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- UNBEATEN TRACKS IN JAPAN - 40/58 -


top of the volcano. Then the road dips abruptly to sandy swellings, rising into bold headlands here and there; and for the first time I saw the surge of 5000 miles of unbroken ocean break upon the shore. Glimpses of the Pacific, an uncultivated, swampy level quite uninhabited, and distant hills mainly covered with forest, made up the landscape till I reached Horobets, a mixed Japanese and Aino village built upon the sand near the sea.

In these mixed villages the Ainos are compelled to live at a respectful distance from the Japanese, and frequently out-number them, as at Horobets, where there are forty-seven Aino and only eighteen Japanese houses. The Aino village looks larger than it really is, because nearly every house has a kura, raised six feet from the ground by wooden stilts. When I am better acquainted with the houses I shall describe them; at present I will only say that they do not resemble the Japanese houses so much as the Polynesian, as they are made of reeds very neatly tied upon a wooden framework. They have small windows, and roofs of a very great height, and steep pitch, with the thatch in a series of very neat frills, and the ridge poles covered with reeds, and ornamented. The coast Ainos are nearly all engaged in fishing, but at this season the men hunt deer in the forests. On this coast there are several names compounded with bets or pets, the Aino for a river, such as Horobets, Yubets, Mombets, etc.

I found that Ito had been engaged for a whole hour in a violent altercation, which was caused by the Transport Agent refusing to supply runners for the kuruma, saying that no one in Horobets would draw one, but on my producing the shomon I was at once started on my journey of sixteen miles with three Japanese lads, Ito riding on to Shiraoi to get my room ready. I think that the Transport Offices in Yezo are in Government hands. In a few minutes three Ainos ran out of a house, took the kuruma, and went the whole stage without stopping. They took a boy and three saddled horses along with them to bring them back, and rode and hauled alternately, two youths always attached to the shafts, and a man pushing behind. They were very kind, and so courteous, after a new fashion, that I quite forgot that I was alone among savages. The lads were young and beardless, their lips were thick, and their mouths very wide, and I thought that they approached more nearly to the Eskimo type than to any other. They had masses of soft black hair falling on each side of their faces. The adult man was not a pure Aino. His dark hair was not very thick, and both it and his beard had an occasional auburn gleam. I think I never saw a face more completely beautiful in features and expression, with a lofty, sad, far-off, gentle, intellectual look, rather that of Sir Noel Paton's "Christ" than of a savage. His manner was most graceful, and he spoke both Aino and Japanese in the low musical tone which I find is a characteristic of Aino speech. These Ainos never took off their clothes, but merely let them fall from one or both shoulders when it was very warm.

The road from Horobets to Shiraoi is very solitary, with not more than four or five houses the whole way. It is broad and straight, except when it ascends hills or turns inland to cross rivers, and is carried across a broad swampy level, covered with tall wild flowers, which extends from the high beach thrown up by the sea for two miles inland, where there is a lofty wall of wooded rock, and beyond this the forest-covered mountains of the interior. On the top of the raised beach there were Aino hamlets, and occasionally a nearly overpowering stench came across the level from the sheds and apparatus used for extracting fish-oil. I enjoyed the afternoon thoroughly. It is so good to have got beyond the confines of stereotyped civilisation and the trammels of Japanese travelling to the solitude of nature and an atmosphere of freedom. It was grey, with a hard, dark line of ocean horizon, and over the weedy level the grey road, with grey telegraph-poles along it, stretched wearisomely like a grey thread. The breeze came up from the sea, rustled the reeds, and waved the tall plumes of the Eulalia japonica, and the thunder of the Pacific surges boomed through the air with its grand, deep bass. Poetry and music pervaded the solitude, and my spirit was rested.

Going up and then down a steep, wooded hill, the road appeared to return to its original state of brushwood, and the men stopped at the broken edge of a declivity which led down to a shingle bank and a foam-crested river of clear, blue-green water, strongly impregnated with sulphur from some medicinal springs above, with a steep bank of tangle on the opposite side. This beautiful stream was crossed by two round poles, a foot apart, on which I attempted to walk with the help of an Aino hand; but the poles were very unsteady, and I doubt whether any one, even with a strong head, could walk on them in boots. Then the beautiful Aino signed to me to come back and mount on his shoulders; but when he had got a few feet out the poles swayed and trembled so much that he was obliged to retrace his way cautiously, during which process I endured miseries from dizziness and fear; after which he carried me through the rushing water, which was up to his shoulders, and through a bit of swampy jungle, and up a steep bank, to the great fatigue both of body and mind, hardly mitigated by the enjoyment of the ludicrous in riding a savage through these Yezo waters. They dexterously carried the kuruma through, on the shoulders of four, and showed extreme anxiety that neither it nor I should get wet. After this we crossed two deep, still rivers in scows, and far above the grey level and the grey sea the sun was setting in gold and vermilion- streaked green behind a glorified mountain of great height, at whose feet the forest-covered hills lay in purple gloom. At dark we reached Shiraoi, a village of eleven Japanese houses, with a village of fifty-one Aino houses, near the sea. There is a large yadoya of the old style there; but I found that Ito had chosen a very pretty new one, with four stalls open to the road, in the centre one of which I found him, with the welcome news that a steak of fresh salmon was broiling on the coals; and, as the room was clean and sweet and I was very hungry, I enjoyed my meal by the light of a rush in a saucer of fish-oil as much as any part of the day.

SARUFUTO.

The night was too cold for sleep, and at daybreak, hearing a great din, I looked out, and saw a drove of fully a hundred horses all galloping down the road, with two Ainos on horse-back, and a number of big dogs after them. Hundreds of horses run nearly wild on the hills, and the Ainos, getting a large drove together, skilfully head them for the entrance into the corral, in which a selection of them is made for the day's needs, and the remainder--that is, those with the deepest sores on their backs--are turned loose. This dull rattle of shoeless feet is the first sound in the morning in these Yezo villages. I sent Ito on early, and followed at nine with three Ainos. The road is perfectly level for thirteen miles, through gravel flats and swamps, very monotonous, but with a wild charm of its own. There were swampy lakes, with wild ducks and small white water-lilies, and the surrounding levels were covered with reedy grass, flowers, and weeds. The early autumn has withered a great many of the flowers; but enough remains to show how beautiful the now russet plains must have been in the early summer. A dwarf rose, of a deep crimson colour, with orange, medlar-shaped hips, as large as crabs, and corollas three inches across, is one of the features of Yezo; and besides, there is a large rose-red convolvulus, a blue campanula, with tiers of bells, a blue monkshood, the Aconitum Japonicum, the flaunting Calystegia soldanella, purple asters, grass of Parnassus, yellow lilies, and a remarkable trailer, whose delicate leafage looked quite out of place among its coarse surroundings, with a purplish-brown campanulate blossom, only remarkable for a peculiar arrangement of the pistil, green stamens, and a most offensive carrion-like odour, which is probably to attract to it a very objectionable-looking fly, for purposes of fertilisation.

We overtook four Aino women, young and comely, with bare feet, striding firmly along; and after a good deal of laughing with the men, they took hold of the kuruma, and the whole seven raced with it at full speed for half a mile, shrieking with laughter. Soon after we came upon a little tea-house, and the Ainos showed me a straw package, and pointed to their open mouths, by which I understood that they wished to stop and eat. Later we overtook four Japanese on horseback, and the Ainos raced with them for a considerable distance, the result of these spurts being that I reached Tomakomai at noon--a wide, dreary place, with houses roofed with sod, bearing luxuriant crops of weeds. Near this place is the volcano of Tarumai, a calm-looking, grey cone, whose skirts are draped by tens of thousands of dead trees. So calm and grey had it looked for many a year that people supposed it had passed into endless rest, when quite lately, on a sultry day, it blew off its cap and covered the whole country for many a mile with cinders and ashes, burning up the forest on its sides, adding a new covering to the Tomakomai roofs, and depositing fine ash as far as Cape Erimo, fifty miles off.

At this place the road and telegraph wires turn inland to Satsuporo, and a track for horses only turns to the north-east, and straggles round the island for about seven hundred miles. From Mororan to Sarufuto there are everywhere traces of new and old volcanic action--pumice, tufas, conglomerates, and occasional beds of hard basalt, all covered with recent pumice, which, from Shiraoi eastwards, conceals everything. At Tomakomai we took horses, and, as I brought my own saddle, I have had the nearest approach to real riding that I have enjoyed in Japan. The wife of a Satsuporo doctor was there, who was travelling for two hundred miles astride on a pack-saddle, with rope-loops for stirrups. She rode well, and vaulted into my saddle with circus-like dexterity, and performed many equestrian feats upon it, telling me that she should be quite happy if she were possessed of it.

I was happy when I left the "beaten track" to Satsuporo, and saw before me, stretching for I know not how far, rolling, sandy machirs like those of the Outer Hebrides, desert-like and lonely, covered almost altogether with dwarf roses and campanulas, a prairie land on which you can make any tracks you please. Sending the others on, I followed them at the Yezo scramble, and soon ventured on a long gallop, and revelled in the music of the thud of shoeless feet over the elastic soil; but I had not realised the peculiarities of Yezo steeds, and had forgotten to ask whether mine was a "front horse," and just as we were going at full speed we came nearly up with the others, and my horse coming abruptly to a full stop, I went six feet over his head among the rose-bushes. Ito looking back saw me tightening the saddle-girths, and I never divulged this escapade.

After riding eight miles along this breezy belt, with the sea on one side and forests on the other, we came upon Yubets, a place which has fascinated me so much that I intend to return to it; but I must confess that its fascinations depend rather upon what it has not than upon what it has, and Ito says that it would kill him to spend even two days there. It looks like the end of all things, as if loneliness and desolation could go no farther. A sandy stretch on three sides, a river arrested in its progress to the sea, and compelled to wander tediously in search of an outlet by the height and mass of the beach thrown up by the Pacific, a distant forest- belt rising into featureless, wooded ranges in shades of indigo and


UNBEATEN TRACKS IN JAPAN - 40/58

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