Whaling at the Margins: Drift Whales, Ainu Laborers, and the Japanese State on the Nineteenth- Century Okhotsk Coast


Noell Wilson details the Japanese state’s attempt to accelerate Ainu integration of Ezochi (modern-day Hokkaido) into the Tokugawa political and economic sphere through the implementation of drift-whale policy. This policy, which required that two-thirds of every drift whale be sent to Tokugawa officials was seen as a means of entrenching political and cultural authority on the ground, following Japan’s re-assertion of sovereignty after Russian incursions in the mid-nineteenth century. At the time, it was argued that this ensured work and better treatment for local Ainu, but really was a means of securing a labor force and a way of cultivating Ainu cooperation in case of a Russian attack.

DOI: 10.5282/rcc/8962