Spiker, Christina M. “Exploring the Real Hokkaido: A.H. Savage Landor’s Travel Illustrations, 1893,” paper delivered at Rethinking the Space and Place of Japan: Japanese Art and GlobalizationsConference, UCLA (April 7, 2012).
Romanticized as a lone “Caucasoid” race surrounded by “Mongoloids,” the Ainu—an indigenous people from the Hokkaido, Kurile, and Sakhalin regions of northern Japan—fascinated turn-of-the-century tourists, anthropologists and intellectuals. Suffering from insatiable Wanderlust produced by the tempo of rapid modernization, people traveled to Hokkaido in search of an authentic Ainu experience outside of the Japanese treaty port. The unruly geography of Hokkaido was likened to Ainu physiognomy, and these “hairy” people seemed to epitomize a preindustrial, premodern past.
This paper examines the representation of the Ainu and Hokkaido in 19th and early 20th century travel illustration such as that by English explorer, painter, and budding ethnographer Arnold Henry Savage Landor (1865-1924) in his travel memoir Alone with the Hairy Ainu (1893). In search of the picturesque, Landor sketched his way through Hokkaido, recording the locales, people, and objects that he encountered along the way. What did Hokkaido represent for the Euro-American explorer? In addressing the theme “Authenticity is elsewhere,” I question what Landor was hoping to gain once he found the “authentic” Ainu village.
The Ainu and their popular representation as the “primitive picturesque” made them an apt subject for Landor’s illustrations, demonstrating a yearning desire to return to a simpler lifestyle. However, this desire is also enacted through simpler modes of picture making that the author was in fear of losing in the face of technological innovation. Instead of interpreting Landor’s travel illustration as a bi-product of his textual narrative, this project seeks to analyze the importance of illustration in contrast to other visual media like photography. I explore how the process of illustration functions as a medium that evokes a different kind of authorial authenticity through the artist’s pen and paintbrush.