Hunting in Japan
SPEARING A WILD BOAR.—From an Original Japanese Drawing.
Winter is the harvest-time of the Japanese hunter. The snow-covered
ground is a great tell-tale, and the deer, bears, rabbits, and wild hogs
can be easily tracked. Though the Japanese hunter often uses a matchlock
or rifle, his favorite weapons are his long spear and short sword. He
covers his head with a helmet made of plaited straw, having a long flap
to protect his neck, and keep out the snow or rain. His feet are shod
with a pair of sandals made of rice straw, his baggy cotton trousers are
bound at the calves with a pair of straw leggings, and in wet weather he
puts on a grass rain cloak. To see a group of hunters stalking through
the forests in Japan, as I have often seen them, reminds one of bundles
of straw out on a tramp.
I once enjoyed a dinner of fresh boar-steak at the house of a famous
Japanese hunter named Nakano Kawachi, who lived in a village at the top
of a mountain, between the provinces of Omi and Echizen. I had been
travelling all the morning on snow-shoes through the forests of Echizen.
The snow was full of tracks of deer, hogs, rabbits, woodchucks, weasels,
martens, porcupines, monkeys, and ferrets. The hunters were out in
force, and their shouts made the forest ring with echoes. Our path lay
through a valley, with rocks on either side.
Just as we were within a mile of a village named Toné, a wild boar,
closely pressed by a man with a spear, rushed down through the woods,
and around a huge mass of rocks. The hunter, knowing every inch of the
ground, sprang round a shorter curve, and reached the path at the end of
the gully just as the boar at full trot leaped down. Levelling his long
weapon, with all his might he drove the blade with a terrific lunge
between the boar's ribs, just back of the heart. So great was the
impetus of the swift animal that the hunter was nearly taken off his
feet, while the boar turned a complete somersault. We expected to see
the blade of the lance snap, or the handle wrench off; but no, steel and
wood were too true. The boar struggled and rolled over the bloody snow,
but was helpless to get on his feet again. The hunter quietly drew out
the steel, wiped it with a bunch of dead leaves, and then, with equal
coolness, drew his sword and severed the jugular vein of the dying boar.
By this time the hunter's two sons, who had helped to start the animal
from his lair, came down the hill. Passing two strands of rope made of
rice straw around the carcass, they inserted a thick bamboo pole under
the withes. Then swinging the pole over their shoulders, they started
off on a dog-trot to the village, shouting as they went. We followed
them, and when near the village gate heard a bedlam of unearthly yells
and whoops of triumph from all the boys and girls of the village, who
were proud of their famous hunter. We had entered into conversation with
him, and learned that his name was Nakano Kawachi.
Our party, at the invitation of the hunter, entered his house, first
taking off our shoes. We all sat round the fire, which was in a great
square hearth in the middle of the floor, while the chimney was a gaping
black funnel in the ceiling. My party consisted of three of my students
from the government school of Fukui, my interpreter, a brave soldier
named Inouyé, and my body-servant Sahei. The six mountaineers with huge
wide snow-shoes, whom I hired for the size of their feet to beat a path
in the snow-drift for our party, remained outside with the villagers.
They, with their children, stood in crowds outside to catch a sight of
me, as they had never seen an American before.
Our host, first unstrapping his sword, carefully wiped and cleansed his
spear, which he stands on its iron butt in the corner. We all sit around
the fire, on which turnips and rice are boiling and omelet is frying.
All around the ceiling from the smoky rafters hang strings of large
dried persimmons, almost as sweet and luscious as figs. These we munch
while Nakano cuts tenderloin steaks from half the carcass of a boar
which he speared the day before. In a few moments seven hungry
travellers are watching the sputtering, sizzling boar-steak as it wafts
its appetizing odors everywhere, as it seems, but up the chimney.
"Is this the second wild hog you've speared this winter?" asks Iwabuchi,
"No, your honor," answers Nakano; "the snow began to fall ten days ago,
and this is the eighth hog I have killed; but yesterday I speared my
first boar this winter."
"How long have you been a hunter?"
"Hai! your honor, ever since I was a boy. I speared my first hog when I
"What do you do with the boar's tusks?"
"Hai! your honor, they are the most valuable part of the animal. I sell
them to an agent of an ivory-carving shop in Tokio, who comes through
these parts in the spring. The Tokio men carve nétsukés from them. They
are not as good as ivory, but they do for bimbo [poor men]. My own
nétsuké is of boar's tusk."
"Meshi shitaku" (rice is ready), cried the housewife, at this moment,
and conversation was suspended. A little table of lacquered wood a foot
square and four inches high was set before each man of our party. With
chopsticks for the rice and knives for the boar-steak, we partook of the
hunter's fare. The march of eight miles in the frosty air, plodding our
way through drifts, and stepping on snow-shoes, which furnished good
exercise for our legs, had made us ravenously hungry. When full, and all
had said "Mo yoroshio" (even enough) to the polite girls who waited on
us, we walked out to the front, where a gaping crowd gazed at the
American white-face, as if they were at Barnum's, and he was the
Tattooed Man. I rushed at them, pretending to catch the children, when
they scattered like sheep. In their fright they tumbled over each other,
until a dozen or more were sprawling on the snow or had tumbled
head-foremost in the drifts. A smile, and the distribution of some
sugared cakes of peas and barley, made them good friends again. After an
hour's rest we bade the hunter, the villagers, and our snow-shoe men
good-by, and resumed our journey in single file over the mountains to