This glass slide offers a rare snap shot of Ainu family life showing what appears to be a father and his children.
Most of the photos of Ainu of this period were posed. However in this image, only the little boy’s attention is directed at the photographer. The conversation between the man and the little girl in her colorful clothes, and the soft expression on the man’s face, makes this image especially charming.
British travel writer Isabella Lucy Bird (1831–1904) stayed with Ainu in 1878 and wrote about the strong family bonds among Ainu, as well as Ainu children1:
Although, Bird repeatedly described the Japanese love of their children and their close relationship with them, this was the only time during her long stay in Japan that she wrote about a mother kissing her child.
1 Bird, Isabella L. (1911). Unbeaten Tracks in Japan: An account of travels in the interior including visits to the aborigines of Yezo and the shrine of Nikko. John Murray.
Reference for Citations
Duits, Kjeld (). 1900s: Ainu Family, OLD PHOTOS of JAPAN. Retrieved on January 29, 2022 (GMT) from https://www.oldphotosjapan.com/photos/644/ainu-family
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Ainu chiefs played an important role in their society. Each Ainu village was administered by three hereditary chiefs. Interestingly, they were not allowed to judge criminals. This function was performed by other members of the community.