, Mr. Watanabe is giving his opinion on what to do about a petition written by Japanese businessman Mutoh Heigaku (武藤平学), who asked that the Japanese government open up for development an island referred to as "Matsushima." Mr. Watanabe mentioned that three other opinions had already been given, and that his view was something in between.

Mr. Watanabe did not know the location of Mr. Mutoh's Matsushima, but he suggested that it could be Takeshima (Ulleungdo) or a small neighboring island of Takeshima. He also mentioned that there was an island near Japan called Matsushima (Liancourt Rocks), but said that if the island in question was not Takeshima (Ulleungdo), then it should "return" to Japan, which suggests that he believed Liancourt Rocks to be Japanese territory.

Here is an unfinished translation of the 1877/8 document :

Number 22

Watanabe Kouki (渡辺洪基), Director of the Bureau of Documents

After considering arguments A, B, and C, this will fit somewhere in the middle. It is clear that the British government ship HMS Sylvia has departed for Joseon coastal waters, and it is said that Russian ships are also inspecting the surrounding area. Moreover, when the ............................... left carrying the consul from........................., this island is on the route to Vladivostok. Considering the political situation these days, it is natural that this will also come to the attention of England. However, since we do not know their plans, this would be a good opportunity for someone to go to the problem area and find out if there is some kind of port; if there are trees, fish, shellfish, and other things; if Koreans are living there and why; if it is administered by a province; if it is called Ulleungdo; and if it is an uninhabited island. If costs a little bit to do this, then it is worth it. Also, we can determine if Ulleungdo and Takeshima are two names for the same island, if Matsushima is another name for Takeshima, or if it is a neighboring island.

Besides the Takeshima mentioned above, there is also a place called Matsushima. Since it [Matsushima] is close to us and since Japanese have already been to Takeshima, where they caused trouble, it is certain that they have also been to Matsushima, which is close to that island [Ulleungdo]. However, if Matsushima is not Takeshima, then it can return to either Inaba (因幡), Oki (隠岐), Iwami (石見), or another province. If we do that, then we have to find out from the prefectures. We have to investigate and ask these prefectures if Matsushima is a neighboring island, if Takeshima and Matsushima are the same island, or if they are different islands. Then we can clearly know if Matsushima is a genuine island of Japan, if it is Takeshima [Ulleungdo], or if it is a small, neighboring island of Takeshima. Also, we can determine the island's correct position and learn its current situation and details of its past.


  1. Gerry,

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    About the above, the opinions A,B & C, there is a further commnet, which is the #22 document, that is opinion 丁 (which means D).

    #22 the director of the Bureau of Documents Watanabe Kouki

    The matter about the documents A,B & C is in the middle of discussion.
    It is now clear that the UK ship Sylvia had left for the sea off Chosun. We've heard Russian ship also set off for a round inspection around the area.
    And under these circumstances, a UK consul and admiral Rydel rode on the "Wodashiyusu" (Watersyouth? or ???), the UK flagship, at Hakodate and the corresponding island is on the route to Vladivistok. Today, "Shiborichikaru" and "konjishjon" (Condition?) are paid attention by UK too, which is natural. If we don't know about an outline about them, it would be incovenient. Is there a good port? What about trees, fish or shellfish? Are people who live there Koreans? How they thought? It may trespass on reign or politics slightly, is this island 蔚陵島, or Usando? - there is a good reason to know it. We don'T mind spending some money to know it.
    Or the fact that 蔚陵島 and Takeshima are the same island with two names would be clear. Matsushima seems to be the same island to Takeshima too, if not, the island belongs to it.
    If there is an island Matsushima aside from Takeshima, and if it is near our country, nobody can't say that no Japanese ever went to the island - Matshushima nearer than Takeshima because Japanese had already been to Takeshima and made dispute there. Then, if it was not Takeshima, it should belong to Onshu or Sekishu (in Japan). Therefore these prefectures should know about it, so we would inquire them and examine about belonging of Matsushima, difference of Takeshima & Matsshima (same or not same). Then, the questions whether Matsushima purely belongs to Japan, or whether it is Takeshima or whether it is an island belongs to Takeshima, would be cleared.
    And we should consider the situation of the place and the past records, and make it's position definite.
    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    Gerry, this is the rough translation.
    BTW, there is the #23 document, the one before the last one, follows. This was written by Tanabe Taichi, with the opinion D (丁) - although the document #22 was opinion D. (???)
    And after the opinion D, Tanabe wrote about the inspection by Amagi. He closed the text as "北方小島竹島ト称スル者アレ共一個ノ巌石ニ過サル旨ヲ知リ、多年ノ疑義一朝氷解セリ 今其図ヲ左方ニ出セリ" - There is a small island in the north which is called Takeshima, but as I came to know that it is merely a massive rock, my doubt for years was cleared away in a moment. Now I show the map at the left side.

    Gerry, and the map in the last page maybe this map (although it is written as attached #24 doc on the map), if so the map only shows Jukdo (竹嶼).

  2. Pacifist,

    Thank you for the translation, but I am still have some trouble with the names.

    I have found that the H.M.S. Sylvia was a British survey in the 1800s, but I cannot find the name of the British flagship at Hakodate at around 1877 and 1878 or an Admiral Rydel. Also, I still do not know who アドミラールライデル氏 is.

    If you can find any information of the above, please let me know.

    By the way, it is hard to believe that the 竹島考証 has not been translated into English.

  3. Gerry,

    I don't have slightest idea who admiral ライデル was and whether UK flagship was there in Hakodate or not....
    As to Admiral Rydel, I just wrote as the original pronunciation in japanese style "Raideru", so it may have been another spelling - Rydell, Lydel, Rhydell.....

    BTW, I posted a new post concerning "another island" and the compiled official documents of the Ministry of the Interior. I translated all the documents in the end, as you suggested that abbreviations may be used wrongly in the future.
    I hope you will help me again in correcting my English and giving some arrangements. Thanks.

  4. Anonymous26/6/08 10:30

    "I have found that the H.M.S. Sylvia was a British survey in the 1800s, ..."

    It is well established that H.M.S> Sylvia spent several years in Japanese waters as a survey ship. It was probably in the service of the Japanese government mapping Japanese waters and taking soundings, with the British crew being based in Yokohama. The results of the surveys were used in the Japanese government's first modern hydrographical database and nautical charts. Some information on the ship's activities are available in the Japanese Coastguard's HQ building near Tsukiji fishmarket.

    With best regards

    Tim Marrable

  5. Dear Tim,

    Thanks for the important information.

    BTW, you are not anonymous, aren't you?

  6. Thank you, Tim

    It's a very useful information for us.

    "水路局は、明治 4年に柳楢悦水路監督官と中佐 1名、少佐 2名以下でスタートし、当初は北海道沿岸測量を英艦シルビア号と共同して実施し、徐々に独自の水路測量が実施できる体制となった。同5年9月に第 1号海図「釜石」が完成し、本格的な水路測量が開始された。肝付は観象台事務から測量課副長を経て、明治16年には量地課長となる。水路局はその後、明治 19年に水路局から海軍水路部へと独立し、職員数 105名の大きな組織となり柳が初代水路部長、肝付が測量課長となった。" 1853-1922 - 肝付兼行 (Kimotsuki Kaneyuki)

    Yes, H.M.S. Sylvia surveyed around Hokkaido with newly founded Japanese Waterway Beurou when it started. I'm really interested in what survey she had done other than Hokkaido. Maybe they really headed to Choson as Watanabe wrote above. CG headquarters must have some documents or records about her activities.

    Thank you, again.

  7. Not sure if this is of interest to anyone here any more, but in regards to the HMS Sylvia Hector Craven St. John's "Notes and Sketches from the Wild Coasts of Nipon" (1880) might be of interest. He was the captain (I think) of the Sylvia on its survey missions of Hokkaido, the Inland Sea, and parts of Chosen, and discusses some of these trips in his book.

    In return, if anyone has any more substantial information, or references, on the use of British survey vessels by the Meiji government I'd be grateful.

  8. Not sure what you have interesting in the book you mentioned.
    Anyway here you can read part of "Notes and Sketches from the Wild Coasts of Nipon"

    Matsu Shima(Dagelet Ulleungdo) in the Japanese map.(P302)

  9. A previous thread had asked about surveys other than Hokkaido that had been conducted by the Sylvia. St. John's book describes some of those, therefore I thought it might be of interest.


  10. Thank you, Elliot. The book looks interesting, at least the sections I have read. When I get time, I want to study it more to see if it can answer some of the other questions I have about the "HMS Sylvia." Again, thank you for bringing it to our attention.

  11. Anonymous5/1/11 00:07

    Naval Database

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    Sylvia, 1866
    Type: Survey vessel ; Armament 4
    Launched : 20 Mar 1866 ; Disposal date or year : 1889
    BM: 695 tons ; Displacement: 865 tons
    Propulsion: Screw
    Machinery notes: 689 hpi 150 hp

    1860 Pembroke yard, building

    24 May 1866 brought up to Woolwich to be fitted out for commission.

    12 Oct 1866, Woolwich, commissioned ; Lt. Gambier appointed.

    5 Nov 1866, Woolwich, returned from trials.

    12 Nov 1866, Greenhithe, has swung her compasses, and is due to sail shortly, for Portsmouth, Devonport, Madeira, St. Vincent, Cape of Good Hope, Trincomalee, Andaman Islands, Straits of Malacca, Singapore, French Cochin-China, and Hong Kong.

    Nov 1866, has been supplied with one of the new steam launchs ; hull built by the Admiralty ; engine by J.S. White of Cowes.

    19 Nov 1866, arrived at Plymouth, and sailed 26th, having coaled.

    1 Jan 1868, Osaka, present at the opening of the port to European shipping. Visit to Inland Sea.

    First Commission, visted Canton, Amoy, Shanghai, Foochow, Japan,, 'Port of Tamsui' by E W Brooker (HMS Sylvia?), c1867; item 3, 'Formosa Island - Entrance (see ADM 344/1511),

    Jan or May 1870, Hong Kong, paid off, all standing and recommissioned the following day.

    25 Jan 1870, Yokahama, present following the sinking of the US Corvette Oneida, by collision with the P&O steamer Bombay.

    1870 China Seas. Recommissioned at Hong Kong.

    9 May 1877 Recommissioned at Hong Kong.

    1879 China.

    Apr 1886 Sierrra Leone (Survey)

    Mar 1889, has recently returned to Sheerness from the Mediterranean station, and is to be sold out of Service having been condemned as unfit for further service.

  12. Thank you for the information, kikancho.


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