Until the Meiji period (which lasted 1868-1912), Hokkaido had primarily been inhabited by the indigenous Ainu people. As Japan entered the Meiji period, new government offices were installed in Hokkaido as great numbers of immigrants arrived from the rest of Japan. To these immigrants, Hokkaido was still a land of mystery, and museums were opened in order to educate the newcomers about their new home. Displays included stuffed animals such as these.
At that time, Hokkaido’s natural environment was also a great curiosity to Western natural historians. This easternmost island, perched upon the entryway to the north, was an alluring treasure awaiting discovery.
One such scholar was trader and natural historian Thomas Blakiston, who resided in Hakodate for over 20 years. Blakiston prolifically created stuffed bird specimens for institutes such as the British Museum. Under Blakiston’s guidance, biologist Edward Morse, who had been invited to Japan by Tokyo University, and British seismologist/archaeologist John Milne excavated the shell mounds at the base of Mount Hakodate. Asari-zaka (“Clam Slope”) in Hakodate’s Horai was named in honor of their accomplishments.
Words Masaharu Taniguchi
Translation by Xene Inc.