Barrenness of Savage Life - Irreclaimable Savages - The Aino Physique - Female Comeliness- Torture and Ornament - Child Life - Docility and Obedience.
BIRATORI, YEZO, August 24.
I expected to have written out my notes on the Ainos in the comparative quiet and comfort of Sarufuto, but the delay in Benri's return, and the non-arrival of the horses, have compelled me to accept Aino hospitality for another night, which involves living on tea and potatoes, for my stock of food is exhausted. In some respects I am glad to remain longer, as it enables me to go over my stock of words, as well as my notes, with the chief, who is intelligent and it is a pleasure to find that his statements confirm those which have been made by the young men. The glamour which at first disguises the inherent barrenness of savage life has had time to pass away, and I see it in all its nakedness as a life not much raised above the necessities of animal existence, timid, monotonous, barren of good, dark, dull, "without hope, and without God in the world;" though at its lowest and worst considerably higher and better than that of many other aboriginal races, and - must I say it? - considerably higher and better than that of thousands of the lapsed masses of our own great cities who are baptized into Christ's name, and are laid at last in holy ground, inasmuch as the Ainos are truthful, and, on the whole, chaste, hospitable, honest, reverent, and kind to the aged. Drinking, their great vice, is not, as among us, in antagonism to their religion, but is actually a part of it, and as such would be exceptionally difficult to eradicate.
The early darkness has once again come on, and once again the elders have assembled round the fire in two long lines, with the younger men at the ends, Pipichari, who yesterday sat in the place of honour and was helped to food first as the newest arrival, taking his place as the youngest at the end of the right-hand row. The birch-bark chips beam with fitful glare, the evening sake bowls are filled, the fire-god and the garlanded god receive their libations, the ancient woman, still sitting like a Fate, splits bark, and the younger women knot it, and the log-fire lights up as magnificent a set of venerable heads as painter or sculptor would desire to see, - heads, full of - what? They have no history, their traditions are scarcely worthy the name, they claim descent from a dog, their houses and persons swarm with vermin, they are sunk in the grossest ignorance, they have no letters or any numbers above a thousand, they are clothed in the bark of trees and the untanned skins of beasts, they worship the bear, the sun, moon, fire, water, and I know not what, they are uncivilisable and altogether irreclaimable savages, yet they are attractive, and in some ways fascinating, and I hope I shall never forget the music of their low, sweet voices, the soft light of their mild, brown eyes, and the wonderful sweetness of their smile.
After the yellow skins, the stiff horse hair, the feeble eyelids, the elongated eyes, the sloping eyebrows, the flat noses, the sunken chests, the Mongolian features, the puny physique, the shaky walk of the men, the restricted totter of the women, and the general impression of degeneracy conveyed by the appearance of the Japanese, the Ainos make a very singular impression. All but two or three that I have seen are the most ferocious-looking of savages, with a physique vigorous enough for carrying out the most ferocious intentions, but as soon as they speak the countenance brightens into a smile as gentle as that of a woman, something which can never be forgotten.
The men are about the middle height, broad-chested, broad- shouldered, "thick set," very strongly built, the arms and legs short, thick, and muscular, the hands and feet large. The bodies, and specially the limbs, of many are covered with short bristly hair. I have seen two boys whose backs are covered with fur as fine and soft as that of a cat. The heads and faces are very striking. The foreheads are very high, broad, and prominent, and at first sight give one the impression of an unusual capacity for intellectual development; the ears are small and set low; the noses are straight but short, and broad at the nostrils; the mouths are wide but well formed; and the lips rarely show a tendency to fulness. The neck is short, the cranium rounded, the cheek-bones low, and the lower part of the face is small as compared with the upper, the peculiarity called a "jowl" being unknown. The eyebrows are full, and form a straight line nearly across the face. The eyes are large, tolerably deeply set, and very beautiful, the colour a rich liquid brown, the expression singularly soft, and the eyelashes long, silky, and abundant. The skin has the Italian olive tint, but in most cases is thin, and light enough to show the changes of colour in the cheek. The teeth are small, regular, and very white; the incisors and "eye teeth" are not disproportionately large, as is usually the case among the Japanese; there is no tendency towards prognathism; and the fold of integument which conceals the upper eyelids of the Japanese is never to be met with. The features, expression, and aspect, are European rather than Asiatic.