Page:Aino folk-tales.djvu/13

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INTRODUCTION.


Twelve hundred years ago a Chinese historian stated that "on the eastern frontier of the land of Japan there is a barrier of great mountains, beyond which is the land of the Hairy Men." These were the Aino, so named from the word in their own language signifying "man." Over most of the country of these rude and helpless indigenes the Japanese have long since spread, only a dwindling remnant of them still inhabiting the island of Yezo. Since the early days when a couple of them were sent as curiosities to the Emperor of China their uncouth looks and habits have made them objects of interest to more civilised nations. Many European writers have described them, but hardly any with such opportunities as Mr. Basil Hall Chamberlain, Professor of Philology at the Tokyo University, who has taken down from the Ainos the present collection of their tales, and prefaced it with an account of their ways and state of mind. It would hardly be for me to offer information on a subject so excellently handled, but the request of the Editor of the Folk-Lore Journal that I would write an Introduction enables me to draw attention to the views put forward by Professor Chamberlain in another publication,[1] which, being printed in Japan, may be overlooked by many English folk-lore students, even of those interested in the curious Aino problem.

As is well known, the hairiness of the Ainos marks them sharply off from the smooth-faced Japanese. No one can look at photographs of Ainos without admitting that the often-repeated comparison of them to bearded Russian peasants is much to the purpose. The likeness is much strengthened by the bold quasi-European features of the Ainos contrasting extremely with the Japanese type of face. Of

  1. The Language, Mythology, and Geographical Nomenclature of Japan, viewed in the light of Aino Studies. By Basil Hall Chamberlain. Including an Ainu Grammar by John Batchelor. (Memoirs of the Literature College, Imperial University of Japan, No. 1.) Tokyo: 1887.