Unbeaten Tracks in Japan

Isabella L. Bird, with an Introduction by Pat Barr

“‘There never was anybody who had adventures as well as Miss Bird’, wrote the Spectator in 1879. Isabella Bird (1831-1904), daughter of a clergyman, who did not begin to travel or write until her life was half over, visited Japan in 1878.
She found ‘its interest exceeded my largest expectations’. It was the time of the brilliant and dynamic Meiji Era, when the country was transformed from a traditionally feudal to an industrialised modern society. But it was the feudal, remote Japan that appealed to Isabella’s unconventional and romantic temperament, and she soon left the ‘civilised’ treaty ports for the real Japan of the northern hinterlands. Her journey was always eventful and idiosyncratic, often hazardous and invariably uncomfortable.

Her portrait of her travelling companion, Ito, the brash, energetic, ambitious young man who admires all things western and scorns the feudal peasantry of his own country is a remarkable personification of the virtues and failing of the Meiji Era itself. But perhaps the high points of this fascinating book are the letters Isabella Bird wrote to her beloved sister from the bleak island of Hokkaido, where she shared the lives of the Aino, the original inhabitants of the archipelago, living in their huts, sharing their food and drink, observing their rirual hunting of mountain bears.

Her unique descriptions of the life of these northern wildernesses, now totally obliterated by the Japanese ‘march of porgress’, confirm her reputation as one of the boldest most lucid and observant of Victorian travellers.”





Virago Travellers





Talen Engels
Landen Japan


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