Ca. 1860. 48 pp. 26,5x38 cm. With thirty-seven vivid attractive ink and watercolour illustrations of the Ainu and their way of life and eleven pages of Japanese text in black ink, all on thin Japanese paper. Later beige patterned flexible card boards with brown cloth spine. With a centrefold and some minor edge wear of manuscript but overall the manuscript is in very good condition.
This is a late Edo/ early Meiji period A-version (expanded and updated) copy of Hata Awagimaru’s Ezo-tö Kikan [i.e. Strange Sights on the Island of Ezo (Hokkaido)], which is the earliest work on the ethnology of the Ainu and was originally written in Kansei 12 . The manuscript starts with a description of the history of the Japanese feudal expansion into and then colonization of Hokkaido by the Matsumae clan. This clan was granted the settlement of Matsumae at the southern end of the Oshima Peninsula and was also given exclusive trading rights with the Ainu. Additionally the Matsumae clan had the role of Japan’s northern border defenders and thus were the first Japanese to make contact with Russian traders in the 18th century.
One of the first illustrations in this attractively illustrated manuscript is a strong watercolour portrait of the Kunashiri Ainu Chief ‘Ikorikayani’, armed with his bow and sword. Next an Ainu woman is shown with a musical instrument, a jade necklace and a hand tattoo. The following series of captioned watercolours shows details of the hand tattoo, as well as another necklace and a bark skin jacket and includes further descriptions of Ainu dress. Then a seal is shown and the Ainu trade of seal meat for rice, clothes and tobacco is described. Ainu fishing, seal hunting and whaling including the boats and weapons they used as well as the Ainu method of curing seal meat are also illustrated and described. Then a series of illustrations shows Ainu manners, customs and ceremonies with a series of five illustrations of the Ainu Iomante ceremony with detailed descriptions of how a brown bear is ritually killed and sent off to the world of the gods and then how the Ainu villagers divide up and drink and eat the bear’s blood and meat, presumably to gain its spirit and powers.
Overall this is an extensively beautifully illustrated and historically important manuscript on Ainu ethnology.