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Rishiri Winter 2012

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Mt. Rishiri new snow 2012 Jan

The last day of December 2011 – the day before the New Year of 2012 – the north wind blew off the cloud-cover over Mt. Rishiri and her rugged, snow-covered peaks appeared.   The people of Rishiri turned toward our beloved mountain and gave thanks for another year of vigor and vitality.

辛卯・平成23年の大晦日. 利尻山にかかっていた雲を飛ばして秀麗の姿をあらわした。たくさんの元気をくれた利尻山に感謝.

Rishiri Konbu Fishermen in Winter

“Farming” konbu in the middle of winter on Rishiri.

Konbu can grow 3-10 meters long in two years on the coasts of Rishiri Island; it is harvested and sun dried before being shipped. Only Konbu which has matured for two years is used for cooking [one-year-old konbu, called ‘water konbu’, does not contain the rich components needed for a good flavor].  Konbu has been a part of the Japanese diet since ancient times, and Rishiri konbu is considered by most Japanese people to be the “best”.

No Day Off - Winter on Rishiri

The winter winds blow from the northwest and bring snow to Rishiri.  The north wind is called “ai” and the northwestern wind is called “tama“.  When these winds blow, we on Rishiri Island exchange greetings:  “”Shibareru ne?” – “It’s cold, isn’t it?”  [A gross  understatement, I think. ~A]

The cold is quite severe and penetrates through clothing to chill the skin.  Still, it is necessary to remove the snow and ice from the boats, even on the coldest, most blustery days. There is never any rest for the fishermen of Rishiri.

北から北西の風が吹く利尻島. 北の風はアイ、北西の風はタマと言う。 この風が吹くと,「シバレルネ」が挨拶となる。 寒さが厳しく肌に凍みること。 吹雪いて船に積もった雪をとったり、時化で動かされる船を見たり,島人は真冬から船を守っている。

~ photos and comments by Eiji Nishiya

Indian Summer on Rishiri

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

Rishiri Semi





Ajisai [ hydrangea aspera ] [and ko-ezo semi [ terpnosia nigricosta ]

After the 20th day of O-bon we often see hydrangeas in the temple yard [compound].  Islanders say that autumn is coming.  Lately, however, the sound of ko-ezo semi [cicada] makes us think that it is Indian Summer.

Rishiri Ajisai

Photos by Eiji Nishiya, August 2011

Summer on Rishiri Island

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011







It is very unusual to see the HASHIBUTO GARASU [Corvus macrorhynchos]; she is very sensitive and cautious and flies away if you try to get close.  This time, however, she stood still for my photo – which is a rare occurrence.  Alone, she was eating the fruit of the YAMAGUWA tree, and paused, as if she were waiting for me to leave so she could continue with her feast.  Her expression was so innocent and charming – it’s difficult to imagine that she will attack humans.

HASHIBUTO GARASU photo by Eiji Nishiya

The YAMAGUWA [Morus bombycis] or wild mountain mulberry has a prehistoric connection to humans.  The use of mulberries has a long history in Japan, traceable to Jomon times. The fruit can be eaten or made into wine.  The tree flowers in April to June with leaves; false fruits ripen from red to black in June to July.  This mulberry is one of the most-common trees in Japan and is cultivated for feeding silkworms. The wood, hard and heavy, is used for furniture, cabinet work, inlaid works, and sculptures.

Japanese Mountain Mulberry

Early Summer on Rishirito

Sunday, June 26th, 2011

Rishirito torilis japonica







Rishiri Day Lily June 2011

Pure white Wild Carrot (torilis japonicus) and bright orange Ezo-kanzou [Day Lily] grow in colonies  in the meadows along the coast.  The natural colors of the flowers  always warm our hearts.

~~~ photos by Eiji Nishiya ~~~

Seal on the Rocks

Monday, February 28th, 2011







I spied a spotted seal “sunbathing” on the rocks.

As I approached he asked, “Can I help you?”

“It’s really cold, isn’t it?” asked I.

“Not for me,” he answered as he slid into the icy sea.


photo and 'poem' by Eiji Nishiya, FOM, Rishiri Island

Last Rishiri Sunset of the (old) Year

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011








“The sun is entering the ocean.”

“The red and round sun goes in to the ocean for the last time this year” … Rishiri mountain in the alpenglow of sunset on the last day of the year [according to the old-style, Japanese lunar calendar.]  Tomorrow, February 3rd, is “risshun” [considered the first day of spring in Japan].  The “sense” of spring begins.  I wonder if we will be blessed with warm, sunny days?  ~Eiji Nishiya

Today is also the eve of Ranald MacDonald’s (187th) birthday.


西谷榮治 『利尻の語り』 を読む

Monday, November 1st, 2010

文・写真:谷口雅春 / 2010年11月1日

前稿で露口啓二が紹介したように、このたび利尻町立博物館学芸課長の西谷榮治さんが著した「利尻の語り」は、1986年から23年もの長きにわたって北海 道利尻町の広報誌「広報りしり」に連載されてきた、島民やゆかりの人々の聞き書きを再編集したもの。B5版464ページの大部に、146人の語りと、内容 にちなむ写真がおさめられている(編集者西村淑子さんの丹念な仕事が偲ばれる)。

例えば伊勢から渡った海女たちの暮らし。ニシンの爆発的な大漁や、クジラが浜に寄り付 いた挿話。樺太との深い関わり。集落ごとの祭りや演芸会、相撲大会に血肉を踊らせた青年団の活動。盆や節句、あるいは学び舎の行事の数々。各地からの開拓 移住のあらましに、襞のように入り組んだ地名や地誌の言い伝え…。明治、大正、昭和にまたがるおびただしい主題が、欄外の注釈が欠かせないような独特の言 い回しで展開されていく。話し言葉をていねいになぞる筆致も魅力だ。

利尻に本格的に和人が移り住んだのは安政年間(1854〜1860)のことだという。 その前史として17世紀後半にはすでに松前藩の場所経営があり、時代を下れば今号のカイでもふれた、津軽や秋田藩士たちによるロシアへの備えがあった。北 海道本島と共通する水産資源と地政学的意味によって、利尻島の近代は急駆動される。内地とは比較にならない厳しく複雑な気候をまとった利尻山 (1721m)が海底から一気にそびえ、ごく限られた土地と海で繰り広げられてきた濃密な歴史は、この島の輪郭に北海道史の縮図や、「もしも世界が100 人の村だったら」といった思考モデルを誘うかもしれない。しかしそんな紋切り型のまなざしは、語りのディテールの強度の前に恥じ入るばかりだろう。本書に 満ちているのは、郷愁の下味がついた北方イメージの断片などではなく、記(しる)されることもなくひっそりと記憶に眠っていた、ひとりひとりの固有の身体 から編み上げた利尻島の風土であり、なまなましい人生そのものなのだ。

カイにも、まだ9回にすぎないが井上由美が連載している聞き書きシリーズ、「北海道の 物語」がある。聞き書きにおいて話し言葉から書き言葉への変換は、書き手をつねに正解のない問題の前に立ち止まらせる。本書からもその困難との折り合いの 軌跡が浮かび上がるが、464ページというボリュームは、口語と記述をめぐる日本語の成り立ちまでも意識させるだろう。読み進みながら想起したのは、水村 美苗の「日本語が亡びるとき」(筑摩書房.2008)だ。水村は、19世紀に「西洋の衝撃」を受けた日本の知識層が、その現実を語るために日本語の古層を 掘り返し、日本語のあらゆる可能性をさぐりながら「出版語」を作りだしたこと(その言葉によって日本の近代文学は立ち上がった)。言文一致とは、単に口語 を書き言葉に移した取り組みではなく、幕末から明治の東アジアの激動の中で考案され磨かれてきた壮大なプロジェクトだったこと。そうした史実に無頓着なま ま、緊張感をなくした日本語はインターネットの時代に英語に飲み込まれようとしていることをスリリングに論考する。同次元で「利尻の語り」には、亡びゆく 土地の記憶をなんとかつなぎ止めようとする、現代日本語の格闘が浮かび上がっているともいえる。

マネーやイメージは根を持たないが、人間は土地を離れて生きることができない。20年 以上の歳月をかけ、これからもなお続く聞き書きは、利尻で生まれ育ち東京で学び、利尻に根ざし続けることを選んだ西谷さんにしかできない仕事だろう。受け 止める僕たちは、亡びるものへの感傷などで視界を汚してしまう前に、語りのリアルな細部から、北海道がほんとうに守るべきものや受け継ぐべき価値をしっか りとまさぐっていきたい。


(自費出版。3,360円で実費発売。問い合わせは利尻町立博物館 tel:0163・85・1411へ)

Rishiri Island in the Autumn

Monday, October 18th, 2010



Collecting Konbu on RishiriHarvesting Konbu.   (Photo by E. Nishiya.)

Every autumn the strong winds and the ocean waves bring “Rishiri konbu” to the shores. The competition among the fishermen (and fisherwomen) is fierce.
You’ve got to gather better and more konbu than the others!
The hearty men and women of Rishiri go out to the ocean and to the beaches,
oblivious to the blustery fall weather.

Rishiri Island konbu

Rishiri Island konbu is reputed to be the best-tasting konbu in Japan!

Ezo nyuu (Angelica ursina – “bear’s angelica”) of Rishiri

Sunday, July 18th, 2010

エゾニュウ群生 島を周回する道路際や海岸草原で見られるエゾニュウ。




Ezo-nyuu –  you see them in the grass fields and on roadside along the coastline of Rishiri Island.  Because of their height, they stand out and are quite noticeable. This year more Ezo-nyuu than usual can be seen.  I wonder if that is because of the hot  days we had on the island in late June ?  ~~~ Eiji Nishiya, FOM Rishiri, Japan  – Mt. Rishiri in the background

Towering above the surrounding lush summer herb growth stands the hollow-stemmed monster known locally as Ezo nyuu (and to botanists as Angelica ursina – “bear’s angelica”). These plants appear at the height of summer, a potent reminder that the longest days are past and that, despite the heat, autumn is not far around the corner.

The umbel (flower head) of Angelica ursina has many small white flowers on thin stems attached to a main stalk.  Their flowers fade in a matter of weeks, but their weathered, dried stems are strong and persist even into winter, when they rattle and buzz as the wind vibrates them, scattering their tiny seeds.

This tall perennial can be found in damp, cool places, along roadsides, around marshland edges and in sunny woodlands, wherever there is plenty of moisture. It grows in central and northern Japan, in China, and in areas of Russia surrounding the Sea of Okhotsk.

Whereas many members of the Angelica family may only grow to heights of between 50 cm and a meter, the bear’s angelica is a monster – the largest in the family – reaching a height of 3 to 3.5 meters!

Since he came ashore on or about July 1, 1848 – mid-summer – no doubt Ranald saw plenty of these giant Angelica ursina growing in the grass fields of Rishiri Island.


Photos by Eiji Nishiya, FOM Japan


July 2010 ~ FOM Annual Meeting

Sunday, July 11th, 2010

The day was fair, the turn-out was gratifying and the conversation lively at the annual membership meeting of the Friends of MacDonald held in Astoria, OR over the weekend.  We greeted many old friends and welcomed several new members while enjoying a delicious lunch at the “Baked Alaska” restaurant (shameless plug) on the waterfront overlooking the wide mouth of the Columbia River and the blue-green hills of Cape Disappointment and Chief Comcomly’s Chinook territory in Washington — the same view eyed by the likes of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark in 1805-06 as well as Ranald’s father, Archibald McDonald in November of 1821, the year he arrived at (then) Fort George.


We were honored to welcome Consul General of Japan in Portland, Takamichi Okabe and his wife, Kozue.  According to Richard Read of the Oregonian newspaper, Mr. Okabe spent three months in Baghdad as an involuntary “guest” of Saddam Hussein during 1990, when Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait. [He had been serving as first secretary in Japan’s embassy in Kuwait.] During his next foreign assignment – in Kenya – Mr. Okabe and a colleague braved warfare in Somalia to investigate opportunities for humanitarian aid there. Later in Nepal, Mr. Okabe was posted in Kathmandu when members of the royal family were massacred at the palace.  Most recently Mr. Okabe served four years as Consul General of Japan in Auckland, New Zealand.  In Portland, he is joined by his wife, Kozue, and we all hope that Mr. and Mrs. Okabe will have the opportunity to enjoy the peace and beauty of the Pacific Northwest.

FOM was happy that Mac Burns,scan0005 Executive Director of CCHS was able to take time away from his busy schedule to attend the meeting.  Mac, who was fresh off the “Goonies 25th Anniversary” celebration the week before, noted that over 100 Goonies fans showed up for the grand opening of the Oregon Film Museum in Astoria the previous Saturday, and mentioned that people had come from all over — France, Japan, and from across the United States.  Mac also passed out buttons and other information about the upcoming “Astoria 1811-2011 Bicentennial Celebration” happening next year.  A link to that website can be found here: http://www.astoria200.org/ .  If you have never visited Astoria, FOM encourages you to do so – it is a sleepy little coastal town with a lot of secrets and surprises, not to mention a rich history.

Mr. Tadakazu Kumashiro, Charter Member of the Friends of MacDonald, was also in attendance. After his retirement, Mr. Kumashiro, or “Kuma” (the Bear) as he likes to be called, joined the Peace Corps in 2001 and was stationed in Namibia for a couple of years working for the Namibian government where he promoted AIDS education by visiting schools.  Kuma-san gave talks to students, teachers and school principals about what they should be doing to prevent an AIDS pandemic.  Kuma-san reports that he had to be hospitalized himself four times while he was there – probably, he noted, because of the unfamiliar germs he encountered.  Mr. Kumashiro rather depreciatingly says he thinks he became ill because of his “old age” – he was 67-69 at the time – but having met him myself I have to say he is one of the most vigorous and energetic “seniors” I have ever met [both mentally and physically].

A big “thank you” to Jim Mockford for bringing his laptop so the group could access the new web page. It was the first time most of the FOM members had seen it (we hope it won’t be the last time!)  We all appreciated that the Baked Alaska staff worked so hard to make sure their wireless network was workable for us.  And we missed the presence of Bruce Berney, who was back in Portland celebrating his grandson’s birthday.

During the meeting an interesting, if not recurring, question was presented by Consul General Okabe, e.g., what was the status of Ranald MacDonald’s “citizenship” at the time of his landing on Rishiri Island in 1848?  A second comment [also in the form of a question] was presented by Mr. Okabe and was definitely food for thought – was Ranald MacDonald really the first teacher of English in Japan?

Will Adams, map of Japan circa 1600Map of Japan drawn by William Adams, circa 1600

The Consul General’s second question referred to one William Adams, who, as the British pilot major of the Dutch trading ship Liefde (“Love” or “Charity”) landed off the island of Kyushu in April 1600.  [The true story of Will Adams was the basis of the romantic novel Shogun, written by James Clavell and published in 1975; Adams’ adventures were also documented in the historical novel Daishi-san written by Robert Lund in 1961.]  According to one source “ … soon after Adams’ arrival in Japan, he became a key advisor to the shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu and built for him Japan’s first Western-style ships. Adams was later the key player in the establishment of trading factories (in Japan) by the Netherlands and England. He died in Japan at age 55, and has been recognized as one of the most influential foreigners in Japan during this period.

William Adams – known in Japan as Miura Anjin –  may have been the first Englishman [Briton] to set foot in Japan; from historical information [including writings from Adams’ own journal] it seems likely that it was the Anjin who needed an interpreter [the ever-present Portuguese Jesuits, in this case] to make himself understood. Prudence dictates that circumstances – and the Japanese people – taught their language to Will Adams, rather than the other way around.

Regarding Ranald MacDonald being the firsranald-ca-1853t American to “set foot in Japan” [the way Will Adams was the first Englishman to do so] we know this just isn’t so.  There were Americans who had visited Nagasaki while in the service of the Dutch during the late 1700’s.  In the mid-1800’s there were scores of American whaling ships in the Sea of Japan, and historical record tells of some crew members that had either been shipwrecked off the Japanese coast or had deserted their vessel to seek their fortunes ashore.  As far as is known, however, Ranald MacDonald was the first American to intentionally go to Japan for the express purpose of learning about the Japanese people and their language and to teach English to them, and to perhaps ‘work’ as an interpreter.  As to the question of Ranald’s citizenship, regardless of the fact that Fort George was under a British flag in 1824, it cannot be denied that half of Ranald’s DNA came from a Chinook Indian mother, a fact that made him a truer “American” than any geographical accident of birth.  Later in his life, through both choice and residence, MacDonald became sufficiently “American” enough to justify that we may say that Ranald MacDonald was the first American to leave his mark upon the people and the nation of Japan, and the first native-English-speaking individual to teach the English language there.