A Hungarian Visitor Among the Ainu

Putting some of my older publications online:

A Hungarian Visitor Among the Ainu: A Translation of Benedek Baráthosi-Balogh’s Travel Reports to Sakhalin and Hokkaido
(Imre Galambos)
Japanese Religions, Vol. 33, 1&2 (2008): 55-74

Benedek Baráthosi-Balogh (1870-1945) was a public school teacher in Budapest who carried out a series of ambitious trips to various parts of Asia during the first decades of the 20th century. His main aspiration was to document the cultural and linguistic links of Hungary with the Orient, although today he is primarily remembered for the ethnographic material he acquired on his trips, the most important of which are the ones he collected among the Ainu and the Siberian tribes of the Amur. His critics, and there have been many, invariably referred to his lack of scientific training, linguistic in particular. But no one has ever questioned his perseverance and enthusiasm that drove him to explore newer regions despite financial difficulties, physical hardship and unsteady political situation in the areas he visited.

He was a great admirer of Alexander Csoma de Körösi (1784-1842) who had walked to India in 1820 in search of the roots of Hungarians.1 Just like Csoma, Baráthosi was born and raised in Transylvania, and he moved to Budapest only in 1899, with the explicit aim of being able to prepare for his journeys better. There he worked as a public school teacher and did some of his shorter explorations in between school terms. Although by this time he had traveled extensively through Europe, his first trip to Asia was in 1903 when he spent a year and a half in Tokyo. It was during this longer stay in Japan that he visited the Ainu for the first time, trying to assemble an ethnographic collection. He was accompanied by his wife who traveled with him on most of his trips, and a close Japanese friend from Tokyo by the name of Katsura Tasobu. Before leaving Tokyo he had contacted Professor Matsumura Shonen 松村松年 (1872-1960) at the Sapporo Nogakko 札幌農学校 who promised that he would send a young Ainu with him to the villages to help him with his purchases. However, he was not able to meet with the professor in Sapporo and thus could not make any larger purchases. Instead, after a short survey of the island, he decided to return there later.

Read the whole article here: A Hungarian visitor among the Ainu

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