Shiraoi consists of a large old Honjin, or yadoya, where the daimiyo and his train used to lodge in the old days, and about eleven Japanese houses, most of which are sake shops - a fact which supplies an explanation of the squalor of the Aino village of fifty-two houses, which is on the shore at a respectful distance. There is no cultivation, in which it is like all the fishing villages on this part of the coast, but fish-oil and fish-manure are made in immense quantities, and, though it is not the season here, the place is pervaded by "an ancient and fish-like smell."
The Aino houses are much smaller, poorer, and dirtier than those of Biratori. I went into a number of them, and conversed with the people, many of whom understand Japanese. Some of the houses looked like dens, and, as it was raining, husband, wife, and five or six naked children, all as dirty as they could be, with unkempt, elf-like locks, were huddled round the fires. Still, bad as it looked and smelt, the fire was the hearth, and the hearth was inviolate, and each smoked and dirt-stained group was a family, and it was an advance upon the social life of, for instance, Salt Lake City. The roofs are much flatter than those of the mountain Ainos, and, as there are few store-houses, quantities of fish, "green" skins, and venison, hang from the rafters, and the smell of these and the stinging of the smoke were most trying. Few of the houses had any guest-seats, but in the very poorest, when I asked shelter from the rain, they put their best mat upon the ground, and insisted, much to my distress, on my walking over it in muddy boots, saying, "It is Aino custom." Ever, in those squalid homes the broad shelf, with its rows of Japanese curios, always has a place. I mentioned that it is customary for a chief to appoint a successor when he becomes infirm, and I came upon a case in point, through a mistaken direction, which took us to the house of the former chief, with a great empty bear cage at its door. On addressing him as the chief, he said, "I am old and blind, I cannot go out, I am of no more good," and directed us to the house of his successor. Altogether it is obvious, from many evidences in this village, that Japanese contiguity is hurtful, and that the Ainos have reaped abundantly of the disadvantages without the advantages of contact with Japanese civilisation.
That night I saw a specimen of Japanese horse-breaking as practised in Yezo. A Japanese brought into the village street a handsome, spirited young horse, equipped with a Japanese demi-pique saddle, and a most cruel gag bit. The man wore very cruel spurs, and was armed with a bit of stout board two feet long by six inches broad. The horse had not been mounted before, and was frightened, but not the least vicious. He was spurred into a gallop, and ridden at full speed up and down the street, turned by main force, thrown on his haunches, goaded with the spurs, and cowed by being mercilessly thrashed over the ears and eyes with the piece of board till he was blinded with blood. Whenever he tried to stop from exhaustion he was spurred, jerked, and flogged, till at last, covered with sweat, foam, and blood, and with blood running from his mouth and splashing the road, he reeled, staggered, and fell, the rider dexterously disengaging himself. As soon as he was able to stand, he was allowed to crawl into a shed, where he was kept without food till morning, when a child could do anything with him. He was "broken," effectually spirit-broken, useless for the rest of his life. It was a brutal and brutalising exhibition, as triumphs of brute force always are.