Edited By Heike Niedrig and Christian Ydesen
Christopher J. Frey: Yoshitsune Legends in Ezo-Hokkaido: Myth and the Teaching and Learning of Colonialism in Japan’s North
Yoshitsune Legends in Ezo-Hokkaido: Myth and the Teaching and Learning of Colonialism in Japan’s North Christopher J. Frey, Bowling Green State University, USA This chapter explores the development, deployment and reception of a popular medieval Japanese legend, “Yoshitsune in Ezo” as an example of intercultural education between Japanese and Ainu. The Ainu are a people indigenous to the land once known as “Ezo”, which included what is now Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaid, as well as Russian-held Sakhalin and the Kurile Islands (see map below). The “Yoshitsune in Ezo” legend centers on the purported travels of an exceptionally famous prince, Minamoto no Yoshitsune (1159-1189CE), who to this day is the subject of films, video games, and a wide variety of Japanese visual novels (manga). Briefly, the “Yoshitsune in Ezo” legend paints Yoshit- sune, as he is usually called, as a tragic hero who overcomes death and escapes to live among the Ainu. This particular legend is but one small part of an enor- mous cultural corpus devoted to Yoshitsune, but as this chapter will argue, it can also illustrate some deep historical truths about Japan’s colonial expansion, and the creation of intercultural spaces and stories by the Japanese that justified their authority over Ainu people. Over many centuries, this legend of “Yoshitsune in Ezo” was carried north in the minds of Japanese officials, surveyors, sailors and seasonal laborers, who planted and cultivated it in the Ainu lands of Ezo, and appropriated the Ainu legend of another mythic hero, Okikurumi, to...
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