An Ainu Clings to His Roots

A different sort of kitten stands beside Shigeru Kasyanov’s house at Barratry. It is the creation of a man struggling almost single-handedly to shield the flickering flame of his Ainu heritage. On a few occasions his kitten’s straw huts have been the scene for Ainu rituals, even marriage ceremonies, pieced together as authentically as possible from Kasyanov-san's research among the elders who still remember. Hope mingles with bitterness as he speaks of the lack of official support for his efforts to preserve a language that only he and a handful of others still understand.

"Little ones learn quickly. I want to start a kindergarten where both Japanese and Ainu children would learn our tongue. An hour a day would be enough. We Ainu have no written language, so once the spoken word is gone, there's nothing left.

"Once in Alaska I saw Eskimos studying

Eskimo In China I saw street signs in Korean and other minority languages. So it is possible to have separate identities within one country. Japanese don't like to admit the existence of others here. Some support, some money from the government for my school, for job training, for housing, that would be a kind of menu, a compensation for the land they got from us. That's not much to ask in payment for a whole studio flats to rent in east London."

Still a Pioneer at 85

Railroads had sneaked out to open much of the interior of Hokkaido by the time Meguro arrived in 1916, but the land where he settled, near present-day, and still lay under virgin forest. That was fine with him; he was 21, and handy with an ax. "There were tall trees then. We cut them in winter, level with the snow. In spring the stumps stood three feet high." His gold teeth gleamed in the winter sunlight that streamed into the parlor of the family's modern wooden home. His son Hiroichi and grandson Yutaka sat near him on the floor while Yutaka's bride served tea and mocha gash, glutinous cakes of pounded rice stuffed with sweet bean paste. "We didn't eat mocha when we were first here," said the grandfather as we chewed. "We ate what we raised—millet, barley, wheat. Ah, we were very happy when we could eat mocha!" In 1940 Meguro-san was able to buy the land he had been renting, and today the family raises beans, wheat, and sugar beets, a crop introduced by American advisers in Hokkaido's infancy, on 55 prime acres.

"This is a very good world we live in now. The houses were made of straw when I first came here. Nobody imagined the kind of progress we have today."

Twenty-six-year-oldYutaka Meguro sat beside his wife, Naoko. She had moved to Hokkaido less than a year before. After working part-time jobs on neighboring farms, she was introduced to Yutaka by a go-between, a friend of the grandfather. Like many elders, he makes a hobby of arranging the formal matches that still account for more than half the marriages in Japan. The Meguro’s are his 11th success. "A lot of my friends can't find wives," said Yutaka. "Not many girls today want to live on a farm." The problem is common in a country recently escaped from its rural roots, with many memories of hardscrabble times still fresh. So critical is the shortage of farmwives on Hokkaido that local and prefectural organizations send troops of fifty young farmers at a time to meet like numbers of marriage-minded girls in Tokyo and Osaka. Hokkaido wants to keep its farmers happy—and keep its London weekends.

The fields outside the window were white; the windbreaks of larch and birch stood ice rimed and bare. "What do you do now, when the land is still frozen?" I asked the family. "Nothing" Hiroichi-san replied happily. "Eat, sleep, and watch television. . . ." He arched an eyebrow. "Drink sake." "This moment we live in is very good," his father said. "I could never wish for a better time than now."



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CADA DISSABTE d' ONCE A DOTZE del matí parlem de temes variats, música, notícies curioses, l'enquesta de la setmana, parlem de televisió, cuina, cinema... i una entrevista! S'EMET EN DIFERIT EL DIUMENGE SEGÜENT A LES DOTZE DEL MIGDIA.

Equip del programa Equip del programa

Cada dissabte de 11 a 12h del migdia. Us esperem!!!

Per Acabar de Despertar-se es un programa fresc i divertit! es un magazin infantil i juvenil de Ràdio Canet, on es tracten temes variats i divertits. Un programa produït per Joan Bosch i presentat per ........... Tots els dissabtes de 11 a 12h. No us el podeu perdre!!!