This is one of the rare pre-colonial Japanese official documents that had mentioned Tamsui. It was for the appointment of IJA Major 福島九成Fukushima Kyusei, the Consul of Port Amoy to an additional post of the Consul of Port Tamsui. This order, effective May 10, 1875, was issued on May 2 by the Foreign Minister on behalf of Emperor Meiji:
For easy reading, the text is transcribed below:
台湾淡水両口事務兼務被 仰付候事 翌１０日陸軍省ヘ 心溥通達ス 外務 領事陸軍少佐福島九成ヘ御委任状
朕清国廈門在留領事陸軍少佐福島九成ヲ以テ台湾淡水二口ノ領事ヲ兼任セシメ即両国ノ條約ニ従ヒ其両口ニ到ル我国臣民ノ権理及商舶貨財貿易等ヲ保護シ且我国臣民ノ訴訟アルニ遭ハ律例ヲ照シテ判決スルノ権ヲ授典ス宜ク朕カ旨ヲ體シ前ニ掲クルニロノ地ニ到レル我国民ニ諭告シテ此命令ヲ遭奉セシムヘキヲ命ス故ニ清国皇帝及宰官等福島九成ノ領事タル ヲ承允シ至当ノ需ヲ為サハ之ニ補助ヲ興ヘラレン ヲ冀望ス
神武天皇即位紀元２５３５年 明治０８年０５月０２日東京宮中ニ於テ親ラ名ヲ署シ璽ヲ鈐ス ０５月０２日
For historical reference, 1875 was the year when the then 3-year-old 光緒Guangxu assumed the Qing throne. Throughout his reign (1875-1908), he was under the close watch of 慈禧太后Dowager CiXi, the de factor ruler of China. This was a period marked by the foreign invasions of Imperial China. In 1895, after the humiliating defeat in the 1st Sino-Japanese war, the Qing ceded Taiwan and its islands to Japan [Shimonoseki Treaty Article 2, item 2: 台湾全島及其ノ附属諸島嶼].
In the appointment letter, Major/Consul Fukushima was charged with the duty of protecting the rights of Japanese citizens including shipping, merchandizing and property, as well as to represent their legal interests and related judiciary matters. Curiously, in the accompanying directive, he was asked specifically to tend to the needs of Japanese nationals of the 琉球藩Ryukyu clan.
First, it appears that Tamsui was chosen as the consulate site, not because of a large Japanese contingent in town, but because Amoy was the traditional trade partner of Tamsui. Unlike the British, however, there was no known Japanese consulate office in Tamsui. As the Brits did in the early days, the consulate business might have been conducted on board a ship. Second, the Japanese who visited Taiwan at that time were not from mainland Japan, they were actually sailors from Ryukyu visiting by accident. They were the hapless victims of the Mu-Dan-Sha Incident 牡丹社事件. In Dec, 1871, 66 Ryukyu sailors were ship-wrecked and stranded in Taiwan; they were ambushed by 排灣 Paiwan Tribesmen leaving only 12 survivors. The Japanese used this Incident as the pretext to mount a retaliatory attack that took place in 1874. Major Fukushima had in fact participated in the intelligence gathering in Taiwan in the year before. And on April 27, 1874, Fukushima as the Japanese Consul at Amoy officially notified Governor General Lee He-Nian of Min-Jer Province閩浙總督李鶴年 the Japanese intent of a military action [while the attack was already underway]. The Qing Court lodged a protest and ordered Lee et al to prepare for war. The latter, however, cited inadequate military strength with no possibility of a victory. Realizing this, the Qing Court, to the amazement of the international community, paid compensation to placate the Japanese. Fukushima's Tamsui appointment would come after the whole affair had concluded, possibly as a reward/promotion. This Mu-dan-she episode can be regarded as a test of the Qing resolve and the prelude to the Japanese take-over of Taiwan in 1895.
Since the 16th century, Ryukyu Kingdom had been a client state of China. In 1871, Japan subjugated this tiny Kingdom, and in 1872, it was renamed 琉球藩. The invasion of Taiwan in 1874 had finally legitimized the Japanese control of Ryukyu Islands because it was done in the name of protecting the safety of Ryukyuites. In 1879, Ryukyu became a permanent part of the Okinawa Prefecture.
On June 7, 1895, another Fukushima, 福島安正(Fukushima Yasumasa) of the Japanese invasion force came to call on Tamsui and administered the town for an important 14 days. His experience, the 淡水新政記 [Chronology of the New Governance of Tamsui], became the official guide on how to rule Taiwan and other conquered lands.