北の生活文化(Legends about Japanese ~)

 

 

北の生活文化(Legends about Japanese and Ainu people)


 

 
Legends about Japanese and Ainu people
 
94.JPG 95.JPG 96.JPG
94. Statue of Shigejiro in Esashi 95. Yoshitsune Shrine 96. Divine image at Yoshitsune
   Shrine in Biratori
 Some Hokkaido legends about Japanese persons seem to reveal the guilt Japanese people had felt regarding the Ainu throughout the history of colonization. The story called "Human Sacrifice at Cape Yagoshi" expresses the deep-seated resentment of Ainu women who were drowned in the sea by Japanese people in an attempt to appease the anger of a sea god. The story goes on to tell of an uprising by the Ainu and the subsequent downfall of the family of Suetane Aihara who victimized those women. The fictional story focuses on Japanese characters but is composed from the viewpoint of the Ainu. This is proven in the concluding part in which the Japanese who brought death to the Ainu women are punished.

 Stories depicting Yoshitsune's travels in Hokkaido were often used by the Tokugawa Shogunate for propaganda as one way of forcing the Ainu to subordinate themselves to the Shogunate. This was done during the Edo period when the Shogunate intended to gain control of the island. Yoshitsune of the Minamoto family was a hero who defeated the Taira family while fighting for his elder brother. Yoshitsune became a tragic hero much beloved by ordinary people after he was killed according to this brother's orders. In the legends, he did not die in the battle of Koromogawa in Tohoku but survived and came to Ezo. The Shogunate announced that Yoshitsune became the Ainu's heroic god, Okikurumi, or at least could be equated with Okikurumi. Using this tale the government hoped to govern the entire Ainu people in a unified way. The Yoshitsune shrine still remains in Biratori and was built as a shrine in which Ainu people would worship.
 
Social chat as folklore date
97.JPG
97. Mural depicting land cultivation in the early stage of development
 Social chat includes conversation about unusual matters, minor events in life and gossip. This material is considered folklore date which can be quite informative regarding lifestyles and the way of thinking of people of former times. An extensive collection of stories such as there is currently underway in Hokkaido.

 The following is a story introduced by a person who was born in 1900 whose father was formerly a samurai warrior in Hiroshima. This samurai had lost his hereditary stipend due to the Meiji Restoration and possessed no land for agriculture. He immigrated to Hokkaido with 17 other households from his hometown in 1878. The story describes his house as being surrounded by ditch reeds with straw matting hung for a door and grass laid upon the earth floor along with straw matting for a bed. The informant often heard his samurai class grandmother complain at the time of a bad harvest saying : "I wish I had wings to fly back to my homeland."

 From the story about requirements for marriage related by a person who was born in 1905, we can easily catch a glimpse of one aspect of life in those days. Rather than focusing on appearance, decent, well-behaved women with bodies well built for easy delivery in childbirth were more favored, while hard-working men of good character, preferably without mothers or sisters, were more appreciated. Marriage was mostly arranged in those days and close relations between families rather than individuals was more emphasized. Such things as place of origin, occupation, property, and religion of the candidate's family were carefully studied until the marriage was decided and, in some cases, the couple did not see each other until the day of the wedding.
 
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