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History & Culture

Isabella Lucy Bird and City, Kuroishi イザベラバードと黒石


Isabella Bird was a British explorer in nineteenth century.

「日光金谷ホテル所蔵」”Collection of Nikko Kanaya hotel”


外国人の視点で描かれた当時の東北・北海道の農村等の人々の生活ぶりを紀行文『日本奥地紀行(Unbeaten Tracks in Japan)』(平凡社刊)に記している。

She traveled to Tohoku over the three months from June to September in 1878.

She wrote about the life of the people in rural areas in Tohoku and Hokkaido from the perspective of a foreigner in a travel document “Unbeaten Tracks in Japan” (published by Heibonsha Limited).


In this travel document, things in various places in Aomori prefecture are described, but one of them, Kuroishi city seems to have a particularly good impression for this author.


It is said about Kuroishi City, “a neat town of 5500 people,famous for the making of clogs and combs,where I have obtained a very neat,airy,upstairs room with a good view over the surrounding country and of the doings of my neighbours in their back room and gardens.”  It seems that a big factor of her good impression about the city would be the clean inn and the beautiful nature.


Nowadays, apple, rice, hot springs and kokeshi dolls are now famous in Kuroishi city instead of combs or clogs.



Bird spent about six days in this city.

She said that she encountered and was touched a beautifully picture-like Neputa Festival soon after arrival. She also visited Mt.Nakano-Momiji, where you can see Japanese maple trees, and therapeutic bathes.


「秋になって、星の形の葉をつけた無数の紅葉が深紅の色をつけ、暗い杉の森 を背景として美しく映えるとき(中略)遠く旅をしてやって来る価値が充分にあるにちがいない。これほど私を喜ばせてくれたものを今まで見たことがない。」と記述している。

Autumn leaves of Mt. Nakano-Momiji might have not been seen in that time when Bird visited, but she left her comments,”in the autumn ,when its myriads of star-leaved maples are scarlet and crimson, against a dark background of cryptomeria,… it must be well worth a long journey.I have not seen anything which has pleased me more.”


Mt. Nakano-Momiji became famous as a place of Japanese maple trees after a hundred kinds of maple seedings were ordered from Kyoto and planted by Hirosaki Lord owner, Yasuchika Tsugaru in 1802.


In Nakano Shrine, Japanese maple or fir trees of about 200 years old or cedars of 500 years to 700 years grow. Those are designated as natural monuments of the city. It is now one of the most famous places for autumn leaves in the prefecture.


Although there were not in the era of Bard, there is Kuroishi Traditional Crafts Center which is exhibiting crafts and kokeshi dolls, or a cafe in the shrine near Mt. Nakano-Momiji. There is another cafe named Le Grill 。In Josen temple of Mt. Kuromori where coffee and donuts are recommended.


From the time Bird traveled, it has been much modernized but the comfort that Bird felt still remains unchanged.


Bird provided accurate information in her travelogue and encouraging cross-cultural understandings of Tohoku remote area.



The number of visitors from abroad is on the rise and cross-cultural understandings becomes more important.

The ways of acquisition and transmission of information have been diversified. As a means of communicating in different cultures, anyone anytime can easily send out information. Because of this modern era, I want to pay tribute to Bird’s accomplishment again. This is Japan visit’s 140 anniversary of Isabella Bird.


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