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Kabanoff A. On an Anonymous Manuscript “Higashi Ezo iko” // Manuscripta Orientalia. Vol. 3, No 1, March 1997. P. 48-50.

The collection of pre-modern Japanese manuscripts and wood-block prints in the St. Petersburg Branch of the Institute of Oriental Studies contains a lot of valuable materials on the Hokkaido and Sakhalin (Karafuto) Ainu. Some of them are well-known and exist in hundreds copies throughout the world, but a few items are rare or unique. The Higashi Ezo iko (Posthumous Notes on the Eastern [Hokkaido] Ainu) is an anonymous and undated manuscript (call number C-201, 19.0X26.5 cm) not mentioned neither in the Kokusho sômokuroku nor in any other available catalogues. Unfortunately, this is only a part (vols. 7—8) of a larger work describing the life and customs of the Ainu who dwelt in the eastern part of Hokkaido [1]. By its content one may conclude that the author had in his disposition a number of drawings executed by a first-class artist who supplemented them with his own explanations. All the illustrations are in colour, printed on single attached leaves, the explanatory text providing a link between them. Volumes 7 and 8 contain correspondingly fifteen and seven illustrations.

The copy was initially registered in the Russian Geographical Society on 15 May 1881 as received from A.V. Grigoryev and preceded by the inscription: “The Higashi (or Shingashi) Ezo ikoo. Parts 7 and 8 (I was not able to find other parts). It is unknown by whom and when it was written. It belonges to the Tayasu family related to the Tokugawa clan (the former Shoguns). It was bought by chance in Tokyo in the spring of 1880 for two yens (= 4 Russian roubles)”. The exact date when the manuscript came to the Asiatic Museum (now the St. Petersburg Branch of the Institute of Oriental Studies) is unknown.

Volume 7 (attush no bu) deals with the traditional Ainu technique of making clothes. There are nine types of Ainu garments: jittoku [2] (shittok?), sharambe (B. sarambe — soft clothing from birch fibres), chimippu (B. chimip), attush, itarappe, môuri (B. mouru), rapuri — feathered dress (B. rap — feathers), and kera (cloth made of grass). According to the author, jittoku, sharambe and chimippu are festive garments worn only on special occasions, they resemble Japanese embroidered brocades. They are said to be brought from Santan (the River Amur region) or from the Karafuto island. Attush and itarappe are produced from elm-bark fibres and are widely used by the Ainu.

The technique of making the specific Ainu clothes called attush is described in detail. Attush is produced from elm (opeu; B. at-ni) fibres turned into threads. The inner bark of elm-tree is peeled off by men and women in the early spring. Then plates of bark are soaked in water (often in swamps or hot-springs) till they become soft. This process is called atsuon. Afterwards they are separated into thin layers and each layer is divided into thin threads. The process called ahunkaru (B. ahun — a thread) is shown in a picture where a woman winds up threads into balls (kataki; B. katak) while watching a baby in a cradle (see illustration on the front cover). Weaving called “making the attush” (B. attush-kar) (see plate 2 on the back cover) is also performed by women who use a primitive loom consisting of a wooden frame with bamboo sticks set into its opposite edges. With special combs called kakarikemu (B. ka — thread; kar — to wind up; kern — needle) they unwind warp and woof threads of elm fibres across the spikes until they are formed into firm, rather narrow pieces of cloth (B. attush-karu-okere) which are later sewn together. The ready garment is called attush-waka-waka (B. ukau-ukau — to sew). The sewing of sleeves — tosha waka-waka (B. tusa ukau-ukau) — requires special attention. The garments, embellished with ornamental embroidery called attush-miambe, were not intended for everyday use; clothes from animal skins and bird feathers were used instead.

The môuri (B. mouru — chemise) is a sack-like sort of undercloth. According to the description, it was made from skins of sea-lions and worn mostly by women. Uri (B. uru — skin) are made of bear-skin, deer-skin, and skins of other animals. Rapuri (feathered dress) (B. rap — feathers) was mostly made from wing-feathers of cormorants (B. uriri). There is also a description of garments made of grass (hemp) — mosei, nihai, munhai and kusa), similar to the traditional Japanese straw raincoats (mind).

The volume 8 (ukaru no bu) gives a description of the popular Ainu custom called ukaru (B. ukara), which was a sort of amusement (“beating with clubs”), a way to settle grudges between men, and a punishment for offenders. In the last case it is applied in a more severe manner. This volume deals also with different punishments used among the Ainu for offenders of community regulations (like adultery, intruding houses or theaft). Sometimes a grudge was settled by a club fighting between two disputants, and the victor was granted the right to take all “precious objects” (swords, utensils, and ornaments held in a household for generations) belonging to his adversary. In other cases a criminal was beaten with a club on his bare back by the man who had suffered from his actions, as it is shown on one of the illustrations. The Ainu preferred not to apply the capital punishment believing that a partial desfigurement of a body and pain are more harsh than death. The itorasuke (B. etu-raske) habit of cutting one's nose as a punishment for a very serious crime, like adultery, was a common practice. In doubtful cases some types of ordeals (B. saimori) were in use as well. A person was put into a cauldron with hot water or forced to immerse a hand into boiling water.

There are drawings of six types of clubs — shuto (B. shitu) used for fighting and games called ukaru (or ukikkara), which are supplemented with detailed explanations. Any sort of hard wood could be used to make shuto-clubs of different shapes. Some of them, those used as a defensive weapon during travels, are the “malletlike” (ru-oi shuto). There were ji-ayu-ushi-shuto (ji/shi — wart [B. eremutambu]; ayu — to cut with pain [B. ayo — an exclamation of pain]; ushi — to bear [B. ush — to put on]) called “waited clubs”, because they were supplanted with notches similar to warts and were used for fighting. Akamu-shuto, or cart-like clubs (B. akamu — ring), had their upper part carved in a form of several rings that resemble cart's wheels. Raraka-shuto (B. rarak — smooth; slippery) are smooth clubs without any special notches. Kefuoi-shuto (kefur+fu — thin; sparse; + oi — thing) was a special kind of clubs bound round with thin stripes cut from the skin of sea-animals, mostly of sea-lions (todo; B. toto).

The descriptions are interesting not only from ethnographic point of view, they have certain linguistic value as well. The anonymous author provides a number of etymological explanations of terms (not always corresponding to the standard meanings of the Ainu words given in dictionaries) that might be taken as an evidence of his first-hand knowledge of the Ainu vernacular. Japanese transcriptions of the Ainu words in the text are in some cases slightly different from the corresponding Hokkaido or Sakhalin equivalents that may be explained either by the author's poor knowledge of the vernacular or by dialectal variations. The information provided by the manuscript, along with perfect linear illustrations, though fragmentary, is of great importance for the reconstruction of many aspects of the life and customs of the Ainu people in the pre-modern age. One may only hope that the missing parts of this unique manuscript still survive unnoticed somewhere.


The entire paper


“Higashi Ezo iko”
Manuscripta Orientalia, selected papers

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