Hakodate Court (箱館裁判所)

The Hakodate Court was established quickly as a local administrative organ in Hakodate (present-day, Hakodate City) in 1868 to govern Ezo (a northern island of Japan inhabited by Ainu indigenous people). The Hakodate Court took over the functions of Hakodate Bugyosho (a magistrate's office) and later the Hakodate-fu administrative unit took them over.

The new government in Kyoto appointed Prince Yoshiakira of Ninnajinomiya the governor of the Hakodate Court on April 12, 1868. However, Prince Yoshiakira flatly refused the appointment, the already-appointed vice governor of Hakodate Court, Kinnaru SHIMIZUDANI, was reappointed as the governor on leap April 5. Amid the uncertain situation of Ezo due to the continuing Boshin War, SHIMIZUDANI headed for Hakodate by ship across the Sea of Japan.

The Hakodate Court assumed the functions of Hakodate Bugyosho set up by the Edo bakufu feudal government. At that time, Kita-Ezochi (later Sakhalin) where both Ainu and Russian people inhabited was under a direct control of bakufu, and Higashi-Ezochi and Nichi-Ezochi which later became Hokkaido were ruled by both bakufu and several feudal domains (Matsumae Domain, Morioka Domain, Sendai Domain, Aizu Domain, Hirosaki Domain and Shonai Domain), with each occupying almost fifty percent. Although the Hakodate Court was not meant for disabling these feudal domains, it exercised a power over them in practical terms.

The first assignment set for Hakodate Court by the new government was to explore mountains and rivers in Ezo to reclaim the land. Also, the new government ordered the Court not to use the tax yields in Ezo for purposes other than land reclamation.

On April 21, the new government promulgated the Constitution of 1868 which stipulated a transformation of the local courts into fu or ken (prefecture) administrative unit (fu-han-ken tripartite governance system). According to this system, the Hakodate Court was renamed as Hakodate-fu on 24th with appointment of SHIMIZUDANI as its first governor. On the same day, the group of SHIMIZUDANI had just arrived in Ezo (Esashi in Ezo). After entering Hakodate on the following 26th, SHIMIZUDANI took over the work smoothly from Katsunobu SUGIURA, then-Hakodate bugyo (a magistrate), and established the Hakodate Court in Goryokaku on May 1. It means the Hakodate Court was established in Ezo after the abolishment of the local courts was declared by the central government. On the following July 17, a district court in Hakodate informed the Hakodate Court that the Hakodate Court was renamed Hakodate-fu. However, until Hakodate-fu was thoroughly recognized by people, both names of Hakodate-fu and Hakodate Court coexisted for a while.

Personnel of Hakodate Court
Governor: Prince Yoshiakira of Ninnajinomiya: April 12, 1868 - leap April 5.
Vice Governor: Kinnaru SHIMIZUDANI
Vice Governor: Toshitsune DOI
Governor: Kinnaru SHIMIZUDANI: leap April 5 - leap April 24. Vice Governor: Toshitsune DOI (resigned in Tsuruga before arriving in Ezo).

[Original Japanese]