Agency for Cultural Affairs, Goverment of Japan

Ainu
Culture Travel

The culture of the Ainu people of Hokkaido is the subject of a new artwork exhibited at New Chitose Airport. The Ainu are the indigenous people who have lived in northern Japan and eastern Russia since ancient times, and traditional Ainu dance is registered by UNESCO as Intangible Cultural Heritage. As well as the many remaining place names in Hokkaido that come from the Ainu language, there are a variety of cultural facilities where you can learn about the culture and lifestyle of a people who live in harmony with nature. We hope you go and discover Hokkaido’s yet unknown charms.

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The culture of the Ainu people of Hokkaido is the subject of a new artwork exhibited at New Chitose Airport. The Ainu are the indigenous people who have lived in northern Japan and eastern Russia since ancient times, and traditional Ainu dance is registered by UNESCO as Intangible Cultural Heritage. As well as the many remaining place names in Hokkaido that come from the Ainu language, there are a variety of cultural facilities where you can learn about the culture and lifestyle of a people who live in harmony with nature. We hope you go and discover Hokkaido’s yet unknown charms.

Upopoy (Symbolic Space for the Ethnic Harmony) illustrative image; Photo provided by: The Foundation for Ainu Culture
Nibutani Kotan
Ainu people; Photo provided by: Biratori Municipal Nibutani Ainu Culture Museum

For an authentic experience of the culture of the Ainu people in Hokkaido, we recommend first visiting Upopoy (Symbolic Space for the Ethnic Harmony).

This national center, whose name comes from the Ainu word for "singing in large numbers," comprises the National Ainu Museum, the National Ainu Park, and a memorial site, among other facilities, and was created to be a place for the restoration, creation, and development of Ainu culture. It is located on the shores of Lake Poroto, about 40 minutes by car from New Chitose Airport, the air gateway to Hokkaido.

Upopoy puts a particular emphasis on experiencing Ainu culture. In the traditional Ainu way of life, epic poems, notably yukar as well as upopo (singing in rounds) have been passed down orally. In addition to these Ainu music and dance performances, the park also features a reproduction of a traditional Ainu kotan village. There are traditional rituals open to the public, and visitors can try on traditional costumes or play unique traditional instruments such as the mukkuri mouth harp and the tonkori, an Ainu string instrument.

Just an 80-minute drive from New Chitose Airport, Nibutani Kotan is one of the best facilities for experiencing Ainu culture. Reconstructed traditional Ainu houses, or chise, stand side by side creating an authentic Ainu village atmosphere. The village is also home to the Ainu Culture Museum, the Biratori Municipal Nibutani Ainu Culture Museum, the Biratori Ainu Crafts and Heritage Center Urespa , the Historical Museum of the Saru River, and stores selling traditional Ainu crafts.
The Nibutani Ainu Culture Museum houses some 4,000 artifacts including everyday articles, 4,000 books on culture and history, and 5,000 audio-visual items including audio, video, and photographs.

This article was written with the cooperation of:

Upopoy (Symbolic Space for the Ethnic Harmony)
Address:
2-3 Wakakusacho, Shiraoi-cho, Shiraoi-gun, Hokkaido
Web:
https://ainu-upopoy.jp/en/
Biratori Municipal Nibutani Ainu Culture Museum
Address:
5561 Nibutani, Biratori-cho, Saru-gun, Hokkaido
Web:
http://www.town.biratori.hokkaido.jp/biratori/nibutani/

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