First Japanese convert to Christianity in Hakodate was
1. a Samurai who disliked foreigners
2. a Shinto(Japanese indigenous religion) priest
3. a man who came to Hakodate to assassinate foreigners
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Kahee was born in 1769 in Awaji island, which is located south of Kobe, as a son of a poor farmer. When he was 13, he began to work in Kobe as a sailor in order to help his family.
At that time, productivity of Tokyo, which was called Edo, was not enough for its population and products of farm and factory were carried from commercially advanced Kansai area where Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe are situated.
When Kahee was 28, he stood on his own feet owning a boat and embarked a business venture. He placed a base in undeveloped Hakodate though Matsumae was much more thriving. One important reason was a port. It was well known to sailors as a very calm and safe port, nicknamed a “ropeless port”. He brought in sake, salt, rice, etc. to Ezo(former name of Hokkaido) and took out abundant local seafood such as herrings, salmons, and kelp. In those days, herrings were used to fertilize soil for rape blossoms. Rapeseed oil was widely used and there used to be a rich herring fishery in waters around here. Through his business he heaped wealth and was famous as a talented trader and an efficient sailor. Later he cultivated new course to the Kuril Islands and ran many fisheries around Nemuro, eastern coast town of Hokkaido, and still disputed Northern Territories.
In Hakodate, Kahee rendered many services to the development. He repaired streets, cultivate the land and forested trees for lumber. Besides he brought clams from his hometown to breed them in Hakodate port.
When one of big fires occurred in 1806(when he was 38), he gave the victims food and clothes and built apartments for them. He sold timber with no profit for a quick recovery. After this fire, he sank wells in his own expense asking workmen from Osaka. Lack of water used to be a problem and he donated water pumps for fires.
In Hakodate at that time, there used to be a lot of shops of ship dealers and inns, especially around Ohmachi and Bentencho area.
Kahee lived in the end of the feudal period in Japan. At that time Japan was governed by a military government called bakufu whose administrative head was a shogun. The government held a strict isolation policy for more than 200 years from the 17th to the mid 19th centuries. But it was hard to continue the policy any more. In late 18th century, Russia dispatched a trade mission (Adam Laksman with Daikokuya Kodayu) to open commerce with Japan. It was refused and then in early 19th century, another mission was dispatched and their require was refused again. International tension between Russia and Japan arose and Golownin Incident happened. It was Kahee who solve the problem.
Kahee was not only a talented trader but also a person of character and an outstanding cosmopolitan in the era.
His original name was Shimeta, but the captain of the ship he embarked gave him a name of Joe(→Joseph Hardy Neesima). Later, he used this name.
You can find this statue of Joe Neesima near the Kanemori Warehouses facing to Hakodate port.