The Hawaiian revolution took place on January 17, 1893. Within two days all the nations having local consuls in Honolulu gave letters of de facto recognition to President Sanford B. Dole of the Provisional Government. Those letters were published in the Honolulu newspapers, and can also be found in the Morgan Report of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs in February 1894; see Diplomatic Recognition of the Provisional Government.
Mr. Suburo Fujii, Agent and Consul General of Japan, sent a letter of de facto recognition, in English language, to Hawaii President Dole, dated January 19, 1893. Apparently the Japanese consulate continued the same level of relations with the Provisional Government, and later the Republic, as it had maintained with the Kingdom. It is unclear whether the subsequent establishment of the Republic resulted in a formal letter of recognition de jure like the ones given by at least nineteen other nations. No such letter can be found in the archives of the State of Hawaii. But it would be surprising if Japan had failed to recognize the Republic, because there were tens of thousands of Japanese nationals working as contract laborers on Hawaii’s sugar plantations at the time of the revolution, and there was no break in further arrivals.
Ken Conklin contacted Ms. Harumi Katsumata, Consul, Consulate-General of Japan in Hawaii, inquiring whether there might be a record of diplomatic recognition of the Republic either in the files of the Japanese Consulate in Honolulu or in the foreign affairs archives in Tokyo. Following a period of several weeks for research, Consul Katsumata sent an e-mail stating that there is no information about Japan’s recognition of the Republic of Hawaii, either in Honolulu or in Tokyo. However, she did attach a photograph (shown below) of a notice published by the Republic of Hawaii Foreign Office on April 24, 1897. The notice announced that the Consulate of Japan was being upgraded to the status of Legation and that the Consul currently serving at that time would continue to represent Japan. The published notice included the full text of an “autograph letter of His Majesty the Emperor” to President Dole, announcing the upgrade of status, bearing the manual seal of the Empire and countersigned by the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Thus it is clear that until April 24, 1897 the Republic enjoyed the same level of diplomatic relations with Japan that the Kingdom had previously enjoyed; and after that date Japan granted even higher status to the Republic by upgrading its Consulate to a Legation. The wording of the Emperor’s letter to President Dole is very similar to the wording of the letters of recognition de jure that had been sent by other Emperors, Kings, Queens, and Presidents.
In March of 1881 King Kalakaua had visited the Meiji Emperor of Japan (Mutsuhito) on his trip around the world, and awarded to the Emperor the highest Royal Order of the Hawaiian Kingdom — the Grand Cross of the Royal Order of Kamehameha with collar. Thus it is especially poignant when that same Emperor personally signs a letter to Hawaii President Sanford Dole raising the status of Japan’s diplomatic representation from consulate to legation. The Emperor was giving high status to the Republic — a revolutionary government which had overthrown a fellow monarchy which had previously awarded the Emperor its highest honor.
Click once or twice on the photo to zoom in for more detail.
Foreign Office Notice
This day had audience of the President, Mr. R.
Shimamura, His Imperial Japanese Majesty’s
Diplomatic Agent and Consul General, who
presented his credentials from His Majesty the
Emperor, accrediting him in the capacity of
Minister Resident, in the Republic of Hawaii.
In presenting the autograph letter of His Majesty
the Emperor, Mr. Shimamura said:
Mr. President: The Consulate General of Japan in
Hawaii has been raised to the rank of Legation;
and it has pleased His Imperial Majesty, My
August Master, to designate me as His Minister
Resident, to reside in the Republic of Hawaii.
Permit me, Mr. President, in presenting my
credentials, to express my sincere appreciation
of the personal and official courtesies, hitherto
extended to me, both by yourself and by the
officials of your Government in my capacity of
Consul General and Diplomatic Agent; and I
express the hope and belief that these pleasant
personal and official amenities may be continued
in my new and more extended relations with your
I avail myself of this occasion to assure you of
my sincere desire for your future health and
To which the President replied:
“It is gratifying to me, Mr. Minister, that your
Government, in view of the large number of your
countrymen who are resident here, has seen fit to
raise the Consulate General of Japan in Hawaii to
the rank of Legation. And it is very acceptable
to me and this government that His Imperial
Majesty has designated yourself, whom we have so
long and so favorably known both officially and
socially, as the one to receive this high
“I thank you for your expressions of good will to
myself personally, and I ask you to convey to
your Government our satisfaction over its action
in increasing the importance of the office
representing it in this country, and to His
Imperial Majesty my good wishes for his continued
health and for the prosperity of the nation over
which he so ably presides.
“I congratulate you, Mr. Minister, upon your
The autograph letter of His Majesty is as
By the grace of Heaven, emperor of Japan and
seated on the throne occupied by the same Dynasty
from time immemorial,
TO MR. SANFORD B. DOLE, PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC
OF HAWAII, and Our Great and Good Friend,
Being animated by the desire to maintain and
promote the relations of friendship and good
understanding so happily existing between our
respective countries, We do hereby appoint
Shimamura, Hisashi, Jugoi, Fourth Class of the
Imperial Order of the Rising Sun, who is at
present residing in your country, in the capacity
of our Consul General and Diplomatic Agent, to be
our Minister Resident, to reside in the Republic
From a knowledge of his fidelity, assiduity and
intelligence, We have entire confidence that he
will render himself acceptable to You and We
request that You will give full credence to
whatever he shall say in Our name.
We take this opportunity to assure You of Our
most sincere friendship and of Our ardent wishes
for Your health and welfare.
Given at Our Palace in Tokio, this 6th day of the
4th month of the 30th year of Meiji,
corresponding to the two thousand five hundred
and fifty-seventh year from the Coronation of the
(Sign — Manual)
(Seal of the Empire).
(Countersigned) Count Okuma Shigenobu,
Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Minister of Foreign Affairs ad interim.
Foreign Office April 24, 1897.