1904 Sep 25 - Log Entry from Japanese Naval Vessal "Niitaka (新高丸). First Mention of "Dokdo" for Liancourt Rocks

In September 1904, the Japanese naval vessel Niitaka (新高丸) was visiting Ulleungdo as part of its mission to lay telegraph cable between Ulleungdo and the Korean port of Jukpyeon (竹邊), which was near Uljin on the Korean peninsula. In the September 25 entry in the ship's log, it was recorded that a Japanese civilian staying on Ulleungdo had personally visited Liancourt Rocks, which he said was written as "Dokdo" (獨島) by Koreans and was called "Riangko-shima" by Japanese fishermen. He said that there was a certain amount of fresh water on Ulleungdo. He also said that the people from Ulleungdo who hunted sea lions on Liancourt Rocks used Japanese ships, which means that if any Koreans were among those doing the hunting, they would have been working for the Japanese.

Regardless of what Korean Web sites may say or imply, this was the first time that the name "Dokdo" (獨島) had ever been used to refer to Liancourt Rocks. The year before, in 1903, it was recorded that Korean fishermen were using the Japanese name to refer to Liancourt Rocks, which suggests that Koreans had just recently learned of the rocks. There are no maps or reliable records to suggest that Koreans ever traveled to Liancourt Rocks before 1903.

Here is the relevant section from the Niitaka's September 25, 1904 log entry:
Information gathered from the oral testimony of a person on Matsushima [Ulleungdo] who has seen Liancourt Rocks 
Liancourt Rocks is written as "Dokdo" (獨島) by Koreans and is called "Riangko-shima" by the fishermen of our country. As can be seen on the attached map, it is made up of two rock islets. The west islet is about 400 feet high and has a slope so steep that it would be difficult to climb; however, the east island is relatively low and has weeds growing on it. He said that the land on top is a little flat, so it would be suitable for buidling two or three small huts. 

A small amount of fresh water can be gotten from a hollow on the east shore of the east island. On the south side of this island, at point "B," there is a spring about three ken (5.5 meters) above sea level where water flows down toward the west. There is so much of it that it flows throughout the year. On the west side of the west island, at point "C," there is also clear water.
The scattered rocks around the islets are generally flat, and the larger ones are big enough to spread out dozens of tattami. They are always above the surface of the water, and sea lions gather there. The space between the two islets is suitable for sheltering a boat, but it is common to bring small boats up onto the shore. He said that when the wind and waves get so strong that it is difficult to shelter on the island, boats generally seek shelter on Matsushima [Ulleungdo] and wait for fair winds. 
 The people who travel from Matsushima [Ulleungdo] to hunt sea lions use Japanese boats that are sixty to seventy seok in size. They build temporary shelters on the island and stay there about ten days each trip. He said he heard that they make a lot of money. Also, the number of people sometimes exceeds forty or fifty, but a shortage of water is not being reported. There have also been a number of trips this year. And he said that on June 17, he personally saw three Russian ships appear in the vicinity of the island. After drifting offshore for a while, the ships sailed off to the northwest.
Sketch of Liancourt Rocks
45 Japanese ri from Oki Island
25 Japanese ri from Matushima (Ulleungdo)
1 ri in circumference
Number of sea lions: Tens of thousands. Breeding season: June

(from 軍艦新高行動日誌)






  1. Gerry, the Niitaka records those who came to Liancourt were from Ulleungdo. This explains why the Japanese who fished this region considered Liancourt Rocks part of Gangwan Province and appended to Ulleungdo. Even the Japanese squatter Nakai Yozaburo thought Liancourt Rocks was part of Korea when he applied to lease the island from Korea.

    Japanese Territorial Perceptions in 20th Century

    Second we can see Koreans were cognizant of Dokdo before the Japanese annexed the island. This raises serious concerns about the island being ownerless as Kimotosuki of the Japanese Navy's Hydrogrphic Department asserted.

    We can also observe the name Dokdo being in use before Japan annexed Liancourt Rocks. This is proof that Shim Heung Taek's objections that Liancourt Rocks were already part of Uldo County mast be taken at face value. Korea's internal documents clearly state they considered Dokdo-Liancourt part of Korea. These represent the sincere territorial boundaries of Korea at the time.

    Korea's Sincere Territorial Boundary

    Lastly, the Niitaka's logbook records the island was suitable for building structures. I think when the Niitaka's report and Nakai's application were submitted, Japanese Imperial Navy immediately saw that these islands could be built on. Right away, the Japanese Navy's Hyrdrographic Director Kimotsuki realized Liancourt Rocks military value and had the Warship Tsushima survey the island to confirm in November 1904.

    The Truth of Japan's Annexation of Dokdo

  2. toadface,

    You are misleading the readers again.

    (1)"the Niitaka records those who came to Liancourt were from Ulleungdo. This explains why the Japanese who fished this region considered Liancourt Rocks part of Gangwan Province"

    I can't understand your childish theory. As Gerry wrote in the posting, they visited Ulleungdo to put the telegraph cables. Why does it mean Liancourt rocks to be Korean territory?

    (2)"Koreans were cognizant of Dokdo before the Japanese annexed the island"

    Yes, you are right. They worked as fishermen to catch sea lions, under Japanese boss. It is said that Japanese began sea lion hunting in the end of 1890's and the hunting became popular in the 1900's when Korean fishermen were hired - they rode on Japanese ships and went to Liancourt rocks. At first they called it as yanko as Japanese called it but later they wrote it as "Dokdo". So toadface, you are right - some Koreans knew Liancourt rocks as Dokdo before the incorporation. but toadface, Korean people can't claim for it, you know it.

    (3) Kimotsuki only knew that Liancourt rocks were out of Korean territory as many postings on this website showed, so it was no wonder he told Nakai Yozaburo so. But as I've repeatedly wrote before, they didn't need to incorporate the rocks in order to build a radio towers or anything because they knew the ricks didn't belong to no countries, such as Korea or china or Russia. So your theory is nothing.

  3. Non-Anonymous (Steve Barber),

    They came from Ulleungdo to Liancourt Rocks in Japanese fishing boats, which means that if any Koreans were going to Liancourt Rocks, they were working for the Japanese. That is probaby how Korean fishermen learned of the rocks. In 1903, in the "Black Dragon" document said that Koreans were using the Japanese name for Liancourt Rocks, not "Dokdo" or any other Korean name.

    It is very probably that Korean fishermen's first trip to Liancourt Rocks was as crew on Japanese fishing boats in the early 1900s (1902 or 1903) since there was no Korean record or map showing Koreans ever traveled to the rocks.

    Ulleungdo county head, Shim Heung-taek, may have known about Korean fishermen going to a place east of Ulleungdo called "Dokdo," but he obviously did not know where "Dokdo" was since he reported that it was 100 "ri" (40 kilometers) from Ulleungdo, which is not even half the distance. If Liancourt Rocks had really been a part of Ulleungdo county, as Koreans claim, the county head would have known exactly where it was. Even Shim's superiors did not seem to know where "Dokdo" was since they did not correct his mistake in distance.

    Shim Heung-taek most likely assumed that "Dokdo" was near Ulleungdo since Japanese boats were sailing to Liancourt Rocks from there. However, after Shim confirmed the information on Liancourt Rocks, as ordered by his superiors, he most likely learned that they were much farther from Ulleungdo than he first thought, and he probably also learned that they were nothing but barren rocks, which was most likely the reason the Korean government never protested against Japan's incorporation of Liancourt Rocks.

    By the way, your Niitaka logbook translation has several mistakes in it. For example, you wrote, "Ground water flows out in all directions from 5.4 meters below the surface at South of the East islet...." Does that make sense? The water was flowing down from the rocks 5.5 meters above sea level. Also, where does it say, "Boats can connect the two islets...."?

    Maybe you should work more on your translations and less of coming up with ridiculous theories?

  4. Gerry, I used the original text from the logbook for the translation. Not digitized. Is it perfect? I don't know but the relevant data is clear. Watching you glean my translations for minuscule errors shows how desperate you are getting.

    Japan's military records put when put together are proof positive Japan's annexation of Dokdo was an insparable part of the militarization of Korea in the Russo~Japanese War.

    The Truth to Japan's Claim to Dokdo1
    The Truth to Japan's Claim to Dokdo2

    Gerry, the fact that Shim Heung Taek stated Dokdo belonging to this county is proof positive he considered this territory as part of Uldo County. Your "he should have known" is just proof he was a either a bad governor or bad at distances. That's all.

    It just another shabby Japanese Takeshima lobbyist attempt to discredit a document that kills Japan's claim.

    Listen to your quote Gerry.
    Shim Heung Taek "most likely assumed..."
    "He most likely assumed..."
    "He probably also learned..."

    Nobody is interested in your half-baked assumptions Gerry.

    In 1906 upon learning the Japanese annexed Dokdo Shim Heung Taek objected the Dae Han Governor objected and local medial objected. This is undeniable proof the Koreans considered Dokdo part of Korean land. This is fact, not assumption.

    It's also interesting to note a prominent Korean author named Hwang Hyeon objected in a document at a place in South Cholla Province near Suncheon (MaecheonSa) Why would somebody so far from Ulleungdo be concerned? Because as I've shown the resident of Nagan and South Cholla voyaged to Ullleungdo every year and knew the region well.

    Proof of Korean cognizance before Japan annexed Dokdo shows the island could not really be seen as "ownerless" or terra nullius as Japan asserted.

  5. Pacifist said

    "They worked as fishermen to catch sea lions, under Japanese boss. It is said that Japanese began sea lion hunting in the end of 1890's and the hunting became popular in the 1900's when Korean fishermen were hired - they rode on Japanese ships and went to Liancourt rocks"

    He claims that Korean fishermen were hired by the Japanese here and in many postings of this blog as well, but he never provides the evidence for his claim.

    What is the evidence Koreans were hired and rode on Japanese ships and went to Liancourt Rocks?


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