Thursday, October 21, 2010

Harukor, an Ainu woman's tale

Harukor, by Katsuichi Honda, translated from the Japanese by Kyoko Selden, with a forward by Japan scholar David L. Howell. University of California Press, 1993. 315 pages including Glossary and Index. Paperback.

This isn't a new book, but in the study of the Ainu, Japan's best-known aboriginal people  it is an important one. Katsuichi Honda (his name on the cover is reversed following Japanese usage, as Honda Katsuichi) a well-known writer, journalist and student of aboriginal people in Japan, Canada and elsewhere, has written a most interesting book.
The first 90 pages are given to the culture and history of the Ainu of Hokkaido. The rest of the book is the fictional account of the life of an Ainu woman named Harukor who grew up in a tiny Ainu village in eastern Hokkaido over five hundred years ago. Using folktales, myth, interviews with elders and extensive study, the author makes this woman, her family and her people live.

The Ainu are no longer just a cultural artifact and tourist attraction; in Mr. Honda's hands they become a living people.

For anyone interested in the Ainu, and for students of aboriginal groups anywhere, Harukor is well worth owning and reading again and again. 

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