Izzy Bird, just taking it all in
Izzy Bird, further into the woods

Izzy Bird, bully and coward


Isabella is riding into even more remote countryside. The paths are so bad that she is charged an extra fee for the horses — and once she made to her destination, she happily says she would have paid twice the price because is was harrowing.

At the Nopkobets river crossing, they are ferried by an Ainu, who is, it seems, a big ball of hair, “which on his shoulders was wavy like that of a retriever, and rendered clothing quite needless either for covering or warmth. A wavy, black beard rippled nearly to his waist over his furry chest, and, with his black locks hanging in masses over his shoulders, he would have looked a thorough savage had it not been for the exceeding sweetness of his smile and eyes.”

The horses remain terrible and terribly abused. Isabella does her best to cut down on the cruelty but can only do so much. She does, however, give Ito a good talking to because, while he treated the Japanese horses with deference and skill, he has zero problem with beating the Ainu horses mercilessly. She spots him beating on, rides back to him, and says, “‘ You are a bully, and, like all bullies, a coward.’ Imagine my aggravation when, at our first halt, he brought out his note-book, as usual, and quietly asked me the meaning of the words ‘bully’ and ‘coward.’ It was perfectly impossible to explain them, so I said a bully was the worst name I could call him, and that a coward was the meanest thing a man could be….he seemed rather crestfallen, and has not beaten his horse since, in my sight at least.”

Eventually and after four of the horses get in a fight while on another ferry, they arrive in a small Ainu village in a wood about a half-mile from the sea. “The room was musty, and, being rarely used, swarmed with spiders… Food was hardly to be expected, yet they gave me rice, potatoes, and black beans boiled in equal parts brine and syrup, which are very palatable.”

Which is what I hope for whatever your next meal should be: very palatable.*

* Because I love a footnote, here’s another Hokkaido travelogue. This one by Junot Diaz from 2015: https://www.travelandleisure.com/features/snow-country-hokkaido-japan


The comments to this entry are closed.