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Unbeaten Tracks in Japan

In 1878, a decade after the Meiji Restoration launched Japan into the community of nations, the author, already forty-seven years old, set out to explore the backroads of northeastern Honshu and Hokkaido, regions that were almost entirely untouched by Tokyo's galloping rush toward modernization. Traveling with a Japanese interpreter, she walked, rode horses, took a jinrikisha, and traveled by ferry for six months and over 1,400 miles, braving natural hazards, bad weather, and occasional animosity.

Her exceptional book - a series of letters to her sister - is the first recorded account of the interior of Japan by a Westerner. While some Japanese were uncomfortable having Japan's relative backwardness and poverty exposed, Bird herself was charmed as she observed ordinary Japanese village and town life and commented on dress, food, religion, homes, and customs. Her observations on the aboriginal Ainu population are especially significant, even today.

Written by Isabella L. Bird.

 

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