Check out the Pride Celebration Treasure Hunt!
This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Unbeaten Tracks in Japan by Isabella L. Bird

Unbeaten Tracks in Japan (1880)

by Isabella L. Bird

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
211783,263 (3.7)34



Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 34 mentions

English (6)  Spanish (1)  All languages (7)
Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
Isabella Bird is an amazing character, a very intrepid lady.

I was inspired to read this after seeing an exhibition of modern photographs of many of the places she visited and the geography she covered is awe -inspiring, especially as she was a lady of a certain age suffering from back problems.

My copy of the book is to be posted off to my Mum to read next. ( )
  dylkit | Feb 3, 2014 |
I enjoyed reading the letters Isabella Bird wrote to her sister during her travels in Japan in the second half of the nineteenth century. They were illuminating about Japan, of course, but also a little about Britain in those days. ( )
  Pferdina | Sep 23, 2012 |
Unbeaten Tracks in Japan is composed of a series of letters that Isabella Bird wrote home to her sister and friends during the summer of 1878. She set out from Tokyo, eager to explore the “unbeaten tracks” of the northern part of Honshu (the largest island of Japan) and Hokkaido. The letters are a combination of travelogue, anthropological study, and cultural study. I was especially eager to grab this book off my TBR shelf after what’s recently happened in Japan, and I enjoyed reading about Isabella Bird’s adventures there 130 years ago—a very different experience from when my family lived in Tokyo in the 1980s and ‘90s!

Isabella Bird inserts very little of her own thoughts and feelings into the narrative of her letters, but at times her very subtle sense of humor comes through, especially with regards to her interpreter, Ito, towards whom she has a kind of maternal disapproval at times. Bird was the first Western woman to travel in some of the remoter parts of Japan; in fact, she was the first Western person to travel in those areas, period, so caused quite a stir there when she arrived! Through her letters, Bird comes across as a very courageous woman, despite the fact that she suffered from back pain during her travels.

Some of the details she recounts are a bit boring (she even lists temperatures at certain points), but her views on the natives of Japan are fascinating, albeit from a modern prospective sometimes a bit disturbing. But I think Bird went to Japan with preconceived ideas of the Japanese. It’s interesting, therefore, to see how her opinions changed and improved over the course of her journey. Bird’s writing style itself is almost poetic at times, especially when she’s describing the scenery she passes through. I loved, for example her description of Mount Fuji when first arriving! ( )
1 vote Kasthu | Apr 13, 2011 |
09 Sep 2010 - from Paola on LibraryThing Virago Group

I was excited to ask for this spare copy and receive it, as I loved Bird's book about travelling in the US South-West and hoped for more of the same. I got to p. 100. The descriptions were interesting, but I was beaten down by the unyielding patronising and colonialist descriptions of the Japanese people. Basically, they are all yellow, ugly "mannikins" who are out to cheat her, or living in disgusting poverty from which they refuse to raise themselves... and she just seems to find them loathsome. And this spoils the book for me (especially as I was working for a lovely, highly competent and well organised Japanese client for Libro at the time of reading - that made me feel very uncomfortable!). So I gave up after p. 100 and will be sending it off to another LibraryThinger (I have warned them all!) ( )
  LyzzyBee | Jan 30, 2011 |
Isabella Bird was the first Western white woman to visit the more remote regions of Japan. She did so - as usual, in her travels - with merely a local guide and appropriate travel/camping gear. Her writings offer a fascinating glimpse into local life in Japan in the mid-late 1800s. She was an intrepid traveler, an astute observer of the human and the cultural, and very much a woman of her era - although open-minded for her times, many of her cultural assumptions and societal standards come through between the lines. But it is an altogether delightful read. This and her other books are compilations of letters she wrote home to her sister, who was also her very good friend: reading this, you can "be there" with her on her travels, just as she must have intended her sister to be. Highly recommended for anyone interested in a close look at a foreign culture, in Japan, and/or in great travel writing. ( )
  Teramis | Mar 30, 2008 |
Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
First words
Eighteen days of unintermitted rolling over "desolate rainy seas" brought the "City of Tokio" early yesterday morning to Cape King, and by noon we were steaming up the Gulf of Yedo, quite near the shore.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
From the back cover: "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 industrialized modern society. But it was the feudal, remote Japan that appealed to Isabella's unconventional and romantic temperament, and she soon left the "civilized" treaty ports for the real Japan of the northern hinterlands. Her journey as always eventful and idiosyncratic, often hazardous and invariably uncomfortable. Her portrait of her traveling companion, Ito, the brash, energetic, ambitious young man who admired all things Western and scorned the feudal peasantry of his own country, is a remarkable personification of the virtues and failings 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 ritual hunting mountain bears. Her unique descriptions of the life this northern wilderness, now totally obliterated by modern development, confirm her reputation as on of the boldest, most lucid and observant of Victorian travelers.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0807070157, Paperback)

It is a mistake to arrive at a yadoya after dark. Even if the best rooms are not full it takes fully an hour to get my food and the room ready, and meanwhile I cannot employ my time usefully because of the mosquitoes. There was heavy rain all night, accompanied by the first wind that I have heard since landing; and the fitful creaking of the pines and the drumming from the shrine made me glad to get up at sunrise, or rather at daylight, for there has not been a sunrise since I came, or a sunset either.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:12 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

The daughter of a country parson, Isabella Bird was advised to travel for her health. Bird's compliance with her doctor's orders took her to the wildest regions of the American West, Malaysia, Kurdistan, Persia, the Moroccan desert, and China, among other places. One of nine popular accounts of her adventures around the world, Unbeaten Tracks in Japan traces the intrepid Victorian explorer's 1878 excursion into the back country of the Far East. Japan had just opened its doors to the West within the past decade, and Bird traversed regions unknown to many of the island nation's inhabitants. Traveling more than 1,400 miles by pack horse, rickshaw, and foot, she followed winding mountain trails and crossed countless rivers to meet villagers in their remote communities and peasant farmers in their fields. In poignant, vivid letters to her sister and friends, Bird describes the vicissitudes of her journey--the discomforts and difficulties as well as the pleasures and excitement of discovery. 40 of the author's own sketches and photographs illustrate her captivating stories.… (more)

Quick Links

Popular covers


Average: (3.7)
1 2
3 3
3.5 3
4 7
4.5 1
5 4

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 135,502,657 books! | Top bar: Always visible