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Our Land Was A Forest: An Ainu Memoir (Transitions--Asia & the Pacific) [Paperback]

by Kayano Shigeru, Mark Selden, Kayano Shigeru
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 1, 1994 0813318807 978-0813318806
This book is a beautiful and moving personal account of the Ainu, the native inhabitants of Hokkaido, Japan's northern island, whose land, economy, and culture have been absorbed and destroyed in recent centuries by advancing Japanese. Based on the author's own experiences and on stories passed down from generation to generation, the book chronicles the disappearing world—and courageous rebirth—of this little-understood people.Kayano describes with disarming simplicity and frankness the personal conflicts he faced as a result of the tensions between a traditional and a modern society and his lifelong efforts to fortify a living Ainu culture. A master storyteller, he paints a vivid picture of the Ainus' ecologically sensitive lifestyle, which revolved around bear hunting, fishing, farming, and woodcutting.Unlike the few existing ethnographies of the Ainu, this account is the first written by an insider intimately tied to his own culture yet familiar with the ways of outsiders. Speaking with a rare directness to the Ainu and universal human experience, this book will interest all readers concerned with the fate of indigenous peoples.

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Our Land Was A Forest: An Ainu Memoir (Transitions--Asia & the Pacific) + The Cape: and Other Stories from the Japanese Ghetto (Stone Bridge Fiction)
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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Through this memoir of a contemporary Ainu, we see the story of his people, the aboriginal inhabitants of Japan's Hokkaido island, during the period of cultural change following World War II. Kayano saves this from being another sorrowful story of a culture destroyed by presenting his role in efforts to preserve Ainu language, customs, and artifacts. Since there are few books on the Ainu, this is a valuable enthnographic record of a traditional culture banging up against modern life. This title in the "Transitions: Asia & the Pacific" series is recommended for academic anthropology collections.
Stella I. Wheat, Univ. of Southern Mississippi Lib., Hattiesburg
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Japanese --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Series: Transitions--Asia & the Pacific
  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Westview Press (April 1, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813318807
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813318806
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #926,913 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "The Vanishing Ainu" are still there ! September 5, 2002
Sometimes the way things repeat themselves is uncanny. Just as the American literature of the early 20th century reflected the idea that the Native Americans would soon vanish, and writers in Australia and New Zealand pontificated on similar lines on their aboriginal neighbors, so in Japan, the aboriginal Ainu have long since been labelled "mysterious, but vanishing". To tell the truth, I thought they had already gone by the 1980s. I was wrong. Here is an autobiography, written by Kayano Shigeru, an Ainu of around 60 when he originally wrote, that informs us that the Ainu are far from gone. Kayano is personally responsible for building up a collection of Ainu artifacts, for preserving a great number of `yukar' or epic poems, for writing an Ainu-Japanese dictionary, for helping establish Ainu language primary schools in Hokkaido, and working in the political sphere to improve the lot of Japan's only aboriginal people. This memoir tells in very simple, matter-of-fact style about his early years of grinding poverty, the hardships suffered by all his fellow villagers, about being a draft laborer, about life hunting, fishing, and logging in the deep forests of Japan's northernmost island. Kayano's life is not specifically "Ainu", it is life in a mixed world of changing conditions. Japanese, Ainu, and even Western cultural strands mingle, but the author never tries to separate them. Whatever Ainu people of his generation faced, that, for him, is Ainu life. This is very effective in a way, though foreigners without much knowledge of Japan will be hard-pressed to figure out what is unique here. Kayano tells a straightforward tale, but natural reticence and perhaps lack of higher education mean that he does not delve much into psychology, he seldom develops other characters. Read more ›
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Toward Understanding of Aboriginal People March 15, 2001
Shigeru Kayano gives candid and passionate voice to an aboriginal people. The breath of the Ainu pour from each page as he narrates his life ...from the snow on his skin as small boy playing in his native homeland of Ainu Mosir (lit: Peaceful Land of the Ainu), to his grandmother's lessons and father's disillusionment, through naive comments of tourists at bear-sending ceremonies, and finally to his political ascent as the first Ainu elected to the Japanese Diet.
More then a memoir, Kayano records Ainu traditions, language and sentiment along side of the oppression that sucked the lives of able bodied Ainu into 'draft labor' and almost drove the Ainu culture into forgotten unwritten history.
Our Land Was a Forest is the courageously humble saga of an aboriginal people written by the harbinger of traditional revival.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars plenty of detail July 4, 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I ordered several books on the Ainu and this one was very informative and I've also found this book referenced in other books.....so this offers much
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful look at 20th century Ainu life January 27, 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This autobiographical piece gives a rare glimpse into the everyday life and struggles of one member of a fading culture. He remains, no doubt, a hero to his people and all those who wish to maintain embattled cultures and their accompanying languages.
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