National Geographic : 1967 Feb
Daydreams grow like dandelions on a sum mer day for the 13-year-old son of Shigeru Ka yano. Like other teen-agers in Japan, he wants to reach 16 quickly so he can qualify for a motor bike license. Little boat sailing a sea of air lulls a baby to sleep. Interested in child training, the author asked this elder what Ainu attribute he would most like the youngster to have. He answered, "Faith in the Ainu way." We found Ainu women and a few men out in the shallow sea filling sacks with sea ur chins. Families scattered along the shore cracked open these spiny little creatures with stone or hammer and with forefingers scooped out a jellylike orange substance which they popped into their mouths. Another day on the same beach, other Ainu harvested tangles, a well-named ropy sea weed used to flavor soups and make relish. The green-black strands, six to eight feet long, were pulled from the sea early in the morning and laid out to dry on the pebble strewn beach or on straw mats. When dried, they were cut into three-foot lengths and sorted for quality before being sold. The Ainu must exploit every source of food, for Hokkaid6, its protected wilds not withstanding, no longer abounds in game. 290 One fine old Ainu man, who showed me a calling card identifying him as a "former chief," told us how he longed for past plenty. "Life was so easy in those days," he said. "There was always so much to eat. If I was hungry, I went up into those hills over there and shot a deer or rabbit or raccoon. Then there was meat for everyone, all we could eat. "Now the Japanese are everywhere, and our animals are gone. Our young people leave us for city jobs. Not enough hands are left to work our fields. It can happen that we go hun gry. In days past we were never hungry." Back in Tomakomai for a few days, I re ceived an intriguing telephone call. "Are you Hilger-San-the holy lady from America here to learn about the Ainu?" The voice was that of a Japanese man. I asked if I might help him.