Saturday, October 16, 2010

Sakhalin Rock

A couple of footnotes to my last post, on Kayano Shigeru's Our Land Was A Forest.

Kayano devotes one chapter of his memoir to his work with an older scholar named Kindaichi Kyōsuke, with whom he collaborated for several years on the transcription of Ainu yukar (epic poems). Although I didn't at first make the connection, this Kindaichi must be the same as the Kyōsuke Kindaiti who contributed the volume on Ainu Life and Legends to the Japanese Government Railways Tourist Library series. (The Tourist Library volumes use an alternate system of Romanization for Japanese names, which is why the spelling of his name is different.)

While some of Kindaichi's comments in that 1941 volume may now seem condescending towards the Ainu (whom he reported were rapidly striving to assimilate into Japanese culture) there's no question of his importance as a scholar, and Kayano remembered him fondly. Here, from Our Land Was a Forest, is a picture of the two of them together.

Below is an interesting video, "Sakhalin Rock," from a group called the Oki Dub Ainu Band.

Although I don't understand the lyrics (other than the few snippets that are in English), it's fairly clear what this is about. Now part of Russia (though it has also been at various times under Japanese control), Sakhalin Island was once part of the Ainu world, but the remaining Sakhalin Ainu were forcibly deported to Japan by the Soviets after the end of World War II. The video includes snippets of a map of the island, archival photographs, Ainu artifacts and designs, as well as, towards the end, images of what appear to be Russian women. It serves as a useful reminder that cultural memory is not always passed on in the ways that outsiders and preservationists might choose.

The traditional instrument Oki is playing is called a tonkori, no doubt the same instrument illustrated in the woodcut below from Ainu Life and Legends, where it is described as "a kind of harp."

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