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Maori and Polynesian: their origin, history and culture

Japan and Polynesia

Japan and Polynesia

(7) Thus the colossal-stone route, and the spirit-route of the largest groups, those on the extreme north and those on the extreme south, both point the same way to the Japanese page 50Archipelago. In a cultivated people like the Japanese we are not likely to find much that shows kinship with so primitive a people as the Polynesians, unless perhaps faint traces in the minuter folklore of the less educated Japanese. And the Ainos and the People of the Hollows, whom they subdued, come between their predecessors, the megalithic people, and them. Yet there are some affinities that might have arisen from early contact or intercourse. The elaborate tattooing of birds, beasts, fishes, plants, and monsters all over the body in the Eastern groups of Polynesia, especially in the Marquesas, approaches nearer to the Japanese art than any other method of tattooing in the world, and both in their origin, like most tattooing, have something of the religious. It is the same with the keeping of domestic fowls in both regions; the perch is found beside every Shinto temple in Japan, and there was a religious element in the favourite sport of Tahiti, cockfighting, and in the elaborate stone fowl-houses on Easter Island. Football, wrestling, and archery were of equal importance in Japan and Tahiti, and were engaged in as parts of religious festivals. And the korotangi, a stone bird beautifully carved, and almost worshipped by the Maoris, leads the mind to Japan.

(8) But it is useless seeking for affinities between peoples so widely separated in race and culture. And, though the Ainos are of the same division of mankind as the Polynesians and they are in much the same stage of culture, they can show few ethnological likenesses; for the former are separated from the megalithic people, that the Polynesians absorbed, by the People of the Hollows. They have been modified too much by intercourse with their conquerors, the Japanese, to retain many of the affinities that they might have had. Unlike the Polynesians, they are users of the bow, makers of pottery, weave cloth from bark-threads, and have long had metal implements and dishes. Yet some of their page 51ethnological resemblances to the Maoris are striking; for example, the women produce and cook the food, make the cloth, and do everything but war, fishing, and house and canoe building; they are excluded from all religious rites, they are allowed to woo and propose, and they tattoo the lips before marriage. Both peoples think that the child derives its spirit from the father, and fear to use the name of a chief or of a deceased husband; they have a rude musical instrument in the shape of a Jew's harp; they fear to let the hair that is cut get into the hands of an enemy lest he employ it in witchcraft, and generally they believe in the efficacy of sorcery; in agriculture they avoid the use of manure, and they abandon a plot after culture for one or two years. The basis of their social economy is the village community with headship partly elective, and the basis of their religion is the worship of the ancestral spirit, with a belief in an after-world that is underground, although the great original gods dwell in the heavens period. There is here sufficient to show that in primeval times the ancestry of some element in the two races had ethnological connection or proximity.