IN seeking the origin of the Japanese people, we must take into consideration the geographical position of their island chain, with reference to its proximity to the main-land, and its situation in the ocean currents. Japanese traditions and history may have much to tell us concerning the present people of Japan - whether they are exclusively an indigenous race, or the composite of several ethnic stocks. From a study, however imperfect, of the language, physiognomy, and bodily characteristics, survivals of ancient culture, historic geology, and the relics of man's struggle with nature in the early ages, and of the actual varieties of mankind now included within the mikado's dominions, we may learn much of the ancestors of the present Japanese.
The horns of the crescent-shaped chain of Dai Nippon approach the Asiatic continent at the southern end of Corea and at Siberia. Nearly the whole of Saghalin is within easy reach of the continent by canoe. At the point called Norato, a little north of the fifty-second parallel, the opposite shore, but five miles distant, is easily seen. The water is here so shallow that junks can not cross it at low tide. After long prevalent favorable winds, the ground is left dry, and the natives can walk dry-shod into Asia. During three or four months in the year it is frozen over, so that, with dog-teams or on foot, communication is often a matter of a single hour. In Japanese atlases, on the map of Karafto, a sand-bank covered by very shallow water is figured as occupying the space between the island and the continent. A people even without canoes might make this place a gate of entrance into Saghalin. The people thus entering Japan from the north would have the attraction of richer supplies of food and more genial climate to tempt them southward. As matter of fact, communication is continually taking place between the Asiatic main-land and Saghalin.
Japan occupies a striking position in the ocean currents which flow up from the Indian Ocean and the Malay peninsula. That branch of the great equatorial current of the Pacific, called the Kuro Shiwo, or Black Stream, on account of its color, flows up in a westerly direction past Luzon, Formosa, and the Liu Kiu Islands, striking the south point of Kiushiu, and sometimes, in summer, sending a branch up the Sea of Japan. With great velocity it scours the east coast of Kiushiu, the south of Shikokŭ; thence, with diminished rapidity, enveloping both the group of islands south of the Bay of Yedo and Ōshima; and, at a point a little north of the latitude of Tōkiō, it leaves the coast of Ja- pan, and flows north-east toward the shores of America. With the variable winds, cyclones, and sudden and violent storms continually arising, for which the coasts of Eastern Asia are notorious, it is easily seen that the drifting northward from the Malay Archipelago of boats and men, and sowing of the shores of Kiushiu, Shikokŭ, and the west- ern shores of Hondo with people from the south and west, must have been a regular and continuous process. This is shown to be the fact in Japanese history, in both ancient and modern times, and is taking place nearly every year of the present century.
It seems most probable that the savages descended from the north, tempted south by richer fisheries and a warmer climate, or urged on by successive immigrations from the continent. There is abundant evidence from Japanese history of the habitation of the main island by the Ainōs, the savages whose descendants now occupy Yezo. Shikokŭ and Kiushiu were evidently peopled by mixed races, sprung of the waifs from the various shores of Southern Asia. When the conquerors landed in Kinshiu, or, in sacred Japanese phrase, "when our divine ancestors descended from heaven to the earth," they found the land peopled by savages, under tribal organizations, living in villages, each governed by a head-man. Conquering first the aborigines of Kiushiu and Shikokŭ, they advanced into the main island, fought and tranquilized the Ainōs, then called Ebisŭ, or barbarian, and fixed their capital not far from Kiōto. The Ainōs were not subjugated in a day, however, and continual military operations were necessary to keep them quiet. Only after centuries of fighting were they thoroughly subdued and tranquilized. The traveler to-day in the northern part of the main island may see the barrows of the Ainōs' bones slain by Japanese armies more than a millennium ago. One of these mounds, near Moriōka, in Rikuchiu, very large, and named "Yozo mori" (Ainō) mound), is especially famous, containing the bones of the aborigines slaughtered, heaps upon heaps, by the Japanese shōgun (general), Tamura, who was noted for being six feet high, and for his many bloody victories over the Ebisŭ.
For centuries more, the distinction between conquerors and conquered, as between Saxon and Norman in England, was kept up; but at length the fusion of races was complete, and the homogeneous Japanese people is the result. The remnants of Ainōs in Yezo, shut off by the straits of Tsugarŭ from Hondo, have preserved the aboriginal blood in purity.
The traditional origin of the Ainōs, said to be given by themselves, through I suspect the story to be an invention of the conquerors, or of the Japanese, is as follows: A certain prince, named Kamui, in one of the kingdoms in Asia, had three daughters. One of then! having become the object of the incestuous passion of her father, by which her body became covered with hair, quit his palace in the middle of the night, and fled to the sea-shore. There she found a deserted canoe, on board which was only a large dog. The young girl resolutely embarked with her only companion to journey to some place in the East. After many months of travel, the young princess reached an uninhabited place in the mountains, and there gave birth to two children, a boy and a girl. These were the ancestors of the Ainō race. Their offspring in turn married, some among each other, others with the bears of the mountains. The fruits of this latter union were men of extraordinary valor, and nimble hunters, who, after a long life spent in the vicinity of their birth, departed to the far north, where they still live on the high and inaccessible table-lands above the mountains; and, being immortal, they direct, by their magical influences, the actions and the destiny of men, that is, the Ainōs.
The term "Ainō" is a comparatively modern epithet, applied by the Japanese. Its derivation, as given by several eminent native scholars whom I have consulted, is from inu, a dog. Others assert that it is an abbreviation of ai no ko, "offspring of the middle;" that is, a breed between man and beast. Or, if the Japanese were believers in a theory called of late years the, "Darwinian," an idea by no means unknown in their speculations, the Ainōs would constitute the "missing link," or "intermediate" between man and the brutes. In the ancient Japanese literature, and until probably the twelfth century, the Ainōs were called Ebisŭ, or savages.
The proofs from language of the Ainō ancestry of the Japanese are very strong. So far as studied, the Ainō tongue and the Altai dialects are said to be very similar. The Ainō and Japanese languages differ no more than certain Chinese dialects do from each other. Ainōs and Japanese have little difficulty in learning to speak the language of each other. The most ancient specimens of the Japanese tongue are found to show as great a likenesss to the Ainō as to modern Japanese.
Further proofs of the general habitation of Hondo by the Ainōs appear in the geographical names which linger upon the mountains and rivers. These names, musical in sound, and possessing, in their significance, a rude grandeur, have embalmed the life of a past race, as the sweet names of "Juniata" and "Altamaha," or the sonorous onoinatopes of "Niagara," "Katahdin," and" Tuscarora "echo the ancient glories of the well-nigh extinct aborigines of America, who indeed may be brethren of the. Ainōs. These names abounding in the north, especially in the provinces north of the thirty-eighth parallel, are rare in the south, and in most cases have lost their exact ancient pronunciation by being for centuries spoken by Japanese tongues.
The evidences of an aboriginal race are still to be found in the relics of the Stone Age in Japan. Flint, arrow and spear heads, hammers, chisels, scrapers, kitchen refuse, and various other trophies, are frequently excavated, or may be found in the museum or in homes of private persons. Though covered with the soil for centuries, they seem as though freshly brought from an Ainō hut in Yezo. In scores of striking instances, the very peculiar ideas, customs, and superstitions, of both Japanese and Ainō, are the same, or but slightly modified.
Amidst many variation, two distinctly marked types of features are found among the Japanese people. Among the upper classes, the fine, long, oval face, with prominent, well-chiseled features, deep-sunken eye-sockets, oblique eyes, long, drooping eyelids, elevated and arch ed eyebrows, high and narrow forehead, rounded nose, bud-like mouth, pointed chin, small hands and feet, contrast strikingly with the round, flattened face, less oblique eyes almost level with the face, and straight noses, expanded and upturned at the roots. The former type prevails among the higher classes - the nobility and gentry; the latter, among the agricultural and laboring classes. The one is the Ainō, or northern type; the other, the southern, or Yamato type. In the accompanying cut this difference is fairly shown in the strongly contrasting types of the Japanese lady and her servant, or child's nurse. The modern Ainōs are found inhabiting the islands of Yezo, Saghalin, the Kuriles, and a few of the outlying islands. They number less than twenty thousand in all.
As the Ainō of to-day is and lives, so Japanese art and traditions depict him in the dawn of history: of low stature, thick-set, fullbearded, bushy hair of a true black, eyes set at nearly right angles with the nose, which is short and thick, and chipped at the end, muscular in frame and limbs, with big hands and feet. His language, religion, dress, and general manner of life are the same as of old. He has no alphabet, no writing, no numbers above a thousand. His rice, tobacco, and pipe, cotton garments, and worship of Yoshitsuné, are of course later innovations - steps in the scale of civilization. Since the Restoration of 1868, a number of Ainōs of both sexes have been liv ing in Tōkiō, under instruction of the Kai Takŭ Shi (Department for the Colonization of Yezo). I have had frequent opportunities of studying their physical characteristics, language, and manners.
Their dwellings in Yezo are made of poles covered over with thick straw mats, with thatched roofs, the windows and doors being holes covered with the same material. The earth beaten down hard forms the floor, on which a few coarse mattings or rough boards are laid. Many of the huts are divided into two apartments, separated by a mud and wattle partition. The fire-place, with its pot-hooks, occupies, the centre. There being no chimney, the interior walls become thickly varnished with creosote, densely packed with flakes of carbon, or festooned with masses of soot. They are adorned with the implements of the chase, and the skulls of animals taken in hunting. Scarcely any furniture except cooking-pots is visible. The empyreumatical odor and the stench of fish do not conspire to make the visit to an Ainō hut very pleasant.
Raised benches along two walls of the hut afford a sleeping or lounging place, doubtless the original of the tokonoma of the modern Japanese houses. They sit, like the Japanese, on their heels. Their food is mainly fish and sea-weed, with rice, beans, sweet-potatoes, millet, and barley, which, in Southern Yezo, they cultivate in small plots. They obtain rice, tobacco, saké, or rice-beer, an exhilarating beverage which they crave as the Indians do "fire-water," and cotton clothing from their masters, the Japanese. The women weave a coarse, strong, and durable cloth, ornamented in various colors, and ropes from the barks of trees. They make excellent dug-out canoes from elm-trees. Their dress consists of an under, and an upper garment having tight sleeves and reaching to the knees, very much like that of the Japanese. The woman's dress is longer, and the sleeves wider. They wear, also, straw leggings and straw shoes. Their hair, which is astonishingly thick, is clipped short in front, and falls in masses down the back and sides to the shoulders. It is of a true black, whereas the hair of the Japanese, when freed from unguents, is of a dark or reddish brown, and I have seen distinctly red hair among the latter. The beard and mustaches of the Ainōs are allowed to attain their fullest development, the former often reaching the length of twelve or fourteen inches. Hence, Ainōs take kindly to the "hairy foreigners," Englishmen and Americans, whose bearded faces the normal Japanese despise, while to a Japanese child, as I found out in Fukui, a man with mustaches appears to be only a dragon without wings or tail. Some, not all, of the older men, but very few of the younger, have their bodies and limbs covered with thick black hair, about an inch long. The term "hairy Kuriles," applied to them as a characteristic hairy race, is a mythical expression of book-makers,as the excessively hirsute covering supposed to be universal among the Ainōs is not to be found by the investigator on the ground. Their skin is brown, their eyes are horizontal, and their noses low, with the lobes well rounded out. The women arc of proportionate stature to the men, but, unlike them, are very ugly. I never met with a handsome Ainō female, though I have seen many of the Yezo women. Their mouths seem like those of ogres, and to stretch from car to ear. This arises from the fact that they tattoo a wide band of dirty blue, like the woad of the ancient Britons, around their lips, to the extent of three-quarters of an inch, and still longer at the tapering extremities. The tattooing is so completely done, that many persons mistake it for a daub of blue paint, like the artificial exaggreration of a circus clown's mouth. They increase their hideousness by joining their eyebrows over the nose by a fresh band of tattooing. This practice is resorted to in the case of married women and females who age of age, just as that of blackening the teeth and shaving the eyebrows is among the Japanese. They are said to be faithful wives and laborious helpmates, their moral qualities compensating for their lack of physical charms. The women assist in hunting and fishing, often possessing equal skill with the men. They carry their babies pickapack, as the Japanese mothers, except that the strap passing under the child is put round the mother's forehead. Polygamy is permitted.
Their weapons are of the rudest form. The three-pronged spear is used for the salmon. The single-bladed lance is for the bear, their most terrible enemy, which they regard with superstitious reverence. Their bows are simply peeled boughs, three feet long. The arrows are one foot shorter, and, like those used by the tribes on the coast of Siberia and in Formosa, have no feather on the shaft. Their pipes are of the same form as those so common in Japan and China; and one obtained from an Ainō came from Santan, a place in Amurland.
The Ainō possess dogs, which they use in hunting, understand the use of charcoal and candles, make excellent baskets and wicker-work of many kinds; and some of their fine bark - cloth and ornamented weapons for their chiefs show a skill and taste that compare very favorably with those exhibited by the North American Indians. Their oars, having handles fixed crosswise, or sculls made in two pieces, are almost exactly like those of the Japanese. Their river-canoes are dug out of a log, usually elm. Two men will fashion one in five days. For the sea-coast, they use a frame of wood, lacing on the sides with bark fibre. They are skillful canoe-men, using either pole or paddle.
The lanuage of the Ainō is rude and poor, but much like the Japanese. It resembles it so closely, allowing for the fact that it is utterly unpolished and undeveloped, that it seems highly probable it is the original of the present Japanese tongue. They have no written character, no writing of any sort, no literature. A further study may possibly reveal valuable traditions held among them, which at present they are not known by me to have.
In character and morals, the Ainōs are stupid, good-natured, brave, honest, faithful, peaceful, and gentle. The American and English travelers in Yezo agree in ascribing to them these qualities. Their method of salutation is to raise the hands, with the palms upward, and stroke the beard. They understand the rudiments of politeness, as several of their verbal expressions and gestures indicate.
Their religion consists in the worship of kami, or spirits. They do not appear to have any special minister of religion or sacred structure. They have festivals commemorative of certain events in the past, and they worship the spirit of Yosbitsuné, a Japanese hero, who is supposed to have lived among them in the twelfth century, and who taught them sonle of the arts of Japanese civilization.
The outward symbols of their religion are sticks of wood two or three feet long, which they whittle all around toward the end into shavings, until the smooth wand contains a mass of pendent curls, as seen in the engraving, page 32. They insert several of these in the ground at certain places, which they hold sacred. The Ainōs also deify mountains, the sea, which furnishes their daily food, bears, the forests, and other natural objects, which they believe to possess intelligence. These wands with the curled shavings are set up in every place of supposed danger or evil omen. The traveler in Yezo sees them on precipices, gorges of mountains, dangerous passes, and riverbanks.
When descending the rapids of a river in Yezo, he will notice that his Ainō boatmen from time to time will throw one of these wands into the river at every dangerous point or turning. The Ainōs pray raising their hands above their heads. The Buddhist bonzes have in vain attempted to convert them to Buddhism. They have rude songs, which they chant to their kami, or gods, and to the deified sea, forest, mountains, and bears, especially at the close of the huntino and fishing season, in all affairs of great importance, and at the end of the. year. The following is given as a specimen
"To the sea which nourishes us, to the forest that protects us, we present our grateful thanks. You are two mothers that nourish the same child; do not be angry if we leave one to go to the other."
"The Ainōs will always be the pride of the forest and the sea."
The inquirer into the origin of the Japanese must regret that as yet we know comparatively little of the Ainōs and their hamguacre. Any opinion hazarded on the subject may be pronounced rash. Yet, after a study of all the obtainable facts, I believe they unmistakably point to the Ainōs as the primal ancestors of the Japanese; that the mass of the Japanese people of to-day are substantially of Ainō stock. An infusion of foreign blood, the long effects of the daily hot baths and the warm climate of Southern Japan, of Chinese civilization, of agricultural instead of the hunter's method of life, have wrought the chanue between the Ainō and the Japanese.
It seems equally certain that almost all that the Japanese possess which is not of Chinese, Corean, or Tartar origin has descended from the Ainō, or has been developed or improved from an Ainō model. The Ainōs of Yezo hold politically the same relation to the Japanese as the North American Indians do to the white people of the United States; but ethnically they are, with probability bordering very closely on certainty, as the Saxons to the English.