LETTER XXXVII - (Continued)
Aino Clothing - Holiday Dress - Domestic Architecture - Household Gods - Japanese Curios - The Necessaries of Life - Clay Soup - Arrow Poison - Arrow-Traps - Female Occupations - Bark Cloth - The Art of Weaving.
Aino clothing, for savages, is exceptionally good. In the winter it consists of one, two, or more coats of skins, with hoods of the same, to which the men add rude moccasins when they go out hunting. In summer they wear kimonos, or loose coats, made of cloth woven from the split bark of a forest tree. This is a durable and beautiful fabric in various shades of natural buff, and somewhat resembles what is known to fancy workers as "Panama canvas." Under this a skin or bark-cloth vest may or may not be worn. The men wear these coats reaching a little below the knees, folded over from right to left, and confined at the waist by a narrow girdle of the same cloth, to which is attached a rude, dagger-shaped knife, with a carved and engraved wooden handle and sheath. Smoking is by no means a general practice; consequently the pipe and tobacco-box are not, as with the Japanese, a part of ordinary male attire. Tightly-fitting leggings, either of bark-cloth or skin, are worn by both sexes, but neither shoes nor sandals. The coat worn by the women reaches half-way between the knees and ankles, and is quite loose and without a girdle. It is fastened the whole way up to the collar-bone; and not only is the Aino woman completely covered, but she will not change one garment for another except alone or in the dark. Lately a Japanese woman at Sarufuto took an Aino woman into her house, and insisted on her taking a bath, which she absolutely refused to do till the bath-house had been made quite private by means of screens. On the Japanese woman going back a little later to see what had become of her, she found her sitting in the water in her clothes; and on being remonstrated with, she said that the gods would be angry if they saw her without clothes!
Many of the garments for holiday occasions are exceedingly handsome, being decorated with "geometrical" patterns, in which the "Greek fret" takes part, in coarse blue cotton, braided most dexterously with scarlet and white thread. Some of the handsomest take half a year to make. The masculine dress is completed by an apron of oblong shape decorated in the same elaborate manner. These handsome savages, with their powerful physique, look remarkably well in their best clothes. I have not seen a boy or girl above nine who is not thoroughly clothed. The "jewels" of the women are large, hoop earrings of silver or pewter, with attachments of a classical pattern, and silver neck ornaments, and a few have brass bracelets soldered upon their arms. The women have a perfect passion for every hue of red, and I have made friends with them by dividing among them a large turkey-red silk handkerchief, strips of which are already being utilised for the ornamenting of coats.
The houses in the five villages up here are very good. So they are at Horobets, but at Shiraoi, where the aborigines suffer from the close proximity of several grog shops, they are inferior. They differ in many ways from any that I have before seen, approaching most nearly to the grass houses of the natives of Hawaii. Custom does not appear to permit either of variety or innovations; in all the style is the same, and the difference consists in the size and plenishings. The dwellings seem ill-fitted for a rigorous climate, but the same thing may be said of those of the Japanese. In their houses, as in their faces, the Ainos are more European than their conquerors, as they possess doorways, windows, central fireplaces, like those of the Highlanders of Scotland, and raised sleeping- places.
The usual appearance is that of a small house built on at the end of a larger one. The small house is the vestibule or ante-room, and is entered by a low doorway screened by a heavy mat of reeds. It contains the large wooden mortar and pestle with two ends, used for pounding millet, a wooden receptacle for millet, nets or hunting gear, and some bundles of reeds for repairing roof or walls. This room never contains a window. From it the large room is entered by a doorway, over which a heavy reed-mat, bound with hide, invariably hangs. This room in Benri's case is 35 feet long by 25 feet broad, another is 45 feet square, the smallest measures 20 feet by 15. On entering, one is much impressed by the great height and steepness of the roof, altogether out of proportion to the height of the walls.