ʻAukake 19: Kuʻikahi me Iāpana

August 19, 1871: Treaty with Japan

In Eleanor Nordyke and Y. Scott Matsumoto’s article, “The Japanese in Hawaii: A Historical and Demographic Perspective,” they explain that the growth of the sugar industry resulted in an increased demand for cheap labor (pg. 162-63). However, Western recruitment of Japanese contract laborers was not permitted until 1868, when Eugene Van Reed, “the Hawaiian consul general in Yokohama, solicited the first group of 148 Japanese immigrants (140 men, six women, and two children).” Id. at 163.  This group was known as the Gannen Mono, the “First-Year People.” Id. Shortly thereafter, complaints were received alleging that the workers’ contracts had been violated, and that they had been subject to abuse and poor treatment.

Against this backdrop, a treaty between Hawaiʻi and Japan commenced.  Negotiations took quite some time, but it was finally concluded on August 19, 1871. The introductory paragraph contained in the 1871 Treaty between Japan and Hawaiʻi states as follows: “WHEREAS, a Treaty of Amity and Commerce between His Majesty the King, and His Imperial Majesty the Tenno of Japan, was concluded at Yeddo, on the 19th day of August, 1871, which has been ratified by His Majesty the King, and His Imperial Majesty, the Tenno of Japan, and the ratifications duly exchanged . . . .”

Below are a few images related to the correspondence leading up to the conclusion of this treaty, including an envelope and seal addressed to “His Excellency John M. Kapena, His Hawaiian Majesty’s Minister for Foreign Affair[s].”

Available in Treaties Japan 1871-1880.
Available in Treaties Japan 1871-1880.