Wednesday, November 5, 2014
Old Swedish books and old pictures of Japan!
A Swedish friend of mine found a book published in 1885 that details the travels of a Swede who visited India, China, Japan, Tibet, and Burma. This was at a time when Japan had just been opened to foreigners, and when Japan had just started the project to develop Hokkaido (where I live).
My friend wanted me to bring this book to Japan and give it to one of her friends here. I have quite a lot of luggage so taking this very thick book too was not that appealing, but it meant I could read parts of the book myself, which was great. I ended up bringing some huge curtains for my friend too, though. But last time she asked me to bring something when flying between Japan and Sweden I ended up bringing a piano, so I guess I got off easy this time, haha.
The book has lots of illustrations, and these are very interesting. There are pictures of Hokkaido, for example of mount Komagadake, that I climbed together with my friend in 2006. When we climbed it, it looked quite different from in the image in the book. Komagadake is a fairly active volcano and there has been at least one major eruption between the time the illustration was made and the time I climbed it.
There was also a nice picture of Hakodate, which is a fairly big city now but looked like a tiny fishing port in the book. Even more so for Otaru, where I go a lot. The guy in the book even visited Sapporo, which at the time had something like 4000 citizens (now 1.9 million), but there were no illustrations from Sapporo.
The Swedish in the book is very old, which is also interesting. The spelling of the Japanese words is also interesting, and I guess this reflects how he thought the Japanese words sounded (he did not speak any Japanese and relied on interpreters). Mount Fuji is nowadays called "Fuji-san" but he writes it as "Fusi-yama", for example. I should try to get my own copy of this book...