It was a short-lived state formed by former Tokugawa retainers in Hokkaido, the northernmost, sparsely populated island of modern Japan. In 1868, they set up the Republic of Ezo, based on the American model, and elected Enomoto as its sosai. (Sosai means, roughly, "president" or "director-general".) These were the first elections ever held in Japan. Through Hakodate Magistrate Nagai Naoyuki, they tried to reach foreign legations present in Hakodate (the Americans, French, and Russians), but were not able to garner any international support for their new government.