“It is Japan, but yet there is a difference somehow.’‘
— Isabella Bird, 1878
Japan’s story begins with rice and pottery; Hokkaido’s, with mammoths and obsidian. The element of art and refinement apparent in Japan’s earliest known past is missing from Hokkaido’s. The brute struggle for existence loomed too large in the harsh northern environment. Obsidian, an early civilizing influence, was not a softening one. The mammoth hunters first discovered the black volcanic glass some 20,000 years ago in the broad Tokachi plain. What first drew them to it — the deadly sharp point it could be honed to? Or the beauty of its glint when it caught the sun?
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