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HOME  > Past issues  > 2010 September 22 - 28  > The albatross and the merchant - Akahata ‘Current’ column
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2010 September 22 - 28 [TERRITORIAL ISSUE]

The albatross and the merchant -
Akahata ‘Current’ column

September 26, 2010
The albatross is one of the largest of seabirds. Three species of albatross are ranging across the North Pacific. Of them, the short-tailed albatross is in danger of extinction and designated as a special natural treasure of Japan. Short-tailed albatrosses nest not only on Torishima in the Izu Island chain but also on an island in the Senkakus in the East China Sea.

In the Meiji era, a merchant, Koga Tatsushiro, had his eye on this seabird nesting in the Senkaku Islands for business purposes. He was born in Fukuoka and later moved to Okinawa for his trading business in seafoods. Exploring the unmanned islands, he came up with the idea of exporting albatross feathers to Europe. He then applied to the government for a lease of the islands to him in order to pursue his business venture.

In 1895, the government incorporated the Senkaku Islands into Japanese territory and allowed Koga to develop his business on the islands. He built a factory making dried-bonito flakes on one of the islands. Until the 1940’s, up to 150 people lived there to work at the factory.

In the late 1960’s, the possibility of oil and natural gas reserves under the seabed around the islands was announced. Shortly after that, China and Taiwan began staking their claim to the islands.

The issue of territorial rights over the Senkaku Islands has been gaining much attention since a Chinese fishing boat collided with a patrol vessel of the Japan Coast Guard. In order to prevent such incidents from occurring again, the government should internationally establish its claim to the islands based on the facts and historical evidence of inhabitation.
- Akahata, September 26, 2010
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