Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 33.djvu/212

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FOR many years I have been very much interested in the Ainu[1] of Japan and Saghalien, and have read carefully everything upon which I could lay my hand containing information about them. Finding that Mr. Batchelor says, "Miss Bird's remarks upon the Ainu are perhaps the best that have been written in English,"[2] I came to the conclusion that anything like a satisfactory knowledge could only be obtained by visiting, as she did, some of the Ainu villages of Yezo. My desire to see them for myself has always been stimulated by the rather conflicting statements about them which are found in different books, and I have always had a sort of a forlorn hope (as I thought it) that fortune would some time turn me back to the shores of Asia, which I left nearly twenty years ago.

This long-wished-for opportunity has at last been granted. I landed in Japan the second time in the spring of 1886, and after waiting only long enough to get a slight working knowledge of the language, I spent a good part of the summer of 1887 in roaming about the northern parts of the empire, and have been permitted to see, live with, and study the Ainu in their homes. The Japanese officers have made special efforts to afford me facilities, and have enabled me to do much more than I could have done without their aid in so short a time.

I have learned of the Ainu history, of their habits and customs, of their myths and superstitions, from the man in Japan who is admitted to know this people better than any other person; and I here wish to thank the Rev. John Batchelor, Church Missionary Society, Hakodate, for his kindness, and for the patient way in which he submitted to my cross-questioning; for the advice he gave me how to make the best use of the limited time at my disposal, and for the assistance he rendered in making what is at the best a rough, hard trip as easy as possible. To Mrs. Batchelor my thanks are due for creature comforts which supplemented the trying fare of Japanese inns most acceptably.

I do not hesitate to say that all the valuable information contained in these notes has come originally from Mr. Batchelor; and that I have only confirmed what he has told me by my own observation, or by questioning the people themselves, when I found some who understood Japanese. Perhaps it would be

  1. I adopt the spelling of the name which the Rev. Mr. Batchelor favors, as I yield precedence to him in all matters of exact knowledge concerning this people.
  2. "Unbeaten Tracks in Japan," by Isabella L. Bird.