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History of the Russian Diplomatic Missions in Japan

Yokohama

On July 1, 1859, the Japanese government opened the port of Kanagawa to Russia. Kanagawa is now the name of a Japanese prefecture, with its prefectural headquarters located in the city of Yokohama. Soon after this, a Russian mission led by the Governor General of Eastern Siberia, N. N. Muraviyov, visited the port.

 

The first Russian consul in Yokohama was appointed in 1871 with Russia's representative in Japan, E. K. Byutsov filling the post on a part time basis. The actual choosing of the site and construction of the consulate did not take place until later. In 1875, Russia acquired a plot of land in Yokohama, paying a rental fee of 111 Mexican dollars for it and later made the decision to build the consulate on the land. The Australian architect John Smedley designed the Russian consular building and construction, which was in the "colonial" style, was completed in 1880.

 

In 1902, the building was in need of major renovation, which was supervised by the newly appointed consul in Yokohama, V. Y. Sievers. After the work was completed, the second floor was expanded and an addition with a glass veranda was built above it.

 

The noted English architect Josiah Conder, famous for building the Orthodox Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ (Nikolai-do) in Tokyo, played an active role in the renovation and completion of the building which he carried out based on the drawings of Russian architect, M. A. Schurupov.

 

In the early twentieth century, the Russian consulate in Yokohama looked quite elegant - a light two-storey house with two entrances -a ceremonial entrance for receiving visitors decorated with a Russian coat of arms above the entrance, and a second entrance for conducting business, which featured a beautiful balustrade on the balcony of the second floor.

 

Unfortunately the consulate building was completely destroyed in the earthquake of 1923.

Kobe

According to the Russian-Japanese Treaty of 1858, "the government of Japan, besides the ports already opened... shall open the following ports: ... from January 1, 1863, the port of Hyogo, in the Sesshu Bay." Hyogo is the former name of the Kobe port, which later became the administrative center of Hyogo prefecture. Work on the Russian Consulate in Kobe was started in 1891, right before the visit to Japan of the heir to the Russian throne, Crown Prince Nikolai.

In the early twentieth century, Vice Consul F. I. Vasilev headed the consulate and starting in 1925, a Soviet consul, A. N. Kolesnikov was assigned to the consulate in Kobe. There were long lines for visas, because travelling by sea to Vladivostok and then by rail on the Trans-Siberian railway made the trip to Europe possible in just fifteen days compared with the fifty days it took to travel by sea to any of the European ports. The consulate building was on the seafront and was easily visible from the ocean side.

Tsuruga

In the nineteenth and early twentieth century Tsuruga became a gateway from Japan to Russia. The treaty of 1858 stated: "The Japanese government shall open, on January 1, 1860, one convenient port on the west coast of the island of Nippon and shall notify the Russian government before the designated time, as soon as the port has been selected." It was assumed that the port would be Niigata. Soon afterwards, the Russian ship Jigit arrived there, as one of the first foreign ships to study local conditions, but the Russian sailors did not like the bay. It was too shallow. In addition, due to strong winds and high waves in the winter the anchorage at the port was extremely uncomfortable. It was decided to find a new place for Russian ships to enter and, accordingly, for the construction of the consulate. As a result, the parties agreed to select the port of Tsuruga, a small fishing village at the time.

1902 marked the start of sea voyages between Tsuruga and Vladivostok, but the Russian-Japanese war, which broke out shortly afterwards, prevented further development of this line. It was only after the restoration of relations, according to the protocol on the establishment of consulates in Russia and Japan (July 15/28, 1907), that the Japanese government gave permission for the opening of the Russian consulates in Tsuruga and Otaru. From the time of the opening of the consulate in 1911 until 1921, N. D. Fedorov, who first came to Japan as a representative of the shipping company Dobroflot, served as Consul. He later married a Japanese woman - an abbess of the Orthodox school and stayed on in Japan. In 1925 D. D. Kiselev was appointed Soviet consul to Tsuruga. The consulate remained in place until 1944, although during the war it was virtually completely inactive.

Otaru

As mentioned previously, in 1907 Russia was allowed to open a consulate in another Japanese city, Otaru, on the island of Hokkaido. But it was some time before it actually opened. It was only in January 1926, that a consular commission was given to A. N. Vasiliev. The consulate in Otaru was established to take the place of the destroyed consulate in Yokohama. The Russian diplomats rented the building from a local company, and paid a rent of 80 yen per month, an impressive sum at that time. One of the main tasks of the consulate was to issue visas to Japanese fishermen, so that they could fish from the concessions off the coast of Kamchatka. The consulate building was not constructed in the typical Japanese fashion of the time but had a round tower and a steep roof and it has survived to the present day, although with several reconstructions.

Based on the book
Russia - Japan: A Historical Path to Trust
From the Moscow publisher, Japan Today, 2008

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