A Lovely Sunset - An Official Letter - A "Front Horse" - Japanese Courtesy - The Steam Ferry - Coolies Abscond - A Team of Savages - A Drove of Horses - Floral Beauties - An Unbeaten Track - A Ghostly Dwelling - Solitude and Eeriness.


I am once again in the wilds! I am sitting outside an upper room built out almost over a lonely lake, with wooded points purpling and still shadows deepening in the sinking sun. A number of men are dragging down the nearest hillside the carcass of a bear which they have just despatched with spears. There is no village, and the busy clatter of the cicada and the rustle of the forest are the only sounds which float on the still evening air. The sunset colours are pink and green; on the tinted water lie the waxen cups of great water-lilies, and above the wooded heights the pointed, craggy, and altogether naked summit of the volcano of Komono-taki flushes red in the sunset. Not the least of the charms of the evening is that I am absolutely alone, having ridden the eighteen miles from Hakodate without Ito or an attendant of any kind; have unsaddled my own horse, and by means of much politeness and a dexterous use of Japanese substantives have secured a good room and supper of rice, eggs, and black beans for myself and a mash of beans for my horse, which, as it belongs to the Kaitakushi, and has the dignity of iron shoes, is entitled to special consideration!

I am not yet off the "beaten track," but my spirits are rising with the fine weather, the drier atmosphere, and the freedom of Yezo. Yezo is to the main island of Japan what Tipperary is to an Englishman, Barra to a Scotchman, "away down in Texas" to a New Yorker - in the rough, little known, and thinly-peopled; and people can locate all sorts of improbable stories here without much fear of being found out, of which the Ainos and the misdeeds of the ponies furnish the staple, and the queer doings of men and dogs, and adventures with bears, wolves, and salmon, the embroidery. Nobody comes here without meeting with something queer, and one or two tumbles either with or from his horse. Very little is known of the interior except that it is covered with forest matted together by lianas, and with an undergrowth of scrub bamboo impenetrable except to the axe, varied by swamps equally impassable, which give rise to hundreds of rivers well stocked with fish. The glare of volcanoes is seen in different parts of the island. The forests are the hunting-grounds of the Ainos, who are complete savages in everything but their disposition, which is said to be so gentle and harmless that I may go among them with perfect safety.

Kindly interest has been excited by the first foray made by a lady into the country of the aborigines; and Mr. Eusden, the Consul, has worked upon the powers that be with such good effect that the Governor has granted me a shomon, a sort of official letter or certificate, giving me a right to obtain horses and coolies everywhere at the Government rate of 6 sen a ri, with a prior claim to accommodation at the houses kept up for officials on their circuits, and to help and assistance from officials generally; and the Governor has further telegraphed to the other side of Volcano Bay desiring the authorities to give me the use of the Government kuruma as long as I need it, and to detain the steamer to suit my convenience! With this document, which enables me to dispense with my passport, I shall find travelling very easy, and I am very grateful to the Consul for procuring it for me.

Here, where rice and tea have to be imported, there is a uniform charge at the yadoyas of 30 sen a day, which includes three meals, whether you eat them or not. Horses are abundant, but are small, and are not up to heavy weights. They are entirely unshod, and, though their hoofs are very shallow and grow into turned-up points and other singular shapes, they go over rough ground with facility at a scrambling run of over four miles an hour following a leader called a "front horse." If you don't get a "front horse" and try to ride in front, you find that your horse will not stir till he has another before him; and then you are perfectly helpless, as he follows the movements of his leader without any reference to your wishes. There are no mago; a man rides the "front horse" and goes at whatever pace you please, or, if you get a "front horse," you may go without any one. Horses are cheap and abundant. They drive a number of them down from the hills every morning into corrals in the villages, and keep them there till they are wanted. Because they are so cheap they are very badly used. I have not seen one yet without a sore back, produced by the harsh pack-saddle rubbing up and down the spine, as the loaded animals are driven at a run. They are mostly very poor-looking.

As there was some difficulty about getting a horse for me the Consul sent one of the Kaitakushi saddle-horses, a handsome, lazy animal, which I rarely succeeded in stimulating into a heavy gallop. Leaving Ito to follow with the baggage, I enjoyed my solitary ride and the possibility of choosing my own pace very much, though the choice was only between a slow walk and the lumbering gallop aforesaid.

I met strings of horses loaded with deer hides, and overtook other strings loaded with sake and manufactured goods and in each case had a fight with my sociably inclined animal. In two villages I was interested to see that the small shops contained lucifer matches, cotton umbrellas, boots, brushes, clocks, slates, and pencils, engravings in frames, kerosene lamps, {18} and red and green blankets, all but the last, which are unmistakable British "shoddy," being Japanese imitations of foreign manufactured goods, more or less cleverly executed. The road goes up hill for fifteen miles, and, after passing Nanai, a trim Europeanised village in the midst of fine crops, one of the places at which the Government is making acclimatisation and other agricultural experiments, it fairly enters the mountains, and from the top of a steep hill there is a glorious view of Hakodate Head, looking like an island in the deep blue sea, and from the top of a higher hill, looking northward, a magnificent view of the volcano with its bare, pink summit rising above three lovely lakes densely wooded. These are the flushed scaurs and outbreaks of bare rock for which I sighed amidst the smothering greenery of the main island, and the silver gleam of the lakes takes away the blindness from the face of nature. It was delicious to descend to the water's edge in the dewy silence amidst balsamic odours, to find not a clattering grey village with its monotony, but a single, irregularly-built house, with lovely surroundings.

It is a most displeasing road for most of the way; sides with deep corrugations, and in the middle a high causeway of earth, whose height is being added to by hundreds of creels of earth brought on ponies' backs. It is supposed that carriages and waggons will use this causeway, but a shying horse or a bad driver would overturn them. As it is at present the road is only passable for pack- horses, owing to the number of broken bridges. I passed strings of horses laden with sake going into the interior. The people of Yezo drink freely, and the poor Ainos outrageously. On the road I dismounted to rest myself by walking up hill, and, the saddle being loosely girthed, the gear behind it dragged it round and under the body of the horse, and it was too heavy for me to lift on his back again. When I had led him for some time two Japanese with a string of pack-horses loaded with deer-hides met me, and not only put the saddle on again, but held the stirrup while I remounted, and bowed politely when I went away. Who could help liking such a courteous and kindly people?


Even Ginsainoma was not Paradise after dark, and I was actually driven to bed early by the number of mosquitoes. Ito is in an excellent humour on this tour. Like me, he likes the freedom of the Hokkaido. He is much more polite and agreeable also, and very proud of the Governor's shomon, with which he swaggers into hotels and Transport Offices. I never get on so well as when he arranges for me. Saturday was grey and lifeless, and the ride of seven miles here along a sandy road through monotonous forest and swamp, with the volcano on one side and low wooded hills on the other, was wearisome and fatiguing. I saw five large snakes all in a heap, and a number more twisting through the grass. There are no villages, but several very poor tea-houses, and on the other side of the road long sheds with troughs hollowed like canoes out of the trunks of trees, containing horse food. Here nobody walks, and the men ride at a quick run, sitting on the tops of their pack-saddles with their legs crossed above their horses' necks, and wearing large hats like coal-scuttle bonnets. The horses are infested with ticks, hundreds upon one animal sometimes, and occasionally they become so mad from the irritation that they throw themselves suddenly on the ground, and roll over load and rider. I saw this done twice. The ticks often transfer themselves to the riders.

Mori is a large, ramshackle village, near the southern point of Volcano Bay - a wild, dreary-looking place on a sandy shore, with a number of joroyas and disreputable characters. Several of the yadoyas are not respectable, but I rather like this one, and it has a very fine view of the volcano, which forms one point of the bay. Mori has no anchorage, though it has an unfinished pier 345 feet long. The steam ferry across the mouth of the bay is here, and there is a very difficult bridle-track running for nearly 100 miles round the bay besides, and a road into the interior. But it is a forlorn, decayed place. Last night the inn was very noisy, as some travellers in the next room to mine hired geishas, who played, sang, and danced till two in the morning, and the whole party imbibed sake freely. In this comparatively northern latitude the summer is already waning. The seeds of the blossoms which were in their glory when I arrived are ripe, and here and there a tinge of yellow on a hillside, or a scarlet spray of maple, heralds the glories and the coolness of autumn.


A loud yell of "steamer," coupled with the information that "she could not wait one minute," broke in upon go and everything else, and in a broiling sun we hurried down to the pier, and with a heap of Japanese, who filled two scows, were put on board a steamer not bigger than a large decked steam launch, where the natives were all packed into a covered hole, and I was conducted with much ceremony to the forecastle, a place at the bow 5 feet square, full of coils of rope, shut in, and left to solitude and dignity, and the stare of eight eyes, which perseveringly glowered through the windows! The steamer had been kept waiting for me on the other side for two days, to the infinite disgust of two foreigners, who wished to return to Hakodate, and to mine.

It was a splendid day, with foam crests on the wonderfully blue water, and the red ashes of the volcano, which forms the south point of the bay, glowed in the sunlight. This wretched steamer, whose boilers are so often "sick" that she can never be relied upon, is the only means of reaching the new capital without taking a most difficult and circuitous route. To continue the pier and put a capable good steamer on the ferry would be a useful expenditure of money. The breeze was strong and in our favour, but even with this it took us six weary hours to steam twenty-five miles, and it was eight at night before we reached the beautiful and almost land-locked bay of Mororan, with steep, wooded sides, and deep water close to the shore, deep enough for the foreign ships of war which occasionally anchor there, much to the detriment of the town. We got off in over-crowded sampans, and several people fell into the water, much to their own amusement. The servants from the different yadoyas go down to the jetty to "tout" for guests with large paper lanterns, and the effect of these, one above another, waving and undulating, with their soft coloured light, was as bewitching as the reflection of the stars in the motionless water. Mororan is a small town very picturesquely situated on the steep shore of a most lovely bay, with another height, richly wooded, above it, with shrines approached by flights of stone stairs, and behind this hill there is the first Aino village along this coast.

The long, irregular street is slightly picturesque, but I was impressed both with the unusual sight of loafers and with the dissolute look of the place, arising from the number of joroyas, and from the number of yadoyas that are also haunts of the vicious. I could only get a very small room in a very poor and dirty inn, but there were no mosquitoes, and I got a good meal of fish. On sending to order horses I found that everything was arranged for my journey. The Governor sent his card early, to know if there were anything I should like to see or do, but, as the morning was grey and threatening, I wished to push on, and at 9.30 I was in the kuruma at the inn door. I call it the kuruma because it is the only one, and is kept by the Government for the conveyance of hospital patients. I sat there uncomfortably and patiently for half an hour, my only amusement being the flirtations of Ito with a very pretty girl. Loiterers assembled, but no one came to draw the vehicle, and by degrees the dismal truth leaked out that the three coolies who had been impressed for the occasion had all absconded, and that four policemen were in search of them. I walked on in a dawdling way up the steep hill which leads from the town, met Mr. Akboshi, a pleasant young Japanese surveyor, who spoke English and stigmatised Mororan as "the worst place in Yezo;" and, after fuming for two hours at the waste of time, was overtaken by Ito with the horses, in a boiling rage. "They're the worst and wickedest coolies in all Japan," he stammered; "two more ran away, and now three are coming, and have got paid for four, and the first three who ran away got paid, and the Express man's so ashamed for a foreigner, and the Governor's in a furious rage."

Except for the loss of time it made no difference to me, but when the kuruma did come up the runners were three such ruffianly- looking men, and were dressed so wildly in bark cloth, that, in sending Ito on twelve miles to secure relays, I sent my money along with him. These men, though there were three instead of two, never went out of a walk, and, as if on purpose, took the vehicle over every stone and into every rut, and kept up a savage chorus of "haes-ha, haes-hora" the whole time, as if they were pulling stone- carts. There are really no runners out of Hakodate, and the men don't know how to pull, and hate doing it.

Mororan Bay is truly beautiful from the top of the ascent. The coast scenery of Japan generally is the loveliest I have ever seen, except that of a portion of windward Hawaii, and this yields in beauty to none. The irregular grey town, with a grey temple on the height above, straggles round the little bay on a steep, wooded terrace; hills, densely wooded, and with a perfect entanglement of large-leaved trailers, descend abruptly to the water's edge; the festoons of the vines are mirrored in the still waters; and above the dark forest, and beyond the gleaming sea, rises the red, peaked 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.


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 grey, and a never-absent consciousness of a vast ocean just out of sight, are the environments of two high look-outs, some sheds for fish-oil purposes, four or five Japanese houses, four Aino huts on the top of the beach across the river, and a grey barrack, consisting of a polished passage eighty feet long, with small rooms on either side, at one end a gravelled yard, with two quiet rooms opening upon it, and at the other an immense daidokoro, with dark recesses and blackened rafters - a haunted-looking abode. One would suppose that there had been a special object in setting the houses down at weary distances from each other. Few as they are, they are not all inhabited at this season, and all that can be seen is grey sand, sparse grass, and a few savages creeping about.

Nothing that I have seen has made such an impression upon me as that ghostly, ghastly fishing-station. In the long grey wall of the long grey barrack there were many dismal windows, and when we hooted for admission a stupid face appeared at one of them and disappeared. Then a grey gateway opened, and we rode into a yard of grey gravel, with some silent rooms opening upon it. The solitude of the thirty or forty rooms which lie between it and the kitchen, and which are now filled with nets and fishing-tackle, was something awful; and as the wind swept along the polished passage, rattling the fusuma and lifting the shingles on the roof, and the rats careered from end to end, I went to the great black daidokoro in search of social life, and found a few embers and an andon, and nothing else but the stupid-faced man deploring his fate, and two orphan boys whose lot he makes more wretched than his own. In the fishing-season this barrack accommodates from 200 to 300 men.

I started to the sea-shore, crossing the dreary river, and found open sheds much blackened, deserted huts of reeds, long sheds with a nearly insufferable odour from caldrons in which oil had been extracted from last year's fish, two or three Aino huts, and two or three grand-looking Ainos, clothed in skins, striding like ghosts over the sandbanks, a number of wolfish dogs, some log canoes or "dug-outs," the bones of a wrecked junk, a quantity of bleached drift-wood, a beach of dark-grey sand, and a tossing expanse of dark-grey ocean under a dull and windy sky. On this part of the coast the Pacific spends its fury, and has raised up at a short distance above high-water mark a sandy sweep of such a height that when you descend its seaward slope you see nothing but the sea and the sky, and a grey, curving shore, covered thick for many a lonely mile with fantastic forms of whitened drift-wood, the shattered wrecks of forest-trees, which are carried down by the innumerable rivers, till, after tossing for weeks and months along with

" - wrecks of ships, and drifting spars uplifting On the desolate, rainy seas: Ever drifting, drifting, drifting, On the shifting Currents of the restless main;"

the "toiling surges" cast them on Yubets beach, and

"All have found repose again."

A grim repose!

The deep boom of the surf was music, and the strange cries of sea- birds, and the hoarse notes of the audacious black crows, were all harmonious, for nature, when left to herself, never produces discords either in sound or colour.