- 北海道大学総合博物館 = Hokkaido University Museum
- 北海道大学総合博物館研究報告 (ISSN:1348169X)
- vol.6, pp.46-57, 2013-03
From the Edo period, The Urup Island, a part of the Chishima Archipelago (Kuril Islands) located close to Hokkaido, was called “Rakko To“ (“To”means island) for the reason of being known as an island inhabited by sea otters. The origin of “rakko”, name for a sea otter in Japanese, can be traced to Ainu language. It has been proved that the fur trade between Ainu and Japanese provided background for its adoption into Japanese language. In this paper the beginning of “rakko” appearance in Japanese historical materials is examined together with the evidence of its presence in Ainu tales “Yukar”, and a point is being made of answering what was its role in Ainu trade with Japanese. First chapter provides an argument that the fur was mainly used for harnesses and partly in sheath for Japanese sword as a sign of status. In the second chapter, based on Japanese historical materials, the following hypothesis is argued: 1) a first known sight of sea otter fur is explained in 1423, 2) in 1433, Japan trades sea otter fur to Min Dynasty, China, 3) in 1434, the Kingdom of Ryukyu supplies Min Dynasty with sea otter fur 4) in the end of 15 century, “rakko” is mentioned in several Japanese dictionaries 5) the route of “rakko” trade goes from Ainu to Kakizaki (Matsumae) to Ando (Tosaminato) to Takeda (Wakasa) to Ashikaga (Kyoto). Third chapter contains an analysis of “rakko” appearance in Yukar Ainu epic, precisely in Itadorimaru. According to the Itadorimaru tale, “rakko” possessed by princess Kanesantaunmat leaves the mouth of Ishikari River. Then, when it is captured by Poiyaumpe (Ainu hero), the fighting between Ainu living in Hokkaido and tribes of Sakhalin erupts. However, eventually Poiyaunpe wins. It is my belief that this Yukar tale discusses a dispute over fur trade rights that took place between Sakhalin and Hokkaido ,with the story being used as a motif. Yukar depicts the process of Satsumon culture wrestling off the rights to “rakko” fur trade from the Ohotsk culture ( 5th ~ 13th century). Japanese historical materials shows that the Ainu who sprang from Satsumon culture, kept the rights to the ”rakko” fur trade.