This five volume set contains a number of texts on Ainu religious beliefs as seen through the eyes of foreign visitors to Hokkaido. Other texts included are translations or re-tellings of Ainu folk tales and other orally transmitted literature, which - to the extent that they are accurately rendered - present Ainu beliefs in the words of the Ainu themselves. The texts, over thirty in total, were published between 1875 and 1950 by Western European visitors to, and scholars in, Japan. Among the authors are John Batchelor (with eight separate texts), Basil Hall Chamberlain and Neil Gordon Munro.
This is an invaluable anthology of original sources, as many earlier works on the Ainu were published in limited quantity and in obscure places, and they are often hard to trace for a researcher today. This collection of early Western works will be of immense help to scholars studying the Ainu, and will be of interest to scholars of anthropology, religion, oral traditions, folklore, and narrative.
Kirsten Refsing is based at The University of Hong Kong.