In the mornings, I like to enjoy my morning coffee on the balcony, where I can stand in my underpants and take in the view. This sometimes includes the top of Mt Teine if the weather is clear, but also the surrounding blocks of flats, the high school in front of us, its sports grounds and the world’s slowest construction site.

The high school and its bicycle park on the bottom left.

The high school and its bicycle park on the bottom left.

Sports fields and construction site in the far corner.

Sports fields and construction site in the far corner.

In fact, the school’s layout confused me for a long time until I realised that Google maps satellite photo was several years out of date for this area.

I thought Google maps was live.

I thought Google maps was live.

Luckily I’ve managed to figure out where I live now. So in the mornings, between contemplating whether to ride up Teineyama and trying to get the schoolkids to wave back to the pasty foreigner in Mr Tickle underpants, I watch people in hard hats walk about the construction site and I wonder what they are building and when they re actually going to get started. However, this week an announcement on the notice board of our block of flats told us that it’s not a construction site at all but an archaeological dig. And we were all invited for a look on Saturday.

Hokkaido is a relatively new part of Japan and wasn’t really settled until roughly the 1870s and this was done mainly to stop the Russians from expanding into the area. Sapporo was officially founded in 1868 but the area had been settled for many years before that by the native Ainu people.

Until the Japanese moved in, Hokkaido was home to the Ainu but they must also have lived as far south as the northern part of Japan’s main island of Honshu as an account I read this week mentioned a battle between Ainu and the Japanese about three-quarters of the way up Honshu in the sixth century. I haven’t read any further but imagine they must have been slowly pushed north over the centuries as Japan expanded.

Minority groups don’t get much of a look in in Japan. It’s hard to find work or be accepted if you are not Japanese so members of minorities will often take on Japanese names and don’t talk about their backgrounds. I once had a Japanese student in Perth whose name on all the school’s paperwork was Korean because that was the name on his passport. He said he often didn’t realise the teacher was talking to him because he wasn’t used to being called by his Korean name. The Ainu have tried to blend in in a similar way so according to Wikipedia, the official estimate of the Ainu population is 25,000 while it may in fact be as large as 200,000.

So I think someone came across some Ainu pottery when the school over the road from me was being rebuilt and that resulted in the current archaeological dig. Kazuko and I went for a morning ride yesterday and then went across the road for a look.

Lots of people gathering for the first tour.

Lots of people gathering for the first tour.

Noisy cars with loud hailers. This one wasn't a politician, just letting everyone know about road closures for the Sapporo marathon.

Noisy cars with loud hailers. This one wasn't a politician, just letting everyone know about road closures for the Sapporo marathon.

The scene at ground level. And that's my house in the background! We live on the top floor on the right hand side.

The scene at ground level. And that's my house in the background! We live on the top floor on the right hand side.

Broken pottery. All from the same pot.

Broken pottery. All from the same pot.

A pot reconstructed. I think there's an arrow head in front of it as well.

A pot reconstructed. I think there's an arrow head in front of it as well.

Our man the guide strides purposefully.

Our man the guide strides purposefully.

That's an indication of how deep the dig was.

That's an indication of how deep the dig was.

The orange line marks something geological but I wasn't sure what.

The orange line marks something geological but I wasn't sure what.

DSC_1364

This was the site of an Ainu hut. Ashes tell them where the fireplace was. He thought it had been burnt down when the residents left the area.

Here's an overview of the hut site.

Here's an overview of the hut site.

And an image of what the hut probably looked like.

And an image of what the hut probably looked like.

The dig also showed ash from a volcanic eruption about 1000 years ago. That's the white bits he's pointing at.

The dig also showed ash from a volcanic eruption about 1000 years ago. That's the white bits he's pointing at.

And during the morning ride, I thought of Ch’ong as we went past a Royce’ factory/shop so I snapped a pic of the front:

Royce'

Royce'

And then noticed they had a lovely slogan/poem on the front:

Darn reflection.

Darn reflection.

The reflection makes it a bit hard to read but it’s just like one of those things they used to make you write at primary school where you spell something down the left-hand side:

Respect for the fertile land – Hokkaido
Obtaining the abundant pure ingredients
Year after year
Continued to put all our aspirations into practice
Enjoy our “Royce'” products

It’s as bad to me as my haiku must be to them. But when I start writing haiku in Japanese I will get my revenge in the terrible poetry contest.

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